Saturday, September 26, 2015

Another Kind of Writing Sample: Robin Williams

Since I have posted several examples of my past writing, I decided to include a piece I wrote about meeting Robin Williams.  I wrote this right after he died, and it was published in several print newspapers and on a number of online sites. 

I think that the first anniversary of his death occurred recently, so I thought I'd post it on here in his memory.

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Meeting Robin Williams


I was saddened to hear today of the suicide of Robin Williams. He was a gifted comedian and actor, and also, as my own experience showed me, a very sweet and thoughtful man.

A number of years ago, my husband and I were in Los Angeles, visiting our son, Adam (who goes by his middle name, Hawk, in his film and television profession). Adam asked if we wanted to go see a Robin Williams comedy performance at a large theater in L.A. He said he could get us V.I.P. tickets through a friend of a friend. We, of course, accepted.

It turned out that this performance was one of the first that Robin Williams did after a long hiatus from live comedy, and after he had managed to conquer (temporarily as it turned out) a drug addiction. It was thus a bit of a test run for him, and the beginning of a national tour, to see if he still had what it took to amuse a huge, diverse, live audience.

He did.

Of course, some of what he said was what we used to call “blue”. I noted that one of Adam’s friends, who was sitting next to me, kept glancing uneasily at me as if afraid I was offended by what I was hearing. I patted his knee and said, in between helpless laughter, “Don’t worry, I grew up in the 60s. This is nothing I haven’t heard before.”

Although, of course, there was actually plenty I hadn’t heard before. Not exactly in that way. No one could riff like Robin Williams and he was in wonderful form that night.

When the performance was over, Adam said our V.I.P. tickets entitled us to go backstage to meet Robin Williams.  We rushed to do this, and found ourselves in a room that was jammed with other people who also had V.I.P. tickets, apparently.

I looked around curiously at the crowd: it was composed of “beautiful people”, all well dressed in the requisite ”hip” L.A. black clothing, and many well-botoxed. I think there were a number of celebrities in the herd, but I didn’t recognize anyone. I figured that our chances of actually meeting Robin Williams were quite low, given the density and “celebrity” of the crowd in the room.

After awhile, I saw the comedian come in, and there was a buzz as people jostled around him for their V.I.P. close encounter.  Again, I despaired that we would be able to speak with him. Soon, however, Robin Williams started walking through the crowd in our direction and stopped nearby.

I gathered my courage and said “Mr. Williams, you were so wonderful out there tonight. I especially liked your description of boys circling your teenaged daughter like tomcats, which  really rang a bell with us.”

But before I could say anything else, someone tapped Robin Williams on the shoulder. It was the manager of a second or third tier celebrity brother of a first tier celebrity who wanted to talk to him.  Williams sighed, and apologized to me. Since I was in no tier at all, I accepted that my fleeting moment with him was at an end and watched him walk off through the crowd.

I solaced myself with a glass of the champagne provided for us V.I.P.s, and chatted with my husband and son for ten minutes or so.

Then someone tapped me on the shoulder.

It was Robin Williams. “I’m sorry we were interrupted,” he said. “Please go on with what you were saying.”

I was truly astonished, but recovered enough to chat with him for awhile about the challenges of raising teenaged daughters. Finally, I thanked him sincerely for coming back to find me.

After he moved on, I thought about what he had done. It was probably quite simple for him to find me. I was the “sore thumb” in that crowd: my clothes were anything but black, and my face anything but Botoxed. I’m sure it was clear that I was a V.I.P in ticket only. But Robin Williams came to find me again anyway.

He was a real gentleman whose quicksilver talent and personal grace will be missed. May he rest in peace.


Dorothea Jensen

www.dorotheajensen.com