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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams and a baseball film he never made

Williams’ best baseball line:

 

   Sgt. Major Dickerson: [Pointing to his rank insignia] What does three up and three down mean to you, airman?

   Adrian Cronauer: End of an inning?

I fervently wanted Robin Williams to play Casey Stengel.

A long time ago, I wrote a book about the Hall of Fame manager based upon what I believed to be the central conflict of his life: That he was a very funny man who also wanted to be taken seriously. I don’t mean that Stengel liked to take off his comedic mask the way Charlie Chaplin or Jerry Lewis did, walking into walls when in character and costume and then discoursing about the high seriousness of their art when off camera and in mufti. There was no mask. Stengel loved making people laugh too much to stop and yet was too smart not to need to be respected for his intelligence. Those instincts did not coexist well in the public perception of him, could not be rationalized by sportswriters and baseball executives of the time who were brought up to think that managers should be like John McGraw or Joe McCarthy—drunk and disorderly much of the time, sure, but also imperious Leaders of Men and publicly humorless.

As I wrote the book, I fantasized, as many authors do, about the film adaptation that might follow. From the very beginning, I imagined Williams playing Casey. He could inhabit that man as well as he inhabited Popeye (in a bizarre misfire of a Robert Altman film at once more true to Elzie Segar’s original strip than any cartoon adaptation, a live-action cartoon itself, and a runaway train of drug-addled writing, direction and performance—but Williams is very good in it), Parry the traumatized homeless savant in The Fisher King, the psychologist in Good Will Hunting, or even the villains in One Hour Photo and Insomnia. A large part of Williams’ public persona, particularly as a stand-up comic, was antic, and as brilliant as his stand-up material could be, some of his worst performances in films came when directors indulged his stage/talk show persona.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 12, 2014 at 03:11 PM | 91 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: baseball in film, casey stengel, robin williams, yankees

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   1. The Anthony Kennedy of BBTF (Scott) Posted: August 13, 2014 at 12:50 AM (#4769940)
One of the best stand up comics I've ever had the pleasure of watching. His 2002 special is epic.

I nth Patton Oswalt's invocation of the Pagliacci joke in reference to William's passing.
   2. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: August 13, 2014 at 07:37 AM (#4769968)
I don't think I consider myself a fan of him, but it's weird that his death hit me hard--as far as celebrity deaths go. He was just always a presence as Mork and Mindy was one of my first favorite tv shows and then he was just always around after that. If you chop off the crap he did and pretend it never happened, he had a hell of a career. I'm not sure I see Williams as Stengel, though. That seems more like a John Mahoney role.

Also, RIP to Lauren Bacall, one of the last of the real legends.
   3. Dennis Eclairskey, closer Posted: August 13, 2014 at 08:27 AM (#4769977)
I've seen way more of an outpouring of emotion than I thought I would on Facebook about Williams' passing

Mahoney was very good as Kid Gleason in Eight Men Out
   4. Random Transaction Generator Posted: August 13, 2014 at 08:28 AM (#4769978)
I always felt that Williams should have won for his role in "The Fisher King"
It was such a powerful performance.

As much as I loved Anthony Hopkins' performance in "Silence of the Lambs", it was too short (in my opinion) to be a "best actor" nominee.
(Something like only 25 minutes of screen time.)
   5. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 13, 2014 at 08:46 AM (#4769985)

I don't think I consider myself a fan of him, but it's weird that his death hit me hard--as far as celebrity deaths go


This. My general thought was that I found him annoying, but this week I found myself looking back at his career and found tons of his work I really enjoyed. And the fact he suffered depression which has run in my family and hit a few friends of mine made it all the more tragic.
   6. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: August 13, 2014 at 08:55 AM (#4769991)
This. My general thought was that I found him annoying, but this week I found myself looking back at his career and found tons of his work I really enjoyed. And the fact he suffered depression which has run in my family and hit a few friends of mine made it all the more tragic.

Yes, exactly.
   7. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: August 13, 2014 at 09:56 AM (#4770034)
Beyond his work, which had real highs, I think his rep as a mensch comes into play here. (I never met the guy, but I've known a number of people who've dealt with and raved about him.)
   8. The Anthony Kennedy of BBTF (Scott) Posted: August 13, 2014 at 10:53 AM (#4770084)
Yeah, I never read a bad word about him from other performers or people in his life. That's kind of impressive given both the length of his career and also his issues with addiction. Though he was married three times so maybe he wasn't so great a husband.

I've been watching his stand-up specials since his death. I was never a giant fan of his movies but he was an amazing presence on the stage. You can find most of them on Youtube, and they hold up very well.
   9. Spahn Insane Posted: August 13, 2014 at 11:02 AM (#4770094)
Beyond his work, which had real highs, I think his rep as a mensch comes into play here. (I never met the guy, but I've known a number of people who've dealt with and raved about him.)

Yeah, but he liked Obama, so he's history's greatest monster.

/Joey B
   10. BDC Posted: August 13, 2014 at 11:11 AM (#4770100)
I think his rep as a mensch comes into play

I heard a story about the filming of What Dreams May Come, which required Williams to sort of walk on the heads of various extras who were playing ghosts or damned souls or something. He was so popular that the extras started yelling, "Walk on my head, Robin!"

Clarence makes a good point, that as with his mentor Jonathan Winters, Williams was an improv guy whose comedy didn't always come across best in scripted roles. I remember him best from stray talkshow appearances. He was also a fine actor in his subdued roles (Awakenings, The Birdcage – in both of which he has the second lead, and the less commanding one).

I remembered last night (academics really are absent-minded) that I once wrote an essay about a particular genre that was mostly associated with Williams (though Tom Hanks had the archetypal role in Big): the kid in a man's body. Toys, Jack, Jumanji – and of course it was inevitable that he played Peter Pan. He is said to have gotten tired of those roles, but they were distinctive. RIP.
   11. Random Transaction Generator Posted: August 13, 2014 at 11:12 AM (#4770102)
Yeah, I never read a bad word about him from other performers or people in his life.


Norm MacDonald had a series of tweets that recounted his first meeting with Robin Williams.

There are lots of stories of people playing Call of Duty online and realizing that he was one of their squadmates (he was a BIG time gamer), and he'd acknowledge it, but then get right back into the game while cracking jokes the entire time.
   12. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 13, 2014 at 11:17 AM (#4770105)
Williams was an improv guy whose comedy didn't always come across best in scripted roles.


I heard an anecdote this week about him that made me laugh out loud - when Penny Marshall was directing him in "Awakenings", she misspoke and said it was set in a "menstrual hospital" rather than "mental hospital." Williams didn't miss a beat and added "its a period piece."
   13. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: August 13, 2014 at 11:33 AM (#4770115)
Beyond his work, which had real highs, I think his rep as a mensch comes into play here. (I never met the guy, but I've known a number of people who've dealt with and raved about him.)

