"O Captain, My Captain! Our fearful trip is done.
The ship has weathered 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."
I had the pleasure to meet Robin McLaurin Williams in 1979, just as his star was beginning to rise. The occasion was "VIP Night On Broadway," a tres chi-chi affair mounted by Broadway legends Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Phyllis Newman and sponsored by Burger King (You haven't lived until you've had Whoppers with champagne chasers!) to raise money for the New York City Patrolman's Benevolent Association's Vest Fund. Earlier in the evening, he played a homeless person who rambled about the day the Japanese took over Manhattan and turned Broadway into Ginza-way. I had already seen his work on the ill-fated revival of LAUGH-IN (unfortunately, without Rowan and Martin or any of the other original regulars) as well as MORK AND MINDY, and I was aware that this was a comic force to be reckoned with. When the show ended and we all went to the after-party, Robin worked the room shaking hands and saying Hi as he went. I had the pleasure to get his autograph and I can honestly say he was truly the nicest guy in the room that evening.
That's why I was shocked to hear about his subsequent bouts with depression. Chicago-born, Julliard-trained Robin always was the best part of any movie he starred in, from GOOD MORNING VIETNAM to DEAD POETS SOCIETY (Hence the Whitman quote), even redeeming clunkers like Robert Altman's live-action POPEYE and Disney's FLUBBER. He was truly a jack-of-all-trades and master-of-all-media. He was that rare comic who could work blue and clean and morph right into drama.
From GOOD WILL HUNTING to THE FISHER KING, everybody has their own favorite Robin Williams memory.
The last TV series Robin ever worked on was CBS' THE CRAZY ONES, a modern "Mad Men" set in a San Francisco ad agency which took its title from a classic Apple spot wherin Steve Jobs saluted the crazy ones such as Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King,Jr., and Jim Henson, who weren't afraid to challenge the status quo. To that toast, I add the name of Robin Williams, but at the same time, I wish he had stayed around to continue to entertain new generations of fans.
Nano nano, Robin.
Happy trails, buckaroo. You will be missed.