Actor and comedian Robin Williams passed away Aug. 11, yet for those of us who loved him and his work -- that is, the entire world -- time has stood still.
The last time a celebrity death resonated was the untimely loss of Philip Seymour Hoffman, due to an overdose in February. And in this examiner's lifetime, Williams' loss most closely mirrors the gaping hole left by the Lennon assassination.
Yet all loss is distinct, discrete and wounding.
For the creative community here in Los Angeles, Williams' passing is compounded by the incredible contributions he made to the performing arts. While he acted in over a hundred films, IMDB also lists him as having accrued 11 writing credits. They are:
- Robin Williams: Weapons of Self Destruction (TV Special documentary)
- 2002 Robin Williams: Live on Broadway (TV Special)
- 1991 Saturday Night Live: The Best of Robin Williams (Video documentary)
- 1990 The Earth Day Special (TV Special) (segment "Dustin Hoffman - Robin Williams")
- 1988 An All-Star Toast to the Improv (Video)
- 1986 Robin Williams: An Evening at the Met (TV Movie)
- 1986/I Comic Relief (TV Special)
- 1986 The Young Comedians All-Star Reunion (TV Special) (uncredited)
- 1983 On Location: The Comedy Store's 11th Anniversary Show (TV Movie)
- 1982 An Evening with Robin Williams (Video documentary)
- 1982 An Evening at the Improv (TV Series) (stand-up material)
Williams died in Tiburon, Calif., outside San Francisco. For decades, this examiner lived in San Francisco and it seemed almost daily, one friend or another would talk about running into him. He would show up looking completely nondescript, and if approached would be kind. He was shy, and people in the city didn't bother him.
In 1976, the comic placed a remarkable second in San Francisco's first annual International Stand Up Comedy Competition -- remarkable not for his having placed so highly, but for not coming in first. (No disrespect intended to the winner that year, Bill Farley.) Interestingly, this examiner was later bowled over by a young and unknown Ellen DeGeneres in 1985, who also plucked second (to Sinbad).
Watching Williams do his thing -- whether it be a riff on Johnny's "Tonight Show" in which he walked out into the audience and tell a seemingly squeamish man whose arm he grazed that "It's okay for men to touch other men" or performing with Whoopie and Billie at Comic Relief -- was pure joy.
There isn't enough joy left in the world, it seems. Robin brought it.
O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up--for you the flag is flung--for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths--for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You've fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
- Walt Whitman
To access Robin Williams' IMDB page, click here.
To see the original Walt Williams'1865 masterpiece, "O Captain! My Captain" for the slain President Abraham Lincoln, please click here. The line was modernized in Robin Williams' seminal role in "Dead Poets Society" in 1989.