OBITUARY: Robin Williams (1951-2014)

Kevin Long
Kevin Long's picture

Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God, oh my God, oh my God, Robin Williams is dead, apparent suicide. That poor, poor man.

I just got the word, and I'm shattered. I am not here to blow sunshine up your ass about him. He was a funny guy, but that's not why I'm shattered. He had many a good day left ahead, I'm sure, but his peak was definitely in the rear view mirror. I'm not shattered because he was a cryin'-on-the-inside kind of clown. Look at his performances. That was always there. I'm not shattered because of his surprisingly good acting chops, either. He had questionable choice in roles, but much more range than you'd have expected. But he's been doing Disney Family Fare for a decade or more now, and, well, I'm not shattered by that.

What you probably didn't know - and which he would never tell you - is WHY an oscar winner consistently took shitty parts in beneath-his-dignity films: He did it for the money.

"Ah," you say, "Another Hollywood phoney."

No, fuck you, he was not another Hollywood phoney, and you should apologize right now for even guessing at that when you clearly don't know shit about the guy.

He did it for the money because he used the money to help people. Mr. Williams was probably the single most loyal friend in Hollywood. Despite his problems with drugs, his marriages, the upturns and downturns in his career, there were basically two sets of people in his life "His" people and "Everyone else." "His" can be losely defined as people he felt responsible for for whatever reason. If he felt you were one of his, then there was literally nothing he would not do for you.

Case in point: Christopher Reeve was paralyzed for nine years. He required continual round-the-clock medical care, and had no insurance. You know who put up all the dough for that? Robin Williams. Without even being asked, he cranked out scores of millions of dollars to help Reeve, and single-handedly kept him alive when Reeve lacked the resources to do it himself. All the while, he never asked for anything in return, and he encouraged Reeve to keep fighting, and acting. At no point did Williams do this for praise. He didn't tell anyone about it. When it came up in interviews, he refused to discuss it. For a decade.

Why did he do it? Because he and Reeve had been roomates at Juliard in the 1970s.

Mr. Williams has done this for others. He never sought the spotlight for his humanitarian efforts, he just was in a position where he could help people he cared about, and he did. In a broader sense, when he could help society as a whole - such as "Comic Relief" and his support of St. Jude Children's Hospitals - he did that, too. Robin Williams was a man who saved people's lives, and went out of his way to avoid praise for it, becuase that is what good people do. They help, and seek no reward.

In his case, in order to continue helping, he took crap roles in crap films and ruined his star's reputation in exchange for continuing to work regulearly so he could have money to keep people alive.

You want a list of people he was helping? Fuck you, you don't get a list. He was a private man. If he'd wanted your praise or your pitty, he'd have told you himself. But I know or I knew one or two, and they alluded to others, or told me outright. It's not hard to figure it out from the company he kept, but I think it's probably rude to look into it. It defeats his purpose. I know a few, suspect a few more, but I'm not volunteering anything. Still and all: when people talk about this tomorrow, when they say "He was a coked-up shitty actor and washed up stand up comic," you stand up for him, and you say, "Robin Williams sacrificed his career so he could keep people alive," and you tell them what I just told you here.

You can leave out the "Fuck yous," I guess, if you feel its appropriate.

So there's a lot of people hurting tonight. Being him, I'm sure he left some manner of providing for them. They were "his," after all, and he wouldn't abandon them even if he couldn't stand life itself any more. He was noble. Troubled, depressed, giving, frequently hurting, sometimes not the most grown-up guy in the room, but none of that matters because when and where it counted, he was more than a man. He was a mensch.

More than that, he was a mensch among menschen.

There can be no greater compliment.

My prayers go out for his soul and his family, and "his" people, all of whom will be immeasurably weakened by his loss.