I heard the news today later than most, yet like the rest of the nation I’m saddened, stunned, and confused at the death of Robin Williams.
Robin Williams was a truly iconic figure across generations, and across continents. It’s safe to say we won’t see his like again. The collective feeling in his audience was always amazement, regardless of the subject matter. His power though, was to connect with the individual as if he was their best friend.
Like most of us over the age of 40, I saw him first on Happy Days. An odd addition to a show set in the 50’s, but I suspended my disbelief with the best of them and followed him over to Mork & Mindy. I’m sure I didn’t get half of what my older friends were chuckling about but I never missed it.
A few years later, my parents couldn’t put down a book called The World According to Garp. I was happy to see the movie but wasn’t prepared for what I saw though. Williams told the story about as true to what I can imagine Irving’s Garp to be – vulnerable, brilliant, angry, and forgiving. To this day, I think about things being “pre-diastered” as Williams’ Garp put it.
There is a body of work since and while some films might not have been commercial successes or critically acclaimed, they still touched viewers in a way only Robin could. On a personal note, the hug that Billy Crystal gave him when he won his Oscar for Good Will Hunting says a lot about how those who knew him better than the rest of us felt about him.
For many of us though, the dramatic role that typifies Robin will always be as our Captain. He who made the sweaty toothed madman real for so many of us who thought that poetry was a waste of our time. Afterward we wondered what verse we would contribute to life and sounded our Barbaric Yawp ever since.
We're lucky that Robin Williams contributed many verses. However, we're left wishing that he could have had a few more stanzas.