Robin Williams: In Memoriam
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Luke Connolly pays tribute to the irreplaceable Robin Williams...
“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it”
If ever there was a quote that summed up the great Robin Williams it is the above. His genius - of which there is no doubt - was always accompanied by a delicate stroke of madness...but as Aristotle once said, No great genius has ever existed without a stroke of madness’.
Like many across the globe today, I am still trying to comprehend this loss. Words escape me, even as I type this, and all I feel is a sadness that cannot be explained. Robin Williams was no direct relation of mine, and yet I feel as if I have lost a brother, a father, a mentor. Perhaps it is credit to the man himself, that such a visceral reaction is evoked following his untimely death...it’s hard to say. However, what is evidently clear is the loss I feel at this moment; a loss that is unable to comprehend the idea that such a well-loved, heart-warming, passionate individual would take his own life, despite his well-publicised issues of the past.
Of course, when one processes the loss of a loved one they think of memories past. For many, Robin’s performance and rise to fame will be synonymous with Mork and Mindy - the popular television series that followed the exploits of Mork (played by Robin), an alien who had come to study the resident of Earth and ended up boarding with Mindy McConnell (played by the lovely Pam Dawber). Conversely, my love of the great Robin McLaurin Williams is credited to Aladdin, the classic Disney story in which Robin played the Genie. His energy, his exuberant personality, his intricate understanding of comedy and its timing - all were there, despite the fact that the role was mostly just a voiceover job. The genie invoked emotions in people that before seemed implausible from voice-acting - you cried when he was sad and rejoiced when he was happy. The bond between himself Aladdin and the Genie was there for all to see, thanks no doubt to the tireless energy Robin brought to the role.
Over time Robin emphasised the love in which I had bestowed upon him. The genre of ‘feel-good’ movie was almost created around him, such was the ability and strength of his many performances. Mrs Doubtfire, Patch Adams, Jack, Happy Feet - the list is almost endless. Furthermore, films such as Jumanji and Good Will Hunting showed Robin’s versatility, both as an actor as a leading man, and so yet another Hollywood star was born.
And yet Robin’s main appeal, for me at least, was his demeanour. As an actor he was skilled and dependant, a reliable option no matter the casting. However what endeared me - and countless others - to the man himself was his accessibility; the fact that what you saw on screen was none too far from the person off it. His good will was evident, seen through his tireless support of numerous charities (including the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, the Livestrong Foundation and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital), as was the care and love he shared to the people in his life. As Christopher Reeve - of Superman fame and Williams’ former roommate at Julliard - lay in hospital awaiting back surgery that had a 50/50 chance of killing him, a man burst into the room, donning surgical clothing and a thick Russian accent before announcing that he was there to give the rectal exam. For the first time since his tragic accident Christopher Reeve began laughing...and that was Williams’ gift.
To speak in a past context when addressing his life is painful. I feel sorrow for the many who will not know, nor get to experience, the joy and laughter that this man brought. On a professional level Robin changed every industry he touched, with many popular stand up comedians paying homage to his stage presence and his ability to make almost anything funny. If you’ve never watched it, please watch this clip of Robin Williams explaining how ‘Golf’ came to be.
My heart has been torn open and my head thrown into despair, the likes of which I haven’t felt since the passing of my Grandmother two years ago, the only grandparent I ever knew.
To say my thoughts are with his family and friends would not do it justice. My soul aches for their loss, and I cannot imagine their pain. However, as hard as it may be we must remember him for what he was - an irreplaceable talent. Robin Williams touched the hearts of all those who were lucky enough to see him - either on a personal or merely screen level - and this can never be taken away from him.
In Good Will Hunting Robin Williams famously remarked that: “...They don't know about real loss, because that only occurs when you love something more than you love yourself.” As the World weeps these words seem stronger than ever.
Robin Williams, R.I.P.
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