I’ve been kind of stunned since learning of the death of Robin Williams. I’m older now, and have seen real people I know pass from my life. So, I’m not quite as shocked and upset as, say, the night John Lennon died and my 18-year-old self was crushed. However, not many human beings have dug such deep grooves into my brain. Every time I turn a corner in my mind over the last couple of days, there he is. Robin Williams took up so many roles that have had a lasting impression on me that I keep stumbling into one that I forgot about.
Sure, he was “Mork from Ork” and “Mrs. Doubtfire” and the genie from Aladdin. But then I remember he was Garp and, along with Glenn Close and John Lithgow, he brought to life the most quirky of books in the most quirky of fashions.
He was the Frog Prince on the first Faerie Tale Theater, Shelly Duvall’s lovely, quietly twisted series of children’s stories. That Eric Idle wrote, directed, and narrated the episode only added to its awesomenity.
He was Vladimir Ivanoff in Moscow On the Hudson. At a time when I was still having nuclear nightmares, he reminded us that Russians were human, too. It’s hard to fathom these days (though Putin isn’t helping), but that wasn’t always easy in Reagan’s ‘murrica. Yet, I will always remember the 4th of July scene in the diner where immigrants of varying stripes recite the Declaration of Independence.
Then came Comic Relief and his legendary riffing with Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg, and as Adrian Cronauer in Good Morning, Vietnam, he improvised his way into an Oscar nomination. He got another one as John Keating in Dead Poet’s Society.
As the severely damaged Parry in The Fisher King (one of my favorite Terry Gilliam movies, if one can play favorites with such things), his fear of the Red Knight, and what that turned out to be, is still one of the most affecting plot twists I’ve ever seen.
He was Peter Pan and a demented anti-war toy maker. He was a weird hermit stuck in a board game. Then another left turn and he was breaking down barriers to understanding “others” all over again in The Birdcage.
Here are two of my favorite lunatics just making me laugh (that there’s a TARDIS with a haggis inside is just bonus).