Thursday, August 14, 2014

Robin Williams RIP

Like so many, I am reeling with the sudden death of Robin Williams. Despite all his fame, wealth and success - not to mention all the love and affection from family, friends, fellow artists and millions of fans - it was not near enough to ease his deep and complex pain. My heart hurts when I think of how he left us alone in a world without his magic. And then, my head chimes in and says, 'Well, at least he left us on his terms.'

When my friend Sydney said, 'It's like a 9/11 of sorts,' I knew what she meant. While his death is not on par with a global terrorist event, it does evoke a similar brand of shock, the kind that freezes a moment in time so you remember where you were when you first heard. (Me, in Sydney's living room, watching the headline flash on the muted TV. Me, yelling the news to her on the patio and her, not believing me. When the word "suicide" came out we both crumpled in to chairs, hands over mouths.)

Today, we learned that not only was Robin battling severe depression, substance abuse, career woes and financial concerns, but he was also showing early signs of Parkinson's Disease. Here was a man who brought laughter to millions but could no longer find the joy in his own life after one immense challenge after another piled up until he could no longer bear the weight.

Seems unfair, doesn't it?

I once interviewed Robin Williams' mother, Laurie, for an article on Moms of Celebrities that I did for the Nob Hill Gazette. It was pouring rain but I met her in some country club in Marin. We were there several hours, chatting away and she enjoyed telling stories about Robin's childhood and her own life. We visited a few more times on the phone and I'll always remember her big smile, the same one she gave to her son, who then shared it with the rest of us. What an honor that was.

When I lived in San Francisco, I lived in the same neighborhood as the Mrs. Doubtfire house which has now become an impromptu memorial to Robin. I also lived not too far from SeaCliff, a tony neighborhood that included Robin's house overlooking the GG bridge with his famous flagpole in the front. When he was home, a pirate flag flew; when he was gone, no flag. This way, his hometown always knew where he was. 

On a very selfish note, having an iconic comedian commit suicide on the first day of my comedy festival was profoundly horrible timing. Our weekday shows thus far have been sparsely attended and I can only think that many comedy fans are staying home to re-watch Robin's best performances in films and stand-up. I know that's what I would be doing.

So, let's say hypothetically, that you live in the Denver area and need some cheering up. Please come to one of our three remaining shows:
  • Friday, August 15: The D-Note in Old Town Arvada, 7:30 p.m. free!
  • Saturday, August 16: Denver Bookbinding Company, 7:30 p.m. $20 - free apps, beer and a public head shaving!
  • Sunday, August 17: Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret in downtown Denver, 7 p.m., $15 (half off parking under the nearby Rock Bottom Brewery)
Let's also say, hypothetically, that you just want to get rid of all that extra cash that's been weighing you down and looking for a cause that offers a clean-cut solution to one of the world's mysteriously disturbing problems, consider donating to Smile Train. Why do I feel so strongly about this? Because I grew up with facial disfigurement and being a kid is hard enough, I can't imagine going through that as a poor child in a world with no resources, no support. No comedy! Humor was - and is - my main weapon in dealing with medical drama.

To fix these kids and give them a smile, it's a $250 (free for patients) for a 45-minute operation - DONE. 

Either way, grab a friend who is down and go see some comedy this week, or the next. Somewhere. Anywhere. The world will always contain soul-crushing darkness but we have to find a way to keep laughing in the light whenever we can.


Anonymous said...

Great post Heather. I too thought of 9/11, but in the way that it touched the entire world. For some reason (and I can't explain why), the death of Robbin Williams has touched my heart and my soul. I find myself breaking out in tears at random times, feeling the void of losing such a genius, a brilliantly warm, generous soul who brought happiness to so many. I feel connected in this loss to the millions of others whose lives he touched. My heart hurts when I try to imagine the darkness he felt, the torture or hopelessness he must have experienced, in order to take such extreme measures. To know another human being, especially someone so full of love for others, could not be saved with a hug or the love of all of those 'others' surrounding him saddens me.
Laughter is definitely powerful and organic medicine to heal many pains. If I were in Denver, you can bet I would be there. I'm blessed to have a man who keeps me laughing every day.

Heather Clisby said...

Thank you for reading my post. In so many news stories about Williams' death, I end up finding comfort in the comments, a place I usually avoid. I note a theme: "I never understood people grieving over dead celebrities - people they had never met. Now I understand."

He was a powerful force in this world. We just didn't realize how much until he was gone.

And glad you've got yourself a funny man! What a marvelous blessing.