Archive for Monday, August 11, 2014

Robin Williams dead at 63

August 11, 2014


— Robin Williams, the Academy Award winner and comic supernova whose explosions of pop culture riffs and impressions dazzled audiences for decades and made him a gleamy-eyed laureate for the Information Age, died Monday in an apparent suicide. He was 63.

Williams was pronounced dead at his home in California on Monday, according to the sheriff’s office in Marin County, north of San Francisco. The sheriff’s office said a preliminary investigation shows the cause of death to be a suicide due to asphyxia.

“This morning, I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings. I am utterly heartbroken,” said Williams’ wife, Susan Schneider. “On behalf of Robin’s family, we are asking for privacy during our time of profound grief. As he is remembered, it is our hope the focus will not be on Robin’s death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions,”

Williams had been battling severe depression recently, said Mara Buxbaum, his press representative.

From his breakthrough in the late 1970s as the alien in the hit TV show “Mork and Mindy,” through his standup act and such films as “Good Morning, Vietnam,” the short, barrel-chested Williams ranted and shouted as if just sprung from solitary confinement. Loud, fast, manic, he parodied everyone from John Wayne to Keith Richards, impersonating a Russian immigrant as easily as a pack of Nazi attack dogs.

He was a riot in drag in “Mrs. Doubtfire,” or as a cartoon genie in “Aladdin.” He won his Academy Award in a rare, but equally intense dramatic role, as a teacher in the 1997 film “Good Will Hunting.”

Like so many funnymen, he had serious ambitions, winning his Oscar for his portrayal of an empathetic therapist in “Good Will Hunting.” He also played for tears in “Awakenings,” ‘‘Dead Poets Society” and “What Dreams May Come,” something that led New York Times critic Stephen Holden to once say he dreaded seeing the actor’s “Humpty Dumpty grin and crinkly moist eyes.”

Williams also won three Golden Globes, for “Good Morning, Vietnam,” ‘‘Mrs. Doubtfire” and “The Fisher King.”

His other film credits included Robert Altman’s “Popeye” (a box office bomb), Paul Mazursky’s “Moscow on the Hudson,” Steven Spielberg’s “Hook” and Woody Allen’s “Deconstructing Harry.” On stage, Williams joined fellow comedian Steve Martin in a 1988 Broadway revival of “Waiting for Godot.”

His personal life was often short on laughter. He had acknowledged drug and alcohol problems in the 1970s and ‘80s and was among the last to see John Belushi before the “Saturday Night Live” star died of a drug overdose in 1982.

Born in Chicago in 1951, Williams would remember himself as a shy kid who got some early laughs from his mother — by mimicking his grandmother. He opened up more in high school when he joined the drama club and he was accepted into the Juilliard Academy, where he had several classes in which he and Christopher Reeve were the only students and John Houseman was the teacher.

Encouraged by Houseman to pursue comedy, Williams identified with the wildest and angriest of performers: Jonathan Winters, Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, George Carlin. Their acts were not warm and lovable. They were just being themselves.

He unveiled Mork, the alien from the planet Ork, in an appearance on “Happy Days,” and was granted his own series, which ran from 1978-1982.

In subsequent years, Williams often returned to television — for appearances on “Saturday Night Live,” for “Friends,” for comedy specials, for “American Idol,” where in 2008 he pretended to be a “Russian idol” who belts out a tuneless, indecipherable “My Way.”

Winner of a Grammy in 2003 for best spoken comedy album, “Robin Williams — Live 2002,” he once likened his act to the daily jogs he took across the Golden Gate Bridge. There were times he would look over the edge, one side of him pulling back in fear, the other insisting he could fly.

“You have an internal critic, an internal drive that says, ‘OK, you can do more.’ Maybe that’s what keeps you going,” Williams said. “Maybe that’s a demon. ... Some people say, ‘It’s a muse.’ No, it’s not a muse! It’s a demon!”


Brock Masters 3 years, 9 months ago

Breaking News? Only been reported elsewhere hours ago.

Philipp Wannemaker 3 years, 9 months ago

Nobody has ever accused the JW of being a good news site.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 3 years, 9 months ago

This is sooooo sad. He brought belly laughs and chuckles to so many people.

Marcia Epstein 3 years, 9 months ago

The death of Robin Williams at age 63 is sad news, no matter what the cause of death. Because the media conversation emphasizes his experience with depression, and the likelihood he died by suicide, we have a responsibility to ourselves and others to talk openly about suicide prevention and suicide bereavement. Talking is the first step in preventing suicide.

No person is destined to die by suicide. Having depression, any other mental health challenge, or having thoughts of suicide is reason to use skilled, compassionate care. Yes, for many reasons, finding that help is not always easy. But every person deserves high quality help.

People who have lost loved ones to suicide might benefit from bereavement groups specific to suicide loss. Those groups exist in many parts of our country, including here in Lawrence, with info through in the "Coping With Suicide" area.

If you or someone you care about has thoughts of suicide, from any part of the USA, immediate help is available free, 24/7 through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The main phone number is 800.273.8255, and can even include language interpreters when needed. Their website also provides access through TDD, text, and chat.

Please remember to be compassionate to yourself and to others. You may not always know how big a difference you make, but sharing kindness and hope saves lives.

Robert Rauktis 3 years, 9 months ago

So what about the obit above emphasized suicide and mental health? Three factual sentences about the end of a 63 year life? Stop dredging for your issues.

Raymond Muñoz 3 years, 9 months ago

I don’t usually mourn the loss of a celebrity, but the death of Robin Williams stung a little. Nanu, nanu, Mork from Ork.

Leslie Swearingen 3 years, 9 months ago

Robin Williams was a very special man. He had the ability to be open, honest and go with the flow of his thoughts as when he spontaneously created the many characters that he did on stage.

He would have access to the best psychiatrists and medications. He was addicted to alcohol and cocaine and he once said that there is no cause for an addiction, it just is, you have to fight it every one, and then if you think you have it beat, that's when it when it will rise back up.

I think it is quite appropriate to raise the issue of suicide prevention here in Lawrence. If it was impossible for Robin Williams to carry on, then it is so for others. This just proves that talented people are human and that success and money does not make it otherwise. Sometimes even family cannot make a difference.


Commenting has been disabled for this item.