We all live so close to that line
And so far from satisfaction
“Song For Sharon”
He was one of us. A baby boomer who seemed not to fly above the fray, but to be part of it. A man so gifted we wondered where he got it from, with a demeanor that had you feeling if you ran into him you’d easily enter conversation, you’d soon be old friends.
I don’t know what happened here. I don’t know Robin Williams. All I do know is when one of us takes himself out of the lineup, removes himself from the game, we’re all left with more questions than answers.
Being human is rough. But when it’s over all there is is silence. And as bad as it gets, it always gets better, if you can ride out the bad patches. I guess Robin Williams no longer could.
We venerate our stars. The younger ones keep telling us how much better they are than us. We believe riches and fame will solve all our problems. And when they don’t, you have to wonder what the game is about.
Maybe you’re well-adjusted. You’ve got a home and a family and a job and you smile as you drink pina coladas on the porch. But most people who rise above, especially in the entertainment field, are flawed. They need the applause to fill a deep hole inside that can never be topped off. The high of a hit only lasts so long. And the machine demands you continue to play. What did Shep Gordon so famously say, if he does his job as a manager right it’ll probably kill you?
Because in entertainment you’re never maintaining. You’re either going up or going down. And when you get to the top, there’s only one direction.
And Robin Williams held it together better than most, he had quite a long ride. And the truth is he radiated joy, and warmth, he’s the person you’d want to call when you’re down and out, but now he’s gone.
So we can’t understand that. It makes us question our own existence. And if Robin Williams can take his own life, what is the meaning of life. Sure, he dabbled in drugs, like so many his age. Sure, he was imperfect. But he tried and succeeded and it still wasn’t enough.
Mork was a phenomenon.
And Robin switched to films when the jump from the small screen to the large was almost impossible.
Meanwhile, he kept his comedy career. Maybe that’s the explanation, comics are so often tortured, the greatest, like Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor, never make it to old age.
But Robin was different, because he let us inside.
But he was so manic, we did wonder what it would be like to live in that body.
And he had a lot of hits, but my favorite was always “Dead Poets Society,” because it’s about inspiration, convincing young people to be all they can be. Not who others want them to be, but what they feel inside.
And we look up to people who do it their own way, who cast off the shackles of family expectations and listen to their heart and follow their own path.
And even the youngest amongst us know it’s hard to make it, never mind sustain.
Which is why we had respect for Robin. He stayed in the game.
So I feel out of sorts. I feel the loss. Even though I never knew him and he never knew me.
And since Robin was a comedian as well as an actor, we felt we knew his true identity, there was no filter.
And unlike so many, Robin did not demand the solo spotlight, despite being the biggest star, he was just one of the troops on “Comic Relief.”
I guess that’s what we need right now. For Robin Williams to do some dark comedy. Because it’s never too soon. And Robin knew how to do it with humility and humanity.
So, so long Robin. Your flame has been snuffed, your story has been written, you’re going to fade in the rearview mirror like the rest of us. But we would have far preferred it if you’d carried on, even if you had no more hits, if you’d showed up and entertained us now and again, if we heard that you had a good family life and some laughs.
And so long the twentieth century, where if you made it on TV and in movies, you made it everywhere. Everybody knows Robin Williams, most people don’t know most of today’s stars.
But hello to a culture that focuses on winners, on trappings as opposed to identities. Yup, we’re heading even further in the wrong direction, everybody’s honing their brand, polishing off the rough edges for consumption when the truth is all our identities are rough, especially those of our beloved stars.
And we loved Robin Williams.