hometown celebs

Maybe this is about Me: Thank You, Mr. Williams

Growing up in San Francisco, Robin Williams was our hometown celeb. I could never quite comprehend it, not because a celebrity lived two neighborhoods over but because he lived two neighborhoods over. ROBIN WILLIAMS. Mork and Mindy was my first favorite show. Popeye. Good Morning Vietnam. He knocked us on our asses every time a trailer came on TV. He knocked us on our asses for 35 years.  He was human fucking dynamite.

One Sunday when I was a kid, my mom came home with a box of plates that she swears she bought at a garage sale at Robin Williams’ house. She had some bizarre story about the nanny’s Russian mom and Cold War hardship that sort of flimsily explained why there would be a garage sale at Robin Williams’ house. And we gobbled it up, proudly revealing to all future dinner guests that we were eating off of Robin Williams’ actual plates. Usually when their mouths were full for maximum fun and danger. 

When I moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in comedy and acting, she gave me those plates with an intense nod and a slow wink. We both knew these were magical plates, holy possessions that would surely guide me on my rapid accent to an Oscar studded destiny. 

Six years ago he popped up next to me in a dark hallway while I was watching ASSSSCAT and managing the house at UCB. He was gentle, his eyes were tender. They were almost all you could see of him in the darkness but they twinkled (sorry, there is no better word) in a way that was eternally recognizable. Over the next 4-6 months, this quiet ritual developed where he’d sneak up behind me in the dark and nod. I’d say, “hey. Do you want to go up?” And he would nod and say, “sure yeah, okay.” Or sometimes he’d put his hand up and say, “no no, that’s okay,” and just watch. He was there more often than people knew—sometimes just standing there in the dark hallway, smiling, nodding, probably salivating a little, watching the magic. It was all very surreal. I got to improvise with him at a jam once and all I can remember is that he initiated a scene and I got down on my knees, grabbed his hand to play his child and somebody else did the same on the other side. He looked at us, tightened his grip on our hands and screamed to a hospital waiting room, “somebody help! These people just got their legs cut off!”

It’s all been said. We got sustenance from his light so many times over so many years and now we have to sit here, gut-punched by the thought of his pain in those final moments. This very human, touchable, fallible, impossible, magnetic, rocket ship of a hero-man, took irreversible action in a dark state.  It’s incomprehensible and it’s not. He was unstoppable in either direction. * 

I’ll never forget where I was when I found out Robin Williams died.  Way to ruin the DMV for me, Rob. My new license photo’s going to be fucking horrible.

* Let’s all make a pact to never act in dark times. Just sleep and wait.  I don’t know. Ow. Fuck.