In an eerily prescient scene from the movie `The Angriest Man in Brooklyn’, a dying Robin Williams informs his son that his tombstone would read 1951-2014. “Forget the years”, he tells him, “they’re just numbers. What matters is that dash in between – that was my life!”
So ok, Robin, let’s focus on that dash. Your life. You were born on 21st July, 1951. Just 18 days before me.
In the 70’s, when I was slogging away as a young Army officer, you were well on your way to riches and fame. `Mork and Mindy’, as forgettable a sitcom as ever graced the airwaves, made you a household name as that dorky man from outer space.
Maybe there’s a jinx to playing an alien in your first major role. Remember your classmate from New York City’s Julliard School, who also did that in 1978 (the same year you played Mork)? How he too, met with a tragic end? His name? Christopher Reeve, and the character he played was that alien from Krypton, we all know as Superman!
Fame in Hollywood is almost always accompanied by alcohol and drugs. So while I sipped Rum and coke in Army messes, you were snorting cocaine, and guzzling alcohol like there was no tomorrow. But OD deaths from substance abuse have an expiry date that is somewhere in the late 20’s. So once you passed 27, that famous fatal end-point for suicidal rock idols, there should have been a sense of achievement. Like reaching the next level of a video game. Sadly, that didn't happen in your case..
For all the zany characters you played, it was the serious roles that got you real acclaim. Three Best Actor Nominations – the eccentric DJ in `Good Morning, Vietnam’ (1987), the iconoclastic English teacher in `Dead Poets’ Society’ (1989) and another DJ nearly driven to suicide in `The Fisher King’ (1991). You finally got the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 1997 for the teacher who played mentor to Matt Damon in `Good Will Hunting’.
You had it all. Fame, fortune, family. You reportedly adored Susan Schneider, your (third) wife. Your two sons and one daughter worshipped you. Movie goers around the world, while they detected the ache in your comic panache and the sad sweetness at your core, simply adored you! Didn’t you know that? And was that never going to be enough? At what precise moment in your life did you decide to put that belt around your neck even as Susan slept in the next room?
Have you been able to read your daughter Zelda’s tribute to you? “My family”, she says “has always been private about our time spent together. It was our way of keeping one thing that was ours, with a man we shared with the entire world. But now that’s gone, and I feel stripped bare..”
Is that the legacy you wanted to leave behind? Heartbroken children who will forever bear both the stigma of your suicide, as well as the colossal guilt complex they will always carry - that perhaps they failed you somehow, perhaps they should have been there..
Goddamn you, Robin Williams – none of them, none of us who loved you so much deserved this!