There Are No Words…

12 Aug


I’m trying to remember when I was first exposed to Robin Williams…

It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact moment. I’m pretty sure the first thing I ever saw with him in it was Moscow on the Hudson. And I fell asleep during it. … Oh wait. I remember. My first exposure to Robin Williams was a Mork action figure I had. I didn’t know what it was. It was this little man with curly hair, dressed in a red jumpsuit of some kind. And there was what appeared to be a giant silver V on his chest. There was a popular sci-fi series on TV at the time, called V. At the time, I remember thinking this action figure was from that show. So I would just refer to it as V.

All this is to say that Robin Williams has been a part of my life – in one way or another – since before I can remember with clarity. I don’t actually recall what the first movie I saw him in was. But I’m sure that, when I saw it, I already knew who he was.

I have an early memory of checking out a copy of “Live at the Met” from the library… On vinyl. And listening to it in my living room. Sitting on the floor… With big headphones… Laughing my ass off. And I made a tape of that vinyl. So I could enjoy it again and again. I’m certain that particular recording was my first full exposure to his comedy. I knew, even before I was old enough to understand all of the jokes, that this man was a genius.

This evening of Monday, August 11, after a long and fruitful day, I returned home to find out he decided to end his life at the age of sixty-three.

And I don’t really know what to say.

But I need to say something. Because I can’t sleep.

We don’t know these people we admire. All we have is their public face – the mask they hide behind as they present their art to us. That’s all we have. So, you hear about a death like this… Or the equally tragic death of Philip Seymour Hoffman earlier this year… And, frankly, it doesn’t make any fucking sense.

That was my first reaction. A big what the fuck.

Because nothing in this man’s work could really suggest that he is the sort of person who would do this to himself. Nothing in his body of work as a comedian and an actor could give anyone the inkling that this clearly brilliant man…a scholar, a fine Julliard-trained actor, a family man, a father of three… That he would do that. It’s almost a cliché, isn’t it? The clown who is crying on the inside…

Oh I suppose, on a superficial level, I knew he was troubled. His struggles with alcoholism and cocaine addiction had been documented. Supposedly, he had conquered this. I had read some recent gossip about him checking in to a rehab center once again and, yes, I did think to myself: what a shame he fell off the wagon.

And now we know that this poor man was evidently tormented by the darkest demons that go beyond any consolable spectrum. Because it would have to be at an almost unimaginable level, wouldn’t it? I mean, I certainly can’t imagine it. I’ve thought to myself things like: “I occasionally suffer from depression,” and so on. Because, sure, I occasionally am prone to odd mood swings.

But, dear God, nothing like this. I don’t think I’ve even consciously entertained the notion of suicide since I was seventeen years old. And, when I did it back then, it wasn’t “real.” I was in some dumb teenage funk most of us go through. No way was I actually going to go through with it. I just couldn’t conceive of actually causing my loved ones that kind of pain…of leaving them with that final taste – to know that this is what I decided to do. How exasperating would it be for them to now spend the rest of their lives wondering if there was anything they could have done?

It’s why I can’t conceive of it. And that’s because, whatever I may have thought in the past, I DON’T…nor have I ever…truly suffered from depression. Because depression…clinical depression…is a disease. It has to be. There is no way it can just be an “emotion” if it can lead you to do something like this… To destroy your life and, by extension, the lives of people who love you.

So, again I say it doesn’t make any fucking sense. And it never will.

I will never understand why Robin Williams decided this… At the age of sixty-three, just weeks after his daughter’s 25th birthday – a joyous occasion about which he posted on twitter – just weeks before one of several big hit movies featuring him come out in theaters…after a forty-year career of bringing joy and laughter to people of all ages around the world; where it was clear to many that he was beloved — by strangers and so, surely, by his family and friends…

And, if we look back, have there ever really been unkind words said publicly about the man? Oh, sure, a great number of his films opened to shitty reviews. And, let’s be honest, deservedly so…especially recently. But was it ever said of him “oh, he’s an asshole…” “Oh, he’s hard to work with…” And so on?

I think one reason he was able to survive the ups and downs of his career, despite the fact it had probably been a while since he was involved in a genuinely worthy film project, was because he was so well-liked. Even as we knew he was making crap films, we also knew he was above the material, capable of better work and – at the very least – his presence might have even elevated it. We could forgive him his trespasses because we knew he meant well. And when he was good, Jesus, was he the best there was…

My point is… Most people, I think, really liked Robin Williams. And many more clearly loved him.

And so it is ultimately heartbreaking to discover that he was loved by seemingly everyone except the one person that counted: and that is Robin Williams himself.

I can’t even imagine the pain his loved ones are feeling at this moment. Whatever grief I feel is meaningless by comparison. His work entertained me. Now there will be no more…and there will never be another like him, that’s for sure. And, yes, that’s terrible and I feel awful and sad and angry all at the same time. But, although it will probably be a long while before I can actually sit down and watch one of his films or comedy specials without bursting into tears, his work will always be there for me to revisit and make him immortal. I will continue to know him as I always did…as the public face he chose to show me.

It’s the people who actually knew him and were directly touched by him who really have it hard. They have lost a friend, a husband, a father… And it is these people who have to find solace in the fact that, whatever demons were tormenting him, he finally found peace.

But it puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? When someone like Robin Williams, who was able to bring joy to other people’s lives, can’t find that same joy in his own. How many people might we know in a similar situation? And these are people who don’t have his fame, wealth, level of success… And it isn’t what they need. Because, clearly, even he needed more than what he had.


One Response to “There Are No Words…”

  1. mikedrewflynn August 12, 2014 at 2:23 pm #

    Reblogged this on The Pleasuredome and commented:
    “You’re only given one little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”

    And you milked that spark for every last drop, Robin. Good god. Here’s my friend from The Erix Antoine Network on his passing:

Speak, damn you!

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