Recently I got into a conversation on a friend’s Facebook thread about Robin Williams. I grew up in the 70s and early 80s, so my fondest memories of Williams are as the iconic Mork from the sitcom Mork & Mindy. I absolutely adored this show as a youngster. The thing is, I was drawn to the show because it was about an alien from outer space living with a human, and as you know from the approximately google amount of times I’ve mentioned it here, I was obsessed with science fiction as a boy. You can bet that if it had an alien, robot or weird creature in it, I was so there, especially since we only had two television channels where I lived, an ABC station (obviously) and the local PBS affiliate. When there aren’t a lot of choices for a raging sci-fi geekboy, you tend to take whatever you can get.
Although in terms of science fiction content it wasn’t exactly on par with a Star Trek or a Battlestar Galactica, it had enough of a sci-fi hook to bring me in. Even back then Mork & Mindy seemed to me less an out-an-out sci-fi show than a vehicle for allowing Robin Williams to vent his particular brand of hyperactive, oblique craziness. But Williams was a world unto himself on the show, and the entire Mork & Mindy universe revolved around him and his ability to sell the character. It was wildly successful, to say the least, and it’s hard to imagine a M&M series being half as entertaining without him.
After M&M Williams went on to fairly successful film acting career, including many roles for which he was nominated for some award or other, and a few that he won awards for. What the films proved was that Robin was a versatile and dynamic performer, a man of many faces and identities. But with all those masks, not a lot of people ever got to see his true face. The sad clown is a bit of a cliche perhaps, but there is more than a grain of truth in it for Mr. Williams. He battled chronic depression, alcohol and drug addiction to varying degrees throughout his life; I too have struggled with depression, and to a lesser extent drug problems. It almost comes with the territory of being a creative person anyway, but when you have all the health issues I have and you’re too poor to afford treatment, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion.
But one thing I have never had to contend with was being in the never-ending spotlight and having to keep up appearances for the sake of your fans. One of the reasons I chose to obscure my identity and write under a pseudonym, in fact, was because I am not interested in being personally famous. A renowned writer? Sure, give me every bit of that (but only if I’m worthy of it). But I also dig my privacy. I’m not a life-of-the-party kind of person–never have been and never want to be. I have seen what that can do to perfectly good writers, artists and performers who aren’t cut out for it, and often it’s not pretty. Williams is the quintessential example du jour, but there are so so soooo many examples.
Anyway, I just wanted to share a few thoughts about one of the greatest entertainers the planet was ever blessed with, an amazing one-of-a-kind soul who will never be replaced.
Na-Nu Na-Nu, sir, wherever you are.