When someone is such an enormous positive influence in your life, it's natural to want to reach out and let them know. Say "Thank you." When that person is Robin Williams it means that as real as the personal connection feels, you are one person in a world of strangers who feel the same way. I know that he was a huge fan of art and loved animals. So six weeks ago I decided to paint a portrait of Robin Williams' dog, Leonard.
I first met Robin the same way most of America did, on Mork and Mindy. Was anyone else obsessed with finding out what Orson actually looked like? Growing up in the North Bay Area, I would hear that he did stand-up in San Francisco but I was just a kid. I never saw him perform live.
When I was 13 years old I bailed on popular music and focused on listening to stand-up comedy. I would tape every episode of Comedy Tonight and watch them until the colors got all weird. At night I would listen to comedy on cassettes until I fell asleep. My favorite tape was Comic Relief, the benefit for the homeless hosted by Robin Williams, Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg. I didn't understand all the humor but that didn't stop me from committing the whole thing to memory.
I could go on about Robin Williams' career and accomplishments but we already know. There is one thing I've been feeling since he passed and I was surprised to hear the same thing from so many friends and through social media. We felt like we had a personal relationship with Robin. It makes me wonder what it was about him that's different from so many other talented comedians and actors. What is it about Robin Williams that makes us feel like we lost a friend or family member. I think it's because on top of all his comedic and acting genius, Robin Williams had a very fatherly quality. Of course he really was a father. But to me, it felt like I had this super-funny, giving, strong (second) father....who I had never met...because he's so busy making movies and stuff.
For me, this feeling points back to his 1980 film, Popeye. My dad had this one in his VHS collection so it brings back a lot of father-son memories for me. And when you put all the cartoon stuff aside, this was a movie about fathers and sons. Williams' Popeye is a father and a son to his father.
This father/ father figure theme runs through so many of Williams' roles from Mrs. Doubtfire to Good Will Hunting to the 2009 film, World's Greatest Dad. The latter, directed by Bobcat Goldthwait basically changed my life. At least, it made me think differently about the way people perceive one another. How someone perceives me has so much to do with what is going on their own mind, their desires and fears, and so little to do with who I actually am. And I do the same thing with my perceptions of them.
But I digress.
In July, I decided I needed to paint Robin Williams' dog. I had recently done something similar for a friend of his, so I sent her this one to give to Robin. I got word back that Robin loved the piece and said I captured "the Essence of Leonard."
The fact that two days of work on my part could make someone smile, someone who has made me laugh a thousand times, it really meant a lot. I only wish he could have enjoyed it longer.
Alright, that's all I had to say. Peace be with you, Robin.