Tuesday, 12 August 2014

THE DAY THE LAUGHTER DIED (A tribute to Robin Williams)



“A long, long time ago, I can still remember how the music used to make me smile”
     Don McLean, American Pie

I was still a kid in the year 1971, when Don McLean released his blockbuster song American Pie. It was a song that quickly rose to #1 on the American charts and stayed there for weeks. More than forty years later, it continues to play on the radio as a reminder of simpler times. McLean wrote the song in remembrance of three musicians who had died in a plane crash on February 3rd, 1959, the same year I was born.  The musicians were Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and Jiles Perry Richardson, Jr., whose show name was The Big Bopper. Thanks to the refrain of McLean’s song, the day of their death would forever become known as ‘The Day the Music Died’.

It was my wife who brought in the paper this morning, now 55 years later, while I quickly made a lunch to bring to work. The first words I heard from her mouth were: “Oh my! He died.” As I turned to her, I only could wonder who was so important that the word ‘he’ should be enough. But then I saw the huge picture on the paper’s front page and I understood. ‘He’ was Robin Williams, who in my mind ranks right up there with Red Skelton as the greatest comedic geniuses of all time. I place these two above everyone else because both could do what no one else ever could – they could somehow have an entire audience both laughing and crying at the same time.

I once had the extreme pleasure of watching Red Skelton live at a show in Reno, when I was just 12-years old, oddly enough in 1971, the same year American Pie was released. Watching the master pantomime bring his characters like Clem Kadiddlehopper to life was magical, mostly because dear old Clem, the hapless hobo, somehow had everyone laughing and crying together.  No one else ever managed to make me do that until I saw Robin Williams as Mrs. Doubtfire, and then as Patch Adams, and then as Jakob the Liar, and again and again in so many other roles that should have won him far more than the single Academy Award he was given. In my mind, for that talent, of making tears and laughter flow together, should have won him Best Actor every time.

Imagine my shock then at hearing not only that he now was dead, but that he had likely taken his own life; that he, arguably the funniest human of all time, whose wild hoots of laughter were, in themselves, enough to bring audiences to hysterics, had been battling severe, treatment-resistant depression. But then I remembered that, among Williams’ unparalleled talents was his ability to imitate others.

“I do voices,” he told the stern caseworker assigned to him in Mrs. Doubtfire, when she asked him to list his special skills. He then paraded before her an endless stream of vocal caricatures, from Porky Pig to Humphrey Bogart.  In short, he was great at pretending to be someone he wasn’t. And at the end of his life, perhaps his best imitation was pretending to be happy for so many who saw him, even fooling those closest to him over the depth of his despair.

I have long felt a special connection with Robin Williams. For one thing, he and I went to the same small college in Southern California — Claremont Men’s College — though he dropped out and ultimately enrolled at the Julliard School of the Performing Arts in New York. Had he stayed at Claremont, he would have been a senior the year I started there; I have often kidded that I was the reason he left.

Another thing that made me feel connected to him was his playing the main role in the movie Patch Adams, a true story about a physician who believed that doctors needed to be more human than professional with their patients. As a practicing doctor, I always said the same; pointing out that the word ‘humane’ itself means having or demonstrating compassion. Patch also believed in using humor with patients — that laughter is, indeed, the best medicine. In the movie, Patch the medical student repeatedly wanders into the children’s ward wearing a clown nose.  When I was a medical student, I didn’t have a clown nose. But I did have a black and white pet puppet pig I called Pomona, who I wore on my hand all through my pediatrics rotation. Even the nurses used to laugh watching me trying to hold onto charts with a puppet on one hand. I watched Patch Adams with tears in my eyes the entire time, even while laughing.

Now I find out that Williams and I have had two other things in common. One was his long-time battles with addiction. The other was his long-time struggles with depression. From my perspective, the two often go hand in hand. It was at the height of my own addiction, back in 2003, that I found myself standing on the rooftop of a 5-storey parking building at 3 o’clock one morning. My car was parked several blocks away. The only thing that kept me from jumping, ironically enough, was my fear of heights.

And so it is that I find myself sitting here in stunned disbelief at the passing of Robin Williams. My wife has repeatedly told me that my sense of humor is one of the reasons she married me. She didn’t realize, back then, the demons I had hiding behind it. Apparently, one of the greatest comedians the world has ever known has had these demons too.

And now he is gone.

To me, he will be irreplaceable.

To me, this is the day the laughter died.

But the man and the laughter he brought us should never be forgotten. What the rest of us MUST do is to take comfort in the legacy he has left us, whether we are watching one of his movies or reveling in one of the few stand-up shows we can find on YouTube...

And both laugh, and cry, as we do.


Kevin P White
www.thefibrofog.com

3 comments:

  1. ALL THANKS TO DR WILLIAMS FOR THE GREAT DEED HE HAVE DONE FOR MY DAUGHTER?
    My daughter suffered from fibromyalgia for more than 12 years which we started experiencing in her when she turned 8 year and 5 months we all thought it will end but got even worse as days went by. We tried all several treatments and therapy prescribed by various doctors we met but to no avail, she always complain of joint stiffness, and have difficulty falling asleep. She usually tells me she feeling tired. This were steady disorder that disrupted her entire life, even at night she slept less because of this.It was during a casual conversation with a friend that i learned about Dr Williams herbal medicine I was able to contact him on his email address. and give him all the necessary information that he needed,few day later he sent me the herbal portion and his medicine was able to restore her back to normal and she is very okay now without any side effects whatsoever. If you have fibromyalgia, do not hesitate to contact him on drwilliams098765@gmail.com for advice and for his product. I hope this also helps someone out there

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  2. As a sign of gratitude for how my son was saved from fibromyalgia , i decided to reach out to those still suffering from this.
    My son suffered fibromyalgia in the year 2013 and it was really tough and heartbreaking for me because he was my all and the symptoms were terrible, he always complain of joint stiffness, and he always have difficulty falling asleep . we tried various therapies prescribed by our neurologist but none could cure him. I searched for a cure and i saw a testimony by someone who was cured and so many other with similar body problem, and he left the contact of the doctor who had the cure to fibromyalgia . I never imagined fibromyalgia has a natural cure not until i contacted him and he assured me my son will be fine. I got the herbal medication he recommended and my son used it and in one months time he was fully okay even up till this moment he is so full of life. fibromyalgia has a cure and it is a herbal cure contact the doctor for more info on drwilliams098765@gmail.com on how to get the medication. Thanks for reading my story

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  3. I am Sophie from Canada, I once suffered from a terrible and Chronic fibromhyalgia,since i was bone , the doctor told me there was no permanent cure i was given medications to slow down its progress, i constantly felt my health was deteriorating as i constantly had Painful menstrual periods,this ailment was really terrible especially when am going out with my friends, i have this constant disorder for about 31 years, this was really a terrible ailment ,on thin one day that i was going through the internet,and i came across a post of Mrs jessica on how his daughter was been cured from fibromhyalgia through the help of Dr Williams herbal product, I contacted this herbal doctor via his email and explain everything to him and make purchase of his product,few days later he sent me the herbal medicine through courier service, when i received the herbal medicine, i used it for 1 months and two weeks as prescribed by dr williams and i was totally cured within those week of usage,on thin now i have not experience any sign or characteristics again . for more information you can email him on drwilliams098675@gmail.com for help

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