REMEMBERING ROBIN WILLIAMS
By Jaya Verma
Legendary American actor and comedian Robin McLaurin Williams - who touched “every element of the human spirit” in a remarkable range of performances died August 11, 2014 at 63 inside his house in Tiburon, California. The shock after hearing that Robin Williams died comes from its utter implausibility. It's as though we've been told that the sun will no longer rise, laughing no longer has a meaning and there is no air in the atmosphere.
Williams was born in Chicago in 1951 and spent some of his boyhood on the North Shore before relocating to Michigan. During childhood he would often spend much of his time playing alone in the family's large home to avoid his tormentors because he was bullied execrably for being chubby. Eventually, by joining the wrestling and tracks teams he conqueredhis overweight and realized he could make the other children laugh as a way of gaining respect from them. When Williams was 16, his father took retirement and they moved to California where he finished his education at Redwood High School. After graduation in 1969, Williams attended Claremont Men's College, studying political science and playing soccer but ended up taking lessons in improvisation, which perfectly suited his sharp wit and he was soon hooked. He attended Julliard before launching his entertainment career.
Williams was originally known as a stand-up comedian and did a number of stand-up comedy tours, beginning in the early 1970s. Robin became a sensation by playing Mork from planet Ork so much so that a new show was created for him – 'Mork And Mindy'. The show was a hit, earning Williams his fame and his first Golden Globe win in 1979. Williams was best known for his starring roles in classic comedies like “Mrs. Doubtfire”, “Good Morning Vietnam” and “Jumanji” but he also in acclaimed dramas such as “Dead Poet's Society”. He won an Oscar for his dramatic supporting role in the 1997 hit “Good Will Hunting”. Disney's 'Aladdin' in 1992 was a landmark in establishing the talents of Williams as a voice actor in his role of the Genie, the majority of which he improvised and ad-libbed. He most recently acted in the CBS series, “The Crazy Ones”, about a Chicago-based advertising agency.
Eventually, he conquered his overweight label by joining the wrestling and tracks teams and realized he could make the other children laugh as a way of gaining respect from them. Williams father took early retirement when he was 16 and they moved to California where he finished his education at Redwood High School. After graduation in 1969, Williams attended Claremont Men's College, studying political science and playing soccer but ended up taking lessons in improvisation, which perfectly suited his sharp wit and he was soon hooked. He attended Julliard before launching his entertainment career.
Robin Williams met dancer Valerie Velardi while at Julliard and the couple wed in 1978. 1982 marked a downfall in his personal life as his battle with alcohol and drugs, specifically cocaine, had a destructive effect on his marriage. He was close friends with John Belushi, and in fact he had been partying with the legendary “Saturday Night Live” comedian at L.A.’s Chateau Marmont hotel not long before Belushi overdosed on a lethal combination of heroin and cocaine in 1982. Belushi’s death and Valerie's pregnancy with the couple's son, Zachary (Zak), was a wakeup call for Williams, who quit cold turkey shortly after the incident and remained sober for two decades.
During Williams' first marriage, he was involved in an extramarital relationship and soon William and Valerie were divorced in 1988. He married Marsha Garces, Zak's nanny, in 1989 who was several months pregnant with his child Zelda Rae Williams and also had a son Cody Alan Williams. In March 2008, Garces filed for divorce from Williams citing irreconcilable differences. Williams married his third wife, graphic designer, Susan Schneider in october 2011.
Robin admitted to The Guardian that he fell off the wagon after 20 years of sobriety while on a movie set in Alaska in 2003. He re-entered rehab for alcoholism in august 2006. He opened up about his struggles with addiction to alcohol and cocaine in an interview on “Good Morning America”. “It's not caused by anything, it's just there,” he said. “It waits. It lays in wait for the time when you think, 'It's fine now, I'm OK.' Then, next thing you know, it's not OK.” His own rueful experience with addiction drew from him one of the greatest quotes ever about drugs: “Cocaine is God's way of saying you make too much money.”
Robin Williams had long been suffering with Bipolar disorder, a mental illness where the person fluctuates between episodes of extreme energy, focus, productivity and severe depression. Apparently, he was in one of the episodes when he took his own life by asphyxiation.
It’s always tempting to look at a celebrity's life and professional situation for clues to possible “causes” of suicide. But the truth is, there is no cause of depression – it just is. And that’s the problem – we still look at it as something linked to logic, something a person has control over, when in fact it’s a mental illness that takes control of the brain much as heart disease or cancer takes control over the body. The sadness that comes from depression is not rooted in anything real. Robbin was in the rehab center as late as July this year.
While we may never understand why someone who enjoyed so much family and success as Robin Williams committed suicide, we can appreciate the body of work he left behind. He lit up many people's lives with his humor, infectious energy and poignant roles.
The death is suspected to be a suicide due to asphyxia but a comprehensive investigation will be completed to determine the circumstances of death. The great artist and humanist will be forever remembered.