On July 21, 1951, Robin McLaurin Williams was born in Chicago, Illinois.  On August 11, 2014, Robin Williams took his life at his home in Tiburon, California.  He is survived by his wife, Susan Schneider, and his three children, Zachary, Zelda and Cody.  In the wake of his death, many who knew and/or admired him have released public statements of grief, from Sarah Michelle Gellar to President Barack Obama.  For everyone else, he left behind over 40 years of work in television, film and theater which included two Emmys, four Golden Globes, two SAG Awards, five Grammys and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

From his performance in Good Will Hunting

For his performance in Good Will Hunting

On a personal level, Robin’s death hit pretty close to home for me since I grew up watching him on television and at the movies.  If one grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, one could readily recall watching him on Mork and Mindy, HookMrs. Doubtfire, Aladdin and so many others, and no matter what role he played, he had an uncanny ability to find just the right way to make us laugh or cry with his performance.  Few actors have the gift to be able to play so many different roles so convincingly.  Throughout his career, he was a robot…

Bicentennial Man

Bicentennial Man

(Twice actually!)

Robots

Robots

a homeless man…

The Fisher King

The Fisher King

a come-to-life wax sculpture of President Theodore Roosevelt…

Night at the Museum (1-3)

Night at the Museum (1-3)

and for you comic book fans, his very first film role–in which he didn’t play himself–was of one of the oldest comic book characters ever…

Popeye

Popeye

Aside from his work as a actor, he was also a very active philanthropist.  He and his second wife [Marsha] founded the Windfall Foundation, and his work also including contributing to Comic Relief and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.  When he wasn’t working for those charities, he would perform with the USO for soldiers stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq, often unannounced and with as little media coverage as possible.

In his private life, he was an avid gamer of tabletop RPGs and video games.  His daughter, Zelda, was even named after Princess Zelda, both he and his daughter were featured in a commercial for the Nintendo 3DS re-release of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

Yet beneath it all, Williams had serious problems with substance abuse and depression which unfortunately led him to his tragic demise.  Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, he battled with addiction to cocaine and alcohol.    After the birth of his son Zachary and death of his friend and fellow comedic actor, John Belushi…

johnbelushi

he was able to prompt himself to quit.

In 2003, Williams began to drink again and would eventually go to rehab in 2006.  He later stated publicly that he was an alcoholic.  In 2014, he admitted himself to the Hazelden Addiction Treatment Center in Lindstrom, Minnesota to follow up on his treatment for sobriety as well as his depression.

On August 11, 2014, his personal assistant found him in his home.  According to the Marin County Sheriff’s department, he was found with cuts along his left wrist and a belt around his neck.  The preliminary forensic examination determined that his cause of death was asphyxia.  As of the moment of this article’s publication, toxicology tests have been scheduled but not yet performed.

Despite the demons he had which ultimately consumed him, I would prefer to remember Robin as I did when I first watched him: a sensitive clown with a loving heart who always did as much as he could to give back to his audience in every way he could.

To adapt a quote from Robin as Genie from Aladdin, “we ain’t never had a friend like you.”

May you finally be at peace.

1951-2014

1951-2014