Yesterday, we lost one of the funniest and most versatile entertainers of our time. Robin Williams was successful in multiple venues – stand-up comedy, movies, and television. Besides acting, he was also renown as a film producer and screenwriter. He won two Emmy Awards, four Golden Globes, two screen Actors Guild Awards, five Grammy Awards and one Academy Award (for his supporting role in Good Will Hunting). He made us laugh with his crazy antics. As a performer he excelled in both comedic and serious roles.
Robin McLaurin Williams was born on July 21, 1951 in Chicago, IL. His parents were very well-to-do. He was raised in a 40-room mansion in Bloomfield Hills, a posh suburb of Detroit. His father was a senior executive at the Ford Motor Company, and his mother was a former model and a great-granddaughter of a Mississippi Senator and Governor.
Despite his family’s wealth, it does not appear that he had a happy childhood. He had few, if any, friends. Williams recalled that his father traveled a great deal on business, and when he was home he was “frightening.” In addition, his mother worked, which was unusual in the 1950s and 1960s, especially in middle and upper class homes. Consequently, Williams was often left by himself. He would play by himself in his home, using his imagination. In later life, Williams claimed that his upbringing caused him to develop an acute fear of being abandoned. He described it as “Love Me Syndrome.”
In addition, it appears he did not fit in at school. In fact, he was bullied in Middle School, and after school he would try to go home by different routes every day to avoid the bullies who tormented him. When Williams was 16 the family moved to Marin County where he attended high school. Upon graduation he was voted “Most Likely Not to Succeed” (as well as “Funniest”). Following graduation he earned a scholarship to the Julliard School in New York.
Williams’ big break came in 1978 when Garry Marshall cast him as the alien, Mork, in an episode of Happy Days, a hit television show set in the 1950s. That, in turn, led to the show Mork and Mindy, which was also a hit. Williams was a huge hit personally with his physical comedy and his improvisational skills, and he was on his way. Over the next 35 years he proved to be one of the premier entertainers of our time starring in movies, television shows and stand-up. In 2004 Comedy Central ranked him 13th on its list of the “100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time.” In addition to Hunting my favorite films of his were “Mrs. Doubtfire”, “Good Morning Viet Nam”, and “One Hour Photo.” Children will remember him in “Hook” and as the voice of the genie in “Alladdin.”
Throughout his adult life Williams was plagued by substance abuse, primarily alcoholism and cocaine. He was able to kick his cocaine habit following the death of his close friend, John Belushi, but he was never able to shake his alcohol problem completely. Finally, a few months ago Williams checked himself into the famed Hazelden Foundation Addiction Treatment Center for treatment related to alcoholism. According to his publicist Williams also suffered from depression. Perhaps, the lethal combination of withdrawal from alcoholism and depression contributed to his suicide.
It’s always sad when someone dies before his time. Williams was only 63,a young age nowadays. He had so much more to contribute. He entertained us like few others with his inimitable comedic style. We will miss him. Rest in peace Robin.
PS: I mentioned my favorite Robin Williams movies. What’s yours?