I was saddened to hear of the suicide of Robin Williams. He was a gifted comedian and actor and, as my own experience showed me, a sweet and thoughtful man.
Years ago, my husband and I were in Los Angeles, visiting our son, Adam. 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 VIP tickets. We, of course, accepted.
It turned out that this performance was one of the first 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 to see if he still had what it took to amuse a huge, diverse, live audience.
Of course, some of what he said was what we used to call “blue.” I noted that one of Adam’s friends 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, it actually was. No one could riff like Robin Williams, and he was in wonderful form that night.
When the performance was over, Adam said our VIP tickets entitled us to go backstage to meet Williams. We rushed to do this, and found ourselves in a room jammed with “beautiful people,” all dressed in the requisite “hip” L.A. black clothing, and all well-botoxed. I think there were celebrities in the herd, but I didn’t recognize anyone. I figured that our chances of actually meeting Williams were low, given the density and “celebrity” of the crowd.
After awhile, I saw the comedian come in, and there was a buzz as people crowded around him for their VIP 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 cats, which really rang a bell with us.”
But before I could say anything else, someone tapped Williams on the shoulder. A second- or third-tier celebrity brother of a first-tier celebrity wanted to talk to him. Since I was in no tier at all, I accepted that my fleeting moment with Williams was at an end and watched him walk off through the crowd.
I solaced myself with a glass of champagne and chatted with my husband and son for 10 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 VIP 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 is an award-winning author who lives in Contoocook.