Friday, August 15, 2014

Back To The Egg

Side-splitting, gut-busting, knee-slapping. I endured all that pain while listening to and watching Robin Williams. I came of age in a world of Mork. I lived in the city where he and Mindy set up housekeeping. While it was always a bone of contention for the citizens of Boulder that tourists would flock to Pine Street and the pedestrian mall, searching for the alien from Ork, there was a quiet understanding of just how happy we all were to have captured this lightning in a bottle.
But that metaphor is really just that: you can't hold lightning in a bottle. There was far too much Robin Williams to be contained in the attic of that house on Pine. Or on the half-hour sitcom that he grew to resent, even though it made him a household name. If you lived in Boulder during those years, you had a story about how the frenzy that was Mork and Mindy swept through your life. Like the time I was working at a smoke shop around the corner from that pedestrian mall, and the crowds that gathered in the alley behind it, hoping for a glimpse of some of the zany antics that would ensue when he was in town to do some quick exterior shots. Yes, I know that I have destroyed the carefully hewn facade that was actually created in a sound stage in Hollywood, but for those brief moments, the reality was that this being from another world had landed in my hometown to delight and entertain all who came in contact with him. What a concept.
So pervasive was this feeling that aspiring young comedians like myself adopted the uniform. I had a pair of rainbow suspenders that I wore as both homage and emulation. I memorized every syllable of that rapid-fire delivery, and imagined that this would eventually launch me on the very same career path set by this mercurial jester. The hardest I ever laughed in my life was the nearly two hour long set I took in of