The unfortunate Patch Adams was partially filmed at UNC when I was working there. I heard tons of "Robin Williams went out of his way to be nice to me" stories during this time, most of which involved him putting more effort than necessary into being decent to people who had absolutely no claim to his time, or who only had extremely minor roles in the production team. So yeah, count me as another one who was only an intermittent fan of his work but a dedicated fan of the man.
   14. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 13, 2014 at 11:40 AM (#4770120)
Also bears mentioning he did a ton of work for St. Jude's Children's Hospital, did all those Comic Relief specials to raise money to fight homelessness, did a bunch of USO tours, and was an environmentalist. We could use more Robin Williams.
   15. Lassus Posted: August 13, 2014 at 11:41 AM (#4770123)
He had a rescue pug he adored, too!
   16. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: August 13, 2014 at 11:43 AM (#4770124)
IIRC he helped Christopher Reeve financially, as well.
   17. Ron J2 Posted: August 13, 2014 at 11:50 AM (#4770134)
#8 He had a rep for using other people's material. And for cutting checks for said use.

I know some comics were not happy (David Brenner comes to mind) but most were at least OK -- and some were proud that Williams was using their material.
   18. Batman Posted: August 13, 2014 at 11:52 AM (#4770136)
Hunter Pence doesn't have anything bad to say about Robin Williams.
   19. Moeball Posted: August 13, 2014 at 12:00 PM (#4770147)
Saw Robin Williams at the Comedy Store in La Jolla back in 1977 - before "Mork" took off.

Thought at the time "this guy is completely nuts, but absolutely brilliant" because he was completely stream of consciousness and talking a mile a minute. It seemed as though he didn't even really have planned material like most standups do - he seemed to just be pulling topics off the top of his head and then running with them in whatever direction the wind took him.

But you could see even then that there would be issues to deal with down the road. Seemed completely manic and, as his life and career would show in years to come, his personality was tailor made for the bipolar life. Cocaine fueled mania with lightning speed wit followed by periods of being totally morose as he came back down.

I've heard Pam Dawber talk about how crazy it was on the set of Mork and Mindy with Robin run amok much of the time. When Jonathan Winters joined the cast it really didn't give the ratings boost they were hoping for but Pam said it got really expensive to produce the show because they had to do 20 takes for every scene because Winters and Williams would just riff off of each other in total improvisation and everybody on set would be busting up laughing. Script, what's a script?

And we don't need for there to be a "baseball" movie for Robin to have been in. He already had this classic scene from "Good Will Hunting" (apologies for the nanny attacking the quotes):

Will: So, when did you know, like, that she was the one for you?

Sean: October 21st, 1975.

Will: Jesus Christ. You know the ######' date?

Sean: Oh yeah. 'Cause it was Game 6 of the World Series. Biggest game in Red Sox history.

Will: Yeah, sure.

Sean: My friends and I had, you know, slept out on the sidewalk all night to get tickets.

Will: You got tickets?

Sean: Yep. Day of the game. I was sittin' in a bar, waitin' for the game to start, and in walks this girl. Oh, it was an amazing game, though. You know, bottom of the eighth, Carbo ties it up at 6-6. It went to twelve. Bottom of the twelfth, in stepped Carlton Fisk. Old Pudge. Steps up to the plate, you know, and he's got that weird stance.

Will: Yeah, yeah.

Sean: And BAM! He clocks it. High fly ball down the left field line! Thirty-five thousand people, on their feet, yellin' at the ball, but that's not because of Fisk. He's wavin' at the ball like a madman.

Will: Yeah, I've seen...

Sean: He's going, "Get over! Get over! Get OVER!" And then it HITS the foul pole. OH, he goes apeshit, and 35,000 fans, you know, they charge the field, you know?

Will: Yeah, and he's ######' bowlin' police out of the way!

Sean: Goin', "God! Get out of the way! Get 'em away!" Banging people...

Will: I can't ######' believe you had tickets to that ######' game!

Sean: Yeah!

Will: Did you rush the field?

Sean: [surprised at the question] No, I didn't rush the ######' field; I wasn't there.

Will: What?

Sean: No - I was in a bar havin' a drink with my future wife.

Will: You missed Pudge Fisk's home run?

Sean: Oh, yeah.

Will: To have a ######' drink with some lady you never met?

Sean: Yeah, but you shoulda seen her; she was a stunner.


Speaking of stunners, RIP Lauren Bacall as well.

Poor Bogey never had a chance from the moment he met her. She was only 19 at the time...

You know how to whistle, don't you?



   20. Random Transaction Generator Posted: August 13, 2014 at 12:09 PM (#4770151)
Will: You missed Pudge Fisk's home run?

Sean: Oh, yeah.

Will: To have a ######' drink with some lady you never met?

Sean: Yeah, but you shoulda seen her; she was a stunner.


I loved that part.
   21. rr Posted: August 13, 2014 at 12:24 PM (#4770158)
I don't think I consider myself a fan of him, but it's weird that his death hit me hard--as far as celebrity deaths go.


I have heard/read many people say similar things, and I can relate. If you are from a certain demographic, Williams was a high-profile mainstream pop culture presence who was around for a long, long time. And, as noted, even if you are not a fan of the guy's actual work, he seems to have been a nice, full-of-life, generous, fun guy.

He was at Juillard with Christopher Reeve way, way BITD, and was friends with Reeve until Reeve's death. This story has been making the internet rounds:

In Reeve’s book Still Me, he recalled how Williams picked him up when he was at his lowest, via Huffington Post.

Then, at an especially bleak moment, the door flew open and in hurried a squat fellow with a blue scrub hat and a yellow surgical gown and glasses, speaking in a Russian accent. He announced that he was my proctologist, and that he had to examine me immediately…it was Robin Williams…for the first time since the accident, I laughed. My old friend had helped me know that somehow I was going to be okay.

During his recovery, Williams stayed by Reeve’s side and even vowed to help his family cover any medical expenses they couldn’t afford. He became very active in the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, which is dedicated to curing spinal cord injury, and provided “unending support without fanfare or question,” according to the foundation’s website.


Another thing I didn't know about Williams was that he was more or less the Bob Hope for this generation's overseas military personnel:

His passport would eventually include stamps from doing shows in Bahrain, Djibouti, Germany, Iraq, Italy, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Qatar, Spain and the United Arab Emirates, the Military Times reported. There were visits in the United States as well.


The DoD issued a statement about his death, as did the USO.

Gary Sinise, another actor who publicly supports the U.S. military, acknowledged Williams' efforts in a tweet Monday.


"R.i.P Robin Williams," Sinise wrote. "His genius as artist & comedian will B missed & his support of R troops no doubt was much appreciated by all who serve."
   22. Srul Itza Posted: August 13, 2014 at 12:30 PM (#4770162)
One of my favorites. An amazingly inventive mind. He did a show in Honolulu not that long ago, and it was fantastic.

Heartbreaking loss for his friends and family.

And I think Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not was one of the most stunning screen presences I have ever seen, and she was only 19.

