Little did I know that an innocent encounter long ago would profoundly affect my life for the next 30 years. I was in my room when the sounds of a strange accent I had never heard before wafted my way from the living room. Intrigued, I was drawn to check it out.
I ran into the living room, only to glimpse the naked backside of a man on the television set. “What are you watching, Mom?” I asked. Red-faced, my mom blurted out “Moscow on the Hudson with Robin Williams,” before quickly shooing me back to my room because this movie was not appropriate for my 10 year-old eyes.
I did was I was told then, but my curious side wouldn’t let me obey for long. I had never been told before that a movie was not allowed for me to see. My parents let me watch Poltergeist, for goodness’ sake, despite all the nightmares I had for months afterward.
I bid my time and secretly watched the forbidden movie months later. Honestly, I couldn’t see what the big fuss was all about then concerning people in their birthday suits. I had no context for anything inappropriate that might happen if you were naked. But I digress.
That chance encounter in 1984 introduced me to one of the greatest minds that has walked the Earth to date. I discovered him again in his iconic alien role in Mork and Mindy and instantly fell in love. He had a way of making you laugh, no matter what the situation. However, I could tell there was much more to him under the surface hidden under the gaze of his hypnotic gentle blue eyes. I instantly recognized the dark underworld he wouldn’t allow anyone to see, covered up with zany antics so no one would discover it. He was just like me.
Robin figuratively held my hand through my mother’s death just two years later. He lightened the darkest place in my life and for that I am forever grateful. I only wish now I could have somehow returned the favor. I am stunned today by his death, shell-shocked to hear that the man who gave his all to humanity would end his own life too depressed to continue.
His big heart shown through his roles in such movies as Good Morning,Vietnam, Dead Poets Society, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Good Will Hunting, along with countless other roles too many to list here. His artistic work was a major presence throughout my life.
The tears of a clown are more powerful than people realize. As artists- and especially in our case as writers- we are born with a unique ability to see the world beyond the day-to-day superficiality and make a difference in the world. We are able to see the world for what it truly is, in both its most glorious and ugliest forms. It is a gift that is both a blessing and a curse.
For within this gift swirls a madness that would pull us under if we succumb to it. We must not let that happen. We must move beyond petty differences and competitive jabs and gather together as a community united. We must recognize the unique talents each of us bring to the table and find ways to support one another and lift one another up. We cannot afford to let a tragedy like this happen again. We are all too precious.
The following clip from Robin Williams is one I have taken especially to heart and have quoted myself time and time again. It drives home the point of the importance of how precious life is, of sharing who we are with the world, and of living life to the fullest. Please take the time to watch and take it to heart just like I have. If you are struggling, please don’t fight your demons alone. We can’t afford to lose you.
Your move, Chief.