Robin Williams

Warmth in character.

It was years ago on the patio of Caffè Artigiano on Hornby Street in Vancouver. Two girls were taking pictures of their latte art. That wasn’t unusual but still, it seemed odd considering the other photo opportunities available. “You know,” I told them, “Robin Williams is inside.”

Williams was in town for a shoot—one of the Night at the Museum movies, I think—and Artigiano was a favourite coffee spot for him.

The young women, as expected, flipped out. One of them raced inside. I immediately felt guilty for indirectly disturbing the poor man’s peace. But apparently I needn’t have worried. Moments later Williams came hustling out to the patio, looking as excited as a young star who’s just been asked for his first autograph, mugging and posing for photos with the thrilled young women. It was almost like a skit, a wonderful parody of how a perfect star should act. Every celebrity encounter is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the fan and, usually, one more episode in an endless personal space beat-down for the beleaguered star. How many celebrities can succeed in overcoming their annoyance every day? How many times must Williams have given that performance?

Williams never explicitly stated that he suffered from bipolar disorder, but he had hinted at it and his history of depression was well known. Clearly, this wasn’t one of the down days—either that or the espresso that day had an extra kick. Williams was a bundle of happy energy.

Local Vancouver stand-up comics have been speaking of Williams’s kindness and generosity of spirit. Surely what I witnessed was a turbo-fueled expression of Williams’s innate character. That depression could take down a man of such warmth, talent, and accomplishment is a brutal lesson for the world. His work and his personal kindness offer us a more uplifting lesson.

Film still of Robin Williams in Good Morning, Vietnam (1987) courtesy of Touchstone Pictures.



Post Date:

August 12, 2014