His obituary was on the front page of my local paper. Robin Williams commanded that kind of attention. Shortly after news of his apparent suicide, the internet lit up like a 50-1 longshot. But there were really no surprises here. The price of massive talent, massive intellect, massive sensitivity and genius is often depression.
And yet, this is a different kind of denial. I'm more angry than sad right now. The shock and empathy will come later on. It always does.
There will, no doubt, be testimonials for months to come. Unlike other celebrities, I won't tire of them. he was so different. More like Richard Pryor, the kind of comedian that didn't need to say anything to elicit laughter.
There is a haunting image this morning. The media shows Robin Williams star on the Hollywood walk of fame. It is surrounded by people and flowers and all manner of messages and tributes. Only the stoney monument looks back. The golden letters that spell out his name stare back too. Solidified. This is as close as anyone can get...could ever get.
There will be explanations and analyses. There will be tears and unfortunately copycats. Maybe someone will get help for their own depression because of Williams death...many more will not.
The questions swirl around, up and over all the flowers. How can someone who brings so much laughter suffer so much?
I remember some years ago that I met a woman who was Robin Williams high school English teacher. I'd been invited to give a workshop for Marin County teachers at Redwood HIgh School. The room assigned was the classroom of this veteran teacher. In casual conversation at the end of the day, someone asked her if she had ever had Robin Williams in class. When she replied that she had, the obvious question sprang from everyone's mouth: "What was that like?" She smiled softly and said, "You all know what that was like?"
Just as we surely all did, so it appears that most of us still don't know what he was like.