“The Statue of Liberty is no longer saying, ‘Give me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses.’ She’s got a baseball bat and yelling, ‘You want a piece of me?'”
– Robin Williams
I was deeply saddened this week to learn of the passing of one of my favourite actors and human beings, Robin Williams. He died apparently of suicide at his home in Paradise Cay in California on August 11. What hit me was reading a message he posted on his Twitter and Instagram accounts to his daughter on her 25th birthday on August 1 – just ten days before his death.
“#tbt (throwback Thursday) and Happy Birthday to Ms. Zelda Rae Williams! Quarter of a century old today but always my (little girl),” he wrote. There was a picture included of Zelda as a toddler in Williams’ arms.
The fact that his daughter must now be feeling a horrible sense of grief and loss was overwhelming. When Michael Jackson died in 2009, I felt that the world of music and entertainment had suffered a true loss, especially given the brilliant, tragic, misunderstood and exploited nature of his career. But when I heard of Williams’ death, I felt as if someone close to me was gone. I think that simply indicates how wide and generous were his talents and how far-reaching was his influence and inspiration.
My personal favourite film of Williams was the 1998 What Dreams May Come directed by Vincent Ward. Based on the book of the same name by Richard Matheson, it depicts one man’s journey through the afterlife as he deals with love, loss and reunification. Williams’ gentle, incredulous performance complements the dreamlike visual dynamic of the film perfectly.
Needless to say, his fast-talking, wise-cracking, benevolent shadow will loom over the stand-up comedy stage for many years to come.