   23. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 13, 2014 at 12:41 PM (#4770174)

Norm MacDonald had a series of tweets that recounted his first meeting with Robin Williams.


That brought a tear to my eye. Norm is really a terrific storyteller.
   24. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: August 13, 2014 at 01:08 PM (#4770192)
I happened at random to see Jumanji a few weeks ago and found it surprisingly watchable. But then I have a soft spot for Hook, so take that for what you think it's worth.
   25. billyshears Posted: August 13, 2014 at 01:18 PM (#4770200)
When I first saw Good Morning Vietnam, I thought it was the greatest movie ever, and that Robin Williams was the funniest person ever. For a time, I overdosed on any Robin Williams material I could get my hands on. Like many, I haven't really enjoyed (or even watched) a lot of his recent work, but I still feel a sense of loss greater than I would have expected.

I did not like Good Will Hunting though. I thought the movie seemed very impressed with itself. But I also can't stand Minnie Driver, so that may have colored my view as well.
   26. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: August 13, 2014 at 01:27 PM (#4770212)
And I think Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not was one of the most stunning screen presences I have ever seen, and she was only 19.

And the scene in the Peruvian cafe at the end of Dark Passage is about the most perfect romantic ending that's ever been filmed. Bogart's sitting in the bar, stirring his drink, idling away the days waiting for Bacall to fly down from San Francisco to meet him. When all of a sudden he hears the orchestra playing "Too Marvelous For Words", which has been "their song" back home. He looks up to see Bacall staring at him with a big smile on her face. They don't say a word, they just hold each other and start slowly dancing. That Bogart was one fortunate ############, and he knew it.
   27. Lassus Posted: August 13, 2014 at 01:40 PM (#4770224)
Yes, well, with him being 44 and her being 19 they would have some trouble with approval around these parts.
   28. The District Attorney Posted: August 13, 2014 at 01:42 PM (#4770228)
I once wrote an essay about a particular genre that was mostly associated with Williams (though Tom Hanks had the archetypal role in Big): the kid in a man's body. Toys, Jack, Jumanji – and of course it was inevitable that he played Peter Pan.
Right, and two of those movies are legendarily terrible (I don't like Hook either, but we won't get into that right now.) His films very often either literally posited him as a child, or asked us to find inspiration in his refusal to accept reality. Sometimes the latter worked (Good Morning, Vietnam), and sometimes it really didn't (Patch Adams).

I also was sick of Elmer Fudd and "the gay guy" by around 1984, and yet I had to keep hearing them for 30 more years.

But, y'know, although I found the "I'm just a big kid!" and "just believe and it'll come true!" aspects of his persona to be cloying... they are optimistic and positive messages. So it makes sense that people found him lovable, and were especially saddened when he died.

And I do think Williams was an excellent dramatic actor. Someone made the comparison to Jim Carrey -- manic, rather schticky comedian turned serious actor -- and I think that's very apropos. But it sure looks like Carrey is on track for a less successful dramatic career than Williams enjoyed. (I suspect that this is in large part because Carrey is more difficult to work with than Williams, who by all accounts was an exceptionally kind soul.)

I've seen it said often that people were not surprised to hear this news, given that Williams was known to be bipolar and to have substance abuse issues. It certainly would not have surprised me, or anyone else, if he had OD'ed in 1983. But it did shock me that he would intentionally kill himself at age 63, after 35 years of being one of the biggest stars in the world. People keep using this event as a way to remind young, depressed people to get help, and of course, they should get that help. But I also don't think that the 16-year-old getting bullied at school has the same problems as senior citizen Robin Williams. I found it educational to realize that suicide isn't really about being young and stupid, it's about having the disease, which is willing to bide its time. Williams apparently had been sober for about 20 years before relapsing.

Here's a brief clip of Williams on Dock Ellis's no-hitter. And I do think he could have done a great job as Casey Stengel!
   29. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: August 13, 2014 at 01:58 PM (#4770251)
And I do think Williams was an excellent dramatic actor. Someone made the comparison to Jim Carrey -- manic, rather schticky comedian turned serious actor -- and I think that's very apropos. But it sure looks like Carrey is on track for a less successful dramatic career than Williams enjoyed. (I suspect that this is in large part because Carrey is more difficult to work with than Williams, who by all accounts was an exceptionally kind soul.)

I don't know...he was great in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and very, very good in the Truman Show and Man on the Moon. It won't be that hard for him to catch up to Williams (especially since Williams had few leading dramatic roles).
   30. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: August 13, 2014 at 02:06 PM (#4770262)
Here's a brief clip of Williams on Dock Ellis's no-hitter.


"Batter walks out & instead of cleats he's got hooves ..."

William was on to you, A-Rod.
   31. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: August 13, 2014 at 02:41 PM (#4770294)
Yes, well, with him being 44 and her being 19 they would have some trouble with approval around these parts.

OTOH unless you were going to say that Bacall was under a hypnotic spell that lasted for many months and reached from San Francisco to South America, it'd be hard to say that she found her way to that Peruvian cafe involuntarily.
   32. Rennie's Tenet Posted: August 13, 2014 at 02:55 PM (#4770305)
I've read/heard two national news organizations call Lauren Bacall the "last link" to Hollywood's Golden Age. This is just a note that Olivia DeHaviland and Maureen O'Hara are still around.
   33. BDC Posted: August 13, 2014 at 03:06 PM (#4770319)
Olivia DeHaviland and Maureen O'Hara are still around

I guess it depends on how you define Golden Age, but for sure, some major figures are quite alive. Angela Lansbury's career started about when Bacall's did, as did Kirk Douglas's. Both of them knew (and still know) everybody in the business.
   34. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 13, 2014 at 03:16 PM (#4770332)

I've read/heard two national news organizations call Lauren Bacall the "last link" to Hollywood's Golden Age. This is just a note that Olivia DeHaviland and Maureen O'Hara are still around.


As are Molly Ringwald, Jennifer Gray, and Alan Ruck.
   35. RickG Posted: August 13, 2014 at 05:01 PM (#4770450)
@29: I get what you're saying, but Robin had two Best Actor nominations and a Best Supporting Oscar, not to mention four Golden Globes, two Emmys and a couple SAG awards. Carrey has two Golden Globes and nothing else, and he's just 11 years younger than Williams.

I'm not trying to rag on Carrey, I just think you're underestimating Williams. For my money, his best dramatic role was as the lead in One Hour Photo...an incredibly creepy performance.
   36. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: August 13, 2014 at 05:11 PM (#4770458)
I agree -- One Hour Photo might be his best role. Although my view is colored by the fact that I didn't love Dead Poets Society and disliked Good Will Hunting. (Although I think he was great in both.) Conversely, my view of Carrey is colored by the fact that ESOTSM is one of my all-time favorite movies.

