Monday, August 11, 2014

Thanks for the Memories

Heart heavy with the news, I mourn the passing of yet another influence I never met face to face but welcomed into my home on a regular basis, the incomparable Robin Williams.

It's no secret, really, that I have a certain affinity for pop culture, especially surrounding all things on both the big and small screens.  We idolize these performers, these actors, the emotions they stir, the heroes and villains they portray.  They help us bring a fictional, fantasy element to our lives that spurs conversations, debates, addictions and obsessions.

However, the world we live in makes it easy to forget that they are people too.

For me pop culture wasn't just about knowing who was in what, but knowing more about the person - facts that made them just like anyone else, just with the idealistic job of playing pretend for a living.

Robin Williams was born in Chicago on July 21, 1951.  He went to Julliard.  He got his start in 1974 from a bit part in an episode of Happy Days.  He was a fan of both Dr. Who and Star Trek.  He had kids.

He was so much more than Mrs. Doubtfire.

The passing of a celebrity is a mixture of emotions for a number of reasons.

First of all, it's not your loss, it's the true loved ones that will feel the hole left behind the most.

Second, sometimes it is your loss too.

As a public figure, the job description comes with a lack of privacy, both literally and figuratively.  From the characters they play to the rare occasion when they can be themselves, these people open themselves up to be judged, loved and hated.  Their job is to make us feel, and if they've accomplished their goal, not only will they be missed, but they'll be remembered fondly - as a member of the family.

There's a number of greats over the years that have effected me strongly when they passed, and it's because the fictional lives they lived out upon the screen were something ever present in my life.

The first was Lucille Ball.  Despite being only seven, I have the image in my head clear as day: her portrait on the screen, carrot top hair and ruby red lips, with the dates August 6, 1911 -  April 26, 1989.

John Ritter was another biggie for me.  It was six in the morning and I heard it on the radio in the car.  So stunned, I ran a red light.  Shortly after I learned Johnny Cash had died that same day.  September 11, 2003.  It was a sad day all around.

With too many others to mention, to pay honor to, to give mention... with no disrespect, I fast forward to today.  To another person who has for as long as I can remember been a part of my life no longer being here.

I feel the collective loss of a man who could make an audience both laugh and cry in the same breath.  A man who as a child had few friends, and created voices to keep himself company.  A man who battled demons like everyone else, but unfortunately lost the battle.

I was lucky enough to grow up in a generation who had no choice but to know who Robin Williams was, what talent he was capable of and the legacy he had built with every role he played and every stereotype of himself that was defined.

He will always be remembered.

I read something recently that said Robin was once asked by actor James Lipton about what he would like God to say when he arrives in heaven.

Robin answered that "There is a seat in the front," in the concert of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Elvis Presley.

Rock on Robin, I'm sure it's the concert of a lifetime.

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