In the awful coincidence department, a few weeks ago I was writing here about an illustration that I unearthed of Robin Williams, then, this past Monday, we hear of his death, one that is pretty much being attributed to suicide.
I was shocked to say the least. I rarely let celebrity deaths affect me, but this one has left me a bit numb, probably because I had probably followed his entire career, from "Mork & Mindy" onwards. When I discovered his stand-up comedy performances, I was hooked. I wore out my cassette tapes of those shows. True, he may not have consistently made the best movies every time, but I feel that like Bill Murray, he still captured one's attention even in the bad ones. And of course probably supplied hours of deleted scenes of him just wildly improvising.
Now some people seem to be intent on making him an poster child of what depression can do to you, even with all external appearances seemingly the opposite. This is not the the only example of a comedian having this sort of life, there's something about that sort of personality that makes one try to make others laugh to hopefully drive away the demons within. I myself was more likely to be a class clown than not. But when your "audience" is not around, you're left with yourself and sometimes that's not the company you want to keep at certain times. People are rightfully shocked that someone so high-profile and seemingly loved by so many wouldn't reach out for help, but so far we don't know the final straw in this case.
A park bench in Boston's Public Gardens that was part of a scene from one of his most loved movies, "Good Will Hunting," became the site of a memorial not long after his death was announced. I visited it yesterday, the bench was covered in flowers and gifts, and the walks surrounding it were covered in thanks, quotes and love written in chalk. Proof of his multi-generational appeal were evident, from "Mork & Mindy" to "Good Morning Vietnam" to "Aladdin" to "Hook" to "Dead Poets Society." I even saw a quote from "Popeye." Of course I added one myself, something from his stand-up act: "Joke 'em if they can't take a fuck."
Sadly it rained all day today and probably washed all those messages away. I'm sure they'll be replaced by others soon enough. It doesn't appear that his memory will be washed away quite so easily. Laughter is something we need almost as much as oxygen.
More pictures on my flickr page.