He was also very good in a small role in Dead Again.
   37. BDC Posted: August 13, 2014 at 05:12 PM (#4770459)
I'd characterize Jim Carrey as hard to cast and determined always to have not just star billing but the central role in a picture – neither of which was true of Williams. In fact, as I mentioned above, Williams was happy to co-star in films where someone like De Niro or Pacino (or Matt Damon or Nathan Lane, for that matter) was going to get the attention.

That said, when Carrey is interesting, he's extremely interesting. I Love You Philip Morris is one fabulous film. I could watch Eternal Sunshine over and over, in fact I've had to in order to figure out what the heck was going on.

Has anyone here seen Jakob the Liar (to return to Robin Williams)? It's from a well-regarded East German Holocaust novel. Didn't get good reviews, and I have never caught up with it. But another prestige project that was a challenge for Williams.

   38. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: August 13, 2014 at 05:26 PM (#4770471)
I'd characterize Jim Carrey as hard to cast and determined always to have not just star billing but the central role in a picture – neither of which was true of Williams. In fact, as I mentioned above, Williams was happy to co-star in films where someone like De Niro or Pacino (or Matt Damon or Nathan Lane, for that matter) was going to get the attention.

That's a good point. In fact, almost all of William's most successful roles were supporting characters. The movies where he was the star were often flops.
   39. Zach Posted: August 13, 2014 at 05:31 PM (#4770475)
There's a big gap between the peaks and the dregs of Williams' career, but a comic with any kind of career longevity is going to put out some stinkers.

Looking at his career, he doesn't have a peak so much as intermittent clusters of good movies.

Sorry to see him go.
   40. dr. scott Posted: August 13, 2014 at 05:36 PM (#4770479)
#8 He had a rep for using other people's material. And for cutting checks for said use.


This was the only bad thing i ever heard about him, but I did not hear he paid people for the jokes. Living in SF you run into a lot of people that have had interactions with him. There is a huge photo of him hugging the owner of our local dive bar, and he bought a few bikes from my friend who owns the local bike shop, and everyone had nothing but good things to say about him... but when it came to his young days in the stand up tour comedians would be warned when he was in the audience and they would sometimes not do their best stuff for fear of him taking it over. Given what i have read about him, and how he does his standup seemingly off the top of his head with little segway between bits, i have to wander if he planned to take peoples stuff or it just happened as he absorbed so much around him.
   41. Zach Posted: August 13, 2014 at 05:42 PM (#4770484)
Yes, well, with him being 44 and her being 19 they would have some trouble with approval around these parts.

Her screen presence doesn't read as 19, though, which is the amazing thing about Bacall. On a dramatic level, she's playing a character who can hold her own against a Bogart character. But on an acting level, she is herself holding her own against Bogart at the peak of his career.
   42. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 13, 2014 at 05:51 PM (#4770488)

There's a big gap between the peaks and the dregs of Williams' career, but a comic with any kind of career longevity is going to put out some stinkers.


I think its discussed this a bit before here, but its extremely difficult to be very funny for very long. Most of the best comedians transition into dark comedy like Bill Murray or more dramatic roles like Williams did or animation like Eddie Murphy, or kinda quasi-retire like Steve Martin, and the ones that don't fall hard (Chevy Chase). The dregs of Williams' career are still better than the dregs of so many other comedians who fell far from their peak, and I never got the impression he was phoning it in.

Well, "RV" maybe, that looked terrible.
   43. rr Posted: August 13, 2014 at 05:54 PM (#4770491)
Given what i have read about him, and how he does his standup seemingly off the top of his head with little segway between bits, i have to wander if he planned to take peoples stuff or it just happened as he absorbed so much around him.


He discusses this in the Mark Maron podcast, which Maron just put back up (it is from 2010). Williams' version is of course the latter, and he also said that he would literally hand guys cash if he thought he took a bit.
   44. Dog on the sidewalk Posted: August 13, 2014 at 06:05 PM (#4770501)
I can confirm that RV was, in fact, terrible. Looking through his filmography, is it bad that my favorite Robin Williams movie is probably Death to Smoochy?
   45. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: August 13, 2014 at 06:20 PM (#4770510)
Olivia DeHaviland and Maureen O'Hara are still around

I guess it depends on how you define Golden Age, but for sure, some major figures are quite alive. Angela Lansbury's career started about when Bacall's did, as did Kirk Douglas's.


Doris Day's still here, too. So is Rhonda Fleming. Also breathing air is Margaret O'Brien, who has the tactical advantage of having started as a child star. Ann Blyth, best known as Mildred Pierce's serpent's tooth daughter, continues.

Luise Rainer won back to back Best Actress awards in 1936 and 1937, and is 104 and a half years young.
   46. Win Big Stein's Money Posted: August 13, 2014 at 06:57 PM (#4770533)
That's a good point. In fact, almost all of William's most successful roles were supporting characters. The movies where he was the star were often flops.


Here's an even better point, that isn't even remotely true. In fact, it's completely full of shit. With the notable exceptions of Night at the Museum franchise and Good Will Hunting, he was essentially the main star of nearly every single one of his box office hits.
   47. frannyzoo Posted: August 13, 2014 at 07:17 PM (#4770547)
As the film hasn't been mentioned, I humble suggest those who haven't already view "World's Greatest Dad" just about immediately. It "Netflixable" and is both my own favorite Robin Willams movie and one of the better films of this young century, imho. Not for everyone, but...
   48. BDC Posted: August 13, 2014 at 07:17 PM (#4770550)
I think we meant "successful" in terms of quality :)

Steve Martin, mentioned by AG#1, went seriously into writing. As has Gene Hackman since fully retiring; he's published a couple of genre novels.
   49. Win Big Stein's Money Posted: August 13, 2014 at 07:47 PM (#4770575)
I'd buy that, except he specifically calls the movies "flops" which is a box office designation, not a critical one.

Even then I'd still disagree though, I was practically in tears when his character gets beaten to an inch of his life in Fisher King.
   50. depletion Posted: August 13, 2014 at 09:31 PM (#4770668)
Here's a brief clip of Williams on Dock Ellis's no-hitter. And I do think he could have done a great job as Casey Stengel!

Thanks a lot for that great clip, DA. I remember an interview with Dave Letterman in which he described a club gig in which he followed Robin Williams, then Richard Pryor went on after Dave. Tough work!
A large part of suicides are white men in late middle age (no source, I read it today). You have nothing left to prove. Perhaps the years to come don't look so hot. But it's the day-to-day aggravations that beat one to death. I say this as someone who spent most of last week in a psych ward after a prescription OD. Some things seem to pile up on you more than they should for a rational person. My doc in the hospital added a new drug to the one I was already taking, and it seems to have had the desired effect. The day-to-day crap is not destroying my will to live like it was for the last few months. Unfortunately it is probably only a matter of time (maybe 6 months) before this med loses its effectiveness. At which point I will, hopefully, try to find a new med. Odd game to have to play, but I don't set the rules. I just erase them.
Thanks for letting me vent a bit, ladies and gents.
   51. toratoratora Posted: August 13, 2014 at 09:54 PM (#4770689)
I remember reading an interview somewhere (maybe Grantland) where Robin talked about the stealing others material charges. After the accusations, he would wait outside in the alley behind comedy clubs and venues until it was his turn to go on so that he couldn't hear any other material and thus be accused.
It painted a kinda tragic picture. The most famous, funniest and talented of the lot lurking alone in the dark or maybe with a driver, waiting for his chance to shine. And this a man who used to live in comedy clubs, whether he was on the card or not
I caught Robin live twice , once when he was young and crazy, then a few years back I drove a couple hours to catch him on what amounted to the "I just got wiped out in a divorce" tour. He was better the first, but still terrific both times.
Probably my favorite RW bit was his appearance on Inside the actors Studio. Two hours of straight up improv madness, sheer genius at its best.

   52. The John Wetland Memorial Death (CoB) Posted: August 13, 2014 at 10:41 PM (#4770719)
[51] Might not be the same thing, but he touches on very much the same subjects in his podcast interview with Marc Maron: WTF Robin Williams

It's been mentioned a lot in the last 2 days, but if you haven't heard it, you really should ...
   53. Manny Coon Posted: August 13, 2014 at 10:52 PM (#4770726)
the ones that don't fall hard (Chevy Chase)


His run on Community was a very pleasant surprise.
   54. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: August 14, 2014 at 09:36 AM (#4770846)
I mostly meant successful in terms of quality. I went back and looked at his filmography, and it's more an issue of time than of role. He had a great run from the early 80's to the early 90's as a lead, but almost all of his best performances over the last 20 years have been in supporting roles. That said, he wasn't the sole focus in several of those early roles: In Garp he was playing off of Glenn Close; in DPS it was Ethan Hawke and Robert Sean Leonard; and in the Fisher King it was Jeff Bridges. I think he was less successful when he was truly the center of attention: Mrs. Doubtfire (at least I wasn't a fan), Patch Adams, Bicentennial Man.
   55. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: August 14, 2014 at 10:22 AM (#4770890)
Thanks a lot for that great clip, DA. I remember an interview with Dave Letterman in which he described a club gig in which he followed Robin Williams, then Richard Pryor went on after Dave. Tough work!
A large part of suicides are white men in late middle age (no source, I read it today). You have nothing left to prove. Perhaps the years to come don't look so hot. But it's the day-to-day aggravations that beat one to death. I say this as someone who spent most of last week in a psych ward after a prescription OD. Some things seem to pile up on you more than they should for a rational person. My doc in the hospital added a new drug to the one I was already taking, and it seems to have had the desired effect. The day-to-day crap is not destroying my will to live like it was for the last few months. Unfortunately it is probably only a matter of time (maybe 6 months) before this med loses its effectiveness. At which point I will, hopefully, try to find a new med. Odd game to have to play, but I don't set the rules. I just erase them.
Thanks for letting me vent a bit, ladies and gents.


Those of us who've been there (prescription drug OD ... check; psyc ward ... check) are pulling for you, needless to say. As I'm sure are plenty of others as well.
   56. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: August 14, 2014 at 10:27 AM (#4770898)
he does his standup seemingly off the top of his head with little segway between bits


Segue, for the love of god! SEGUE!!!

*crumples to the floor, curls into a fetal ball, sobbing wildly*

(Not meaning to pick on you, but I've come across this one so many times that I'm almost ready to take up arms. Though "walla" for "voila" is even worse.)
   57. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 14, 2014 at 10:46 AM (#4770921)

A large part of suicides are white men in late middle age (no source, I read it today). You have nothing left to prove.


Very true.
   58. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: August 14, 2014 at 11:04 AM (#4770938)
I'd have to check my go-to book on the subject, Kay Redfield Jamison's Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide (the author is not only an expert on, & sufferer of, bipolar disorder, she's also survived a suicide attempt herself, I believe from a lithium OD), to see stats on that (though it's about 15 years old, so obviously much newer numbers are availalble online), but I wouldn't be surprised.

Counterintuitive (to me, at least) findings reported in that book include the apparent fact that suicide is more likely to happen during the spring & maybe summer than in the dead of winter. And that, at least in cases of bipolar disorder, suicide is more likely to be attempted when one is manic, or starting to come down off a manic period, than when one is in the pit of despair. The culprit in such cases seems to be agitation rather than capital-D depression.
   59. PreservedFish Posted: August 14, 2014 at 11:17 AM (#4770949)
Segue, for the love of god! SEGUE!!!

Oh, but it's so hilarious imagining Williams jumping on a segway and rolling to a different part of the stage after each joke.
   60. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: August 14, 2014 at 11:30 AM (#4770972)
Oh, but it's so hilarious imagining Williams jumping on a segway and rolling to a different part of the stage after each joke.


I'd be only mildly surprised to learn that this actually happened.

It certainly should have.
   61. Booey Posted: August 14, 2014 at 12:21 PM (#4771032)
the ones that don't fall hard (Chevy Chase)

His run on Community was a very pleasant surprise.


Eh. Community was a great show, but IMO Chase was possibly the least amusing character in it. I think he and Yvette Nicole Brown are the only regular cast members the show could lose without dealing a major blow to my level of enjoyment.
   62. depletion Posted: August 14, 2014 at 12:48 PM (#4771058)
Thanks for the kind words, gef.
   63. Ron J2 Posted: August 14, 2014 at 12:49 PM (#4771059)
Cosign the #55. Good luck man.
   64. dr. scott Posted: August 15, 2014 at 01:02 PM (#4771821)
he does his standup seemingly off the top of his head with little segway between bits



Segue, for the love of god! SEGUE!!!

*crumples to the floor, curls into a fetal ball, sobbing wildly*

(Not meaning to pick on you, but I've come across this one so many times that I'm almost ready to take up arms. Though "walla" for "voila" is even worse.)


But this was a much more entertaining spell checker than actually looking it up myself...

seriously tried twice... gave up ...and intentionally spelled it incorrectly... thanks!
   65. dlf Posted: August 15, 2014 at 02:13 PM (#4771901)
depletion ~ We may be just a bunch of dorks in our moms' basements, but there are a bunch of folks wishing for the absolute best for you and yours.
   66. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: August 15, 2014 at 02:20 PM (#4771910)
Indeed.
   67. Manny Coon Posted: August 15, 2014 at 03:23 PM (#4771953)
Eh. Community was a great show, but IMO Chase was possibly the least amusing character in it. I think he and Yvette Nicole Brown are the only regular cast members the show could lose without dealing a major blow to my level of enjoyment.


I think at it's best Community made good use of his character. His performance in the dungeons and dragons episode I think was really strong for example. I think a lot of the time the writers got really lazy writing his character especially season 4, and made him a one dimensional clueless racist, and I think he knew that which is why left the show when he did.
   68. Pat Rapper's Delight Posted: August 15, 2014 at 03:38 PM (#4771964)
*crumples to the floor, curls into a fetal ball, sobbing wildly*

There there.... it'll be OK. Take a deep breathe.
   69. The Anthony Kennedy of BBTF (Scott) Posted: August 15, 2014 at 09:26 PM (#4772201)
On Williams, I'm watching his Inside the Actor's Studio in full for the first time. I'd only seen clips before, and hadn't realized that this was basically a master-class of improv. I'm about an hour in and he's just so, so sharp. It's a performance that no one else could give without coming off as trying too hard, but he's just such a natural that I love it.

On Community, I have a suspicion that for all of Chevy Chase's clashes with Dan Harmon he at least respected Harmon even if he didn't like what he was doing, whereas that just wasn't the case in the fourth season. That Harmon came back in season five and that there's going to be a season six is a strong sign that there's a TV God.

Also, as someone who's done and continues to do the chronic, severe depression thing, I know how that can feel, Depletion. Coming back to Robin Williams again for a moment, the thing that terrifies me about his suicide is that it's something he battled for decades until it finally overcame him in his early 60s. My suicidal ideation is magnitudes lower than it was a half decade ago, once every couple months instead of every couple days, but I still have weeks where I'm not a functional human being and can't even take care of myself. I realize that's just going to be my life, but seeing someone who fought for so long succumb at that age puts the chills into me.
   70. The Anthony Kennedy of BBTF (Scott) Posted: August 15, 2014 at 09:27 PM (#4772203)
Though "walla" for "voila" is even worse.


It's even worse when someone types "et walla."
   71. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: August 15, 2014 at 09:49 PM (#4772213)
Though "walla" for "voila" is even worse.

a friend of mine always screamed "viola"--(on purpose of course)
   72. DJS and the Infinite Sadness Posted: August 15, 2014 at 10:09 PM (#4772222)
Eh. Community was a great show,

Is! Yahoo's producing the 6th season.
   73. Dock Ellis on Acid Posted: August 16, 2014 at 04:35 AM (#4772285)
Count me among those who didn't expect his death to hit harder than it did. I'd spent 20 years snarking and sneering at much of his work, without fully realizing how much of it I've enjoyed. I'm not crazy about Good Will Hunting these days, but I loved it when it came out. I'm not sure if Mrs. Doubtfire would hold up if I watch it again, but I laughed my ass off at the time. He may have done shitty movies, but he never mailed it in. And he may have done movies I didn't like, but I can't dismiss the number of people who adored them (Jack, What Dreams May Come, Patch Adams).

I think of his later work now, World's Greatest Dad (supposedly he begged director/writer Bobcat Goldthwait for the lead role after Bobcat asked him to fill in for a supporting role as a favor), and his appearance on Louie, which takes on an extra layer of poignancy right now. It's easy to read too much into those roles in retrospect but one could say that they hint to a sadness that was within him.

I confess to not hating Hook, though. I'm watching it right now and there are bits I'm enjoying.
   74. Kurt Posted: August 16, 2014 at 11:08 AM (#4772351)
It's a performance that no one else could give


This sums up so many of his performances, and I think it's why his passing struck so many of us the way he did. He really was one of a kind.
   75. AndrewJ Posted: August 16, 2014 at 11:17 AM (#4772354)
I think Robin's death hit us so hard because most people born after 1960 have at least one Robin Williams movie in their DVD/video collection. This connection couldn't have occured when Groucho Marx or Peter Sellers died.
   76. CrosbyBird Posted: August 16, 2014 at 11:55 AM (#4772378)
My suicidal ideation is magnitudes lower than it was a half decade ago, once every couple months instead of every couple days, but I still have weeks where I'm not a functional human being and can't even take care of myself. I realize that's just going to be my life, but seeing someone who fought for so long succumb at that age puts the chills into me.

Yup. I can unfortunately sympathize with this. Tiny setbacks or even no setbacks at all show up and my ability to do anything worthwhile just disappears. When that happens, nothing pulls me out until it passes on its own: no medicine, no support from friends and family, nothing.

It's part of why I don't think I'll ever want to have a child. I feel it would be criminal to pass on this illness. Not that I'm relationship material either when I disappear for weeks at a time.

Be well, fellow sufferers.
   77. GregD Posted: August 16, 2014 at 12:11 PM (#4772392)
Depletion, Godspeed, man. And all the rest of you too.
   78. BDC Posted: August 16, 2014 at 12:23 PM (#4772403)
Yes, best wishes to all who are dealing with depression, bipolar, and other illnesses. I am not prey to depression except for temporary and situational episodes, but I have dealt with it up close and it's something hard to understand without such experience. The sense that nothing makes it better or can make it better seems irrational but is quite real and not to be dismissed.
   79. Greg K Posted: August 16, 2014 at 12:35 PM (#4772406)
He discusses this in the Mark Maron podcast, which Maron just put back up (it is from 2010). Williams' version is of course the latter, and he also said that he would literally hand guys cash if he thought he took a bit.

In Maron's TV show (where he plays himself as a guy who produces a podcast about comedy out of his garage) one of the episodes is about him doing a bit on Conan's show, and later that night realizing that it wasn't his at all, but another comedian's bit that had come to him in the moment.
   80. GregD Posted: August 16, 2014 at 01:14 PM (#4772417)
Yes that is an interesting episode, alter Greg, since Maron had set himself up as the police of joke thieves. It's a nice puncturing of his own smugness.
   81. Canker Soriano Posted: August 16, 2014 at 01:51 PM (#4772430)
I think at it's best Community made good use of his character. His performance in the dungeons and dragons episode I think was really strong for example. I think a lot of the time the writers got really lazy writing his character especially season 4, and made him a one dimensional clueless racist, and I think he knew that which is why left the show when he did.

Pierce in Season 1 and 2 was an interesting character - they played him to start as a smart businessman with a lot of world experience, and he was a mentor at times to almost everyone in the group (while still trying desperately to fit in). He wrote the school song, designed the school mascot, helped Shirley in her marketing class, taught Troy how to sneeze, etc. Then into Season 2, they wrote him as realizing that the younger crowd was kind of pulling away from him, and after his mother died he ended up feeling more and more isolated (that plus the pain medication abuse). Which was all good, leading up to the end of Season 2. His speech after winning the paintball was a great moment that really summed up his season.

Season 3 should have been Pierce not rejoining the group right away, but maybe being in a rival group, or otherwise standing on his own until the group realized his value and brought him back. Instead, he just popped back in as if nothing had happened. After that, he really only got clueless or racist storylines which marginalized him more and more. That coincided with more fights behind the scenes with Harmon and ultimately his decision to leave halfway through Season 4.

I think one of the reasons the show really peaked with Season 2 and hasn't gotten back to that level is losing what Pierce brought to the group (that, and the over-reliance on Chang when they had nothing really for him to do but insisted on keeping him front and center). I felt his loss a lot more than I felt it when Troy left in Season 5.

I'm excited to see what they do with Season 6.
   82. Win Big Stein's Money Posted: August 16, 2014 at 07:38 PM (#4772546)
It hasn't gotten mentioned much, but one of the main reasons for his depression was that he was nearly broke from having to pay alimony to two separate ex-wives. Once his show (which he only took on for the paycheck) was canceled, he was devastated. It doesn't take much of a leap in logic to see how a divorce battle, being essentially wiped out of all your life savings, and having to re-adjust your entire way of life at the age of 60 would break a man down.

On a related note, two of my favorite comedies of all time, were Kids in the Hall and Newsradio. So its particularly sad to see the same thing happening to Dave Foley. There's a good podcast with his former castmate Joe Rogan, that sums it all up, but really if you Google any interview he's done in the last decade you'll hear him repeat the same sad story heard a million times before. Rushed into marriage, she makes sure to get knocked up, then serves him divorce papers and says she needs a couple of million to explore Europe and find herself, and now Foley is dead broke living paycheck to paycheck. But the thing is at least with cases like Williams you hear people say they didn't see it coming. But man listening to Foley, he does everything but stop short of saying you'd be doing him a huge favor putting a bullet in his brain and he looks absolutely miserable in just about every photo/interview he does. With others you say you didn't see it happening, with Foley your amazed it hasn't happened already.

There is something severely wrong with a system that sucks the blood and life out of a human being simply because of their gender.
   83. AndrewJ Posted: August 16, 2014 at 08:05 PM (#4772558)
Another comedian in a similar situation to Foley's is John Cleese, who has to shill out about $1 million a year to his latest ex-wife, an independently successful professional who had no kids with him. And I can appreciate the need for huge divorce settlements when there's child support involved, but Williams's three kids are fully grown now.
   84. Random Transaction Generator Posted: August 16, 2014 at 08:16 PM (#4772564)
With others you say you didn't see it happening, with Foley your amazed it hasn't happened already.


He's on some Canadian-produced show right now, and I think the highlight of the show was the rest of his Kids in the Hall cast members appearing as former goth buddies from high school. They've shown up to remind him that they have a suicide pact when they reached a certain age, and want to make sure he follows through.
(I caught the last 10 minutes of the episode before something else was on the same channel.)

Given what you are saying, that's an especially grim story line for him/his character.
   85. McCoy Posted: August 16, 2014 at 10:14 PM (#4772630)
If you get married then cleaned out in the divorce why get married a second time? And why wouldn't you have prenup?
   86. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: August 17, 2014 at 12:37 AM (#4772683)
This stuff has all been roiling around me lately. It got me stirred up for a lot of reasons. I'm not sure what to say about why, but -- okay, here goes.

I'm going to try to tell you guys about my foster brother, who I'm going to give a fake name to because I can't write it without using a name somehow. So we'll call him . . . Nick, I guess.

Nick became a part of our family a little while after his father died, when we were teenagers. There's too much backstory to really get into, but Nick's biological mother is a shitty person who spent his whole life failing to reciprocate the love Nick spent his whole life pointing in her direction. Because of this, when Nick's dad died, suddenly, of brain cancer, he stayed with his step-siblings, half-siblings, and stepmother, even when they moved across the country to New Jersey. This didn't go very well; Nick clashed with his stepmother, with one of who his stepbrothers (who had been his best friend all the way through childhood). You know, everybody was in mourning, nobody was happy. Finally, desperate, he came to live in our guest room for the last bit of high school.

He was always a very intense guy, and he had this way of making you feel like the only person in the world when you talked to him. He had been telling his shrink then, when he was 16 or 17, that he was suicidal, which he told me was just a way of blackmailing his stepmother into letting him leave New Jersey and move back to Oregon to live with people who, to her, were strangers. The story he always told of his stepmother was that she was evil, and I'm sure she wasn't blameless, but the fact is that she took in a child who wasn't hers by blood and did her damnedest to keep him healthy, and I think when he wanted to come back to Oregon at first she didn't feel like she could just let him go be with weirdos. So that's what Nick told me -- he had to lie to his shrink to get his stepmother to let him go.

Nick graduated with us, and then went back east for college. As far as we all knew, he was doing pretty well. He broke up with his high school girlfriend and began to run through a string of girls whose names I could never keep straight, but hell, he was 19, he was six and a half feet tall and head-turningly handsome, it didn't seem that weird to me. I was doing a minor league version of the same thing. But then something weird happened: I went to visit him, and discovered that he had gotten rid of *all* the furniture in his dormroom, and was sleeping on a camping pad on the naked floor. A few weeks later, charges started turning up on a credit card my parents had given him for emergencies. About a week after that, we got a call from somebody back east: he had tried to commit suicide by suffocating himself with some kind of camping oven, one of the things he bought with the credit card.

He came home, heavily drugged up. For a while he was on things like seroquel, anti-psychotics he'd been given because the rapid-cycling mania and depression had left him hallucinating. Then, he kind of got his life on track. He was taking depakote (as I am, now, but that's another issue), he got a job that he was good at, he found a girl (who I didn't like, but again, that's another issue -- she wasn't bad, she was just a pain in the ass), and we all thought . . . we thought we'd caught it, the bud had been nipped, and our big, smart, handsome foster brother was going to be fine from now on. And he was, for a while. But then things started to go to ####. He broke up with the girlfriend, then got back together with her. In the three months they were apart, he had two separate, very rocky relationships. He lost the job -- the story he told us was that the people he was working for were crazy, bad, gross people. I'd always found them to be sleazy and weird, so I accepted this at face value. Then he broke up with the girlfriend again.

He was supposed to move into the guest room at a house I was living with with my girlfriend (as a rent-paying boarder, by the way). But he didn't, really. He asked if he could keep his gun at my place, and I said no. He stored the gun at the range. He moved a couple of boxes into the spare room. And then I never saw him.

Turns out he had, very quickly, picked up with a woman several years his senior, who had been his acupuncturist. I'm going to have to make up a name for her, too . . . Penny? Penny. Penny had a two-year-old daughter, and was a sort of general woo-woo hippie therapist; her daughter hadn't been vaccinated (and later got whooping cough, for the record); she was prone to giving one somewhat inane health advice involving herbal pills and such; I had never met Penny. And then, Nick came home one day, for the first time in months, and announced that he and Penny were getting married. He loved her daughter; he'd looked at the daughter's picture and known, had been given a message from the universe, that he was supposed to raise that little girl.

I can remember asking him point-blank about his medication. We were on the same thing, more or less. He said he thought he'd been misdiagnosed, he'd quit taking it a year ago and he'd been fine. For reasons that I am not utterly incapable of understanding, I took this at face value. I didn't think it was a good thing that he was unmedicated, per se, but when he said he'd been fine, I believed him. Had he been fine? No. He'd lost his job, broken up with, gotten back together with, and broken up again with his girlfriend, and then decided to marry a woman he barely knew. But denial ain't just a river in Egypt. When someone you love tells you they're fine, you want to believe them.

I met Penny at the wedding. I did NOT like her then, though we've since become friends. The wedding was not as joyous an occasion as a wedding ought to be; Penny's family was as dubious about the match as we were, and a lot of Nick's biological family simply didn't show up -- his mother certainly wasn't there, but neither was his sister or his younger brother. I have a photo of me, Nick, his older brother, and the two other friends he used to list as "brothers" on his Facebook page. Though we all loved him intensely, and I don't think there was one of us, other than Nick, who didn't have some misgivings about being in that photograph at that place for that reason.

Nick and Penny had a kid less than a year after the wedding. Penny had a terrible bout of postpartum depression that went on for nearly a year, and starting from then on, it seemed like their marriage was always in trouble. He was going to leave her at one point -- can remember talking to him on the phone; I was in a bar in Minneapolis, having just moved there, and he was driving around Portland with his daughter in the backseat, apartment hunting. But then he never did. They stuck it out. It was bad. It was good. At Thanksgiving and Xmas they always seemed happy. Nick explained this as Penny's long history of putting on the good face for her family; he told me, anyway, that it was a matter of time, they would split up. They never did.

About 18 months ago, Nick and his daughter were in a car accident. The girl was fine, but Nick's spine was irreparably screwed up. Doctors told him he would never be able to lift more than 25 pounds again, meaning he could never again pick up his daughter or stepdaughter, he would never run the marathon he'd been training for, he would have to give up weightlifting and kung fu, which were his two great passions in life, other than his kids. He got hooked on vicodin. He fell out with his biological mother permanently. He lost another job. He fought with Penny. This is when I became friends with Penny, because Nick was so down that he could barely communicate, so I communicated with him through her.

Nick and I had an Xmas tradition. Every year, they would come down to the little town where my parents live, and one day, my dad would take the girls, my mom and Penny would have a girls' day, and Nick and I would spend the day at my place, drinking and eating the spiciest food we could lay our hands on. This last Xmas, as we were having our traditional beer-and-hot-food day, Nick told me he'd kicked the vicodin, and ever since he'd been seen the pure goodness about things. People had a light around them, he said, he could see it, shining down from the heavens. I took this as a metaphor. Nick had always had odd beliefs about ghosts and things; he told me once that he saw my paternal grandfather, a man neither me nor my father had ever known, in my parents' kitchen late at night. I was just glad to see him happy, and off the drugs, for the first time in a long time.

A few weeks later, I came through Portland, and stopped by their house to see him. He was alone; by this point, Penny was the breadwinner and Nick was house-husbanding. He didn't seem like himself. He hadn't been sleeping, he said. He had figured out a secret about the universe. It had to do with the theory of relativity. I needed to finish my MFA, he said, because that would lend us credibility, and then I needed to come back to Portland so that he could explain to me his revelation, and then I would write a book that would change the world completely. I was to be Aaron to his Moses. He couldn't stand still. I left him, now feeling uneasy, and then called Penny as I drove out of town. Did he seem different? Yes, she said, but she knew people who had channelled spirits before. She was hoping it was just that.

So, of course, a week later I was visiting him in a mental hospital, after he had had a complete breakdown. Penny and my mother, two women who together weighed about what Nick weighed, had had to physically manhandle him into a car and take him to be committed. Talking to him then, I realized that a lot of the things I had taken as metaphors were hallucinations; that many of the marital problems I had ascribed to Penny were probably Nick's fault; and that, the whole time we had been friends, he had been seesawing back and forth between mania and depression. There are degrees of bipolar -- I'm cyclothymic, which is sort of "bipolar lite", as Stephen Fry once put it; Nick was full-blown, unhinged, unmedicated bipolar one. He told me his father used to get something he called "manic sick", which was that he would go-go-go for weeks on end and then get the flu; he told me his grandmother had been "open to the universe", a devout Catholic who believed she spoke to angels. With medication, I'm fine, if a little blunted sometimes. Nick . . . who knows.

I had to go back to grad school. Everything seemed fine. He got out of the hospital. He got back on meds. We all met up for my father's 70th birthday, and he seemed *great*, open and honest about his condition, happy but not too happy, doting on his daughters and Penny alike. He was sending out email blasts to the whole family, updates on his medications and his mood and all kinds of things.

So I suppose you guys know where this is going. There's a lot of forensic stuff I could go into, but I'll skip over it. The day I finished teaching for the year, I was at home in Minneapolis, having had a few drinks with some friends. I was playing Assassin's Creed and watching Much Ado about Nothing, and Penny called me. Penny rarely called me, so I picked up the phone. I had called Nick earlier that evening, a little drunk and in a good mood, so I thought maybe it was Nick calling from her phone. Instead, she said my name, twice, raggedly -- she vomited, and she said, "[Vox], Nick killed himself, and [daughter's name]."

(continued, for the first time ever I've run out of characters . . .)
   87. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: August 17, 2014 at 12:44 AM (#4772685)
Since then has been an unfolding series of revelations about my foster brother, each worse than the last. He did it with a gun, probably the same gun I'd told him he couldn't keep at my house. He was serially cheating on his wife. He had thousands of dollars in credit card debt he'd been hiding. He had more than a dozen email addresses, each dedicated to one of his affairs or some part of his debt-disguise scheme. And so on, and so on.

I don't know how this is related to Williams, other than that it has pushed all these buttons all over again. I got pointlessly angry at a friend of mine who said that people on Facebook were doing "competitive mourning" about Williams' death. I cried listening to that ####### WTF interview that Williams did. But it seems inextricable to me, not only because of how they died, but because of how my understanding of Williams changed when he died, kind of like how my understanding of Nick has been changing. I had grown tired of Robin Williams, like a lot of people had, I think. He wasn't dangerous or sexy or weird anymore, he was just an old guy with a tired act that I was bored with. But he was still a great actor, a talent totally unique, and it had never occurred to me that this might be how he of all people, would end up. And of course, it's hard not to read him as bipolar. Right? The public mania, the private depression. But then, who knows.

Either way, Williams' death and Nick's are always going to be inextricably linked for me, I think. I'm never again going to watch Aladdin without thinking about Nick. I hope, one day, what I'll think of is Nick when we were having a good time, when we were eating way too much at Thanksgiving or pretending not to compete when we went out running. What I think about now is him with a gun in his hand.

Oof. Sorry. This is so long, and maybe too much, but ####### have I been sitting on it. And I haven't even touched the half of it.
   88. Zach Posted: August 17, 2014 at 02:11 AM (#4772703)
That's a terrible story, Voxter. My condolences for your loss.
   89. GregD Posted: August 17, 2014 at 03:47 AM (#4772708)
Voxter, I am so sorry.
   90. MuttsIdolCochrane Posted: August 17, 2014 at 07:14 AM (#4772715)
Please, no more ridiculous comparisons to Chevy Chase. Not as a comedian, not as an actor and not as a human being.
   91. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: August 17, 2014 at 10:07 AM (#4772738)
Voxter ... jesus. My heart goes out to you & everyone else affected by this terrible saga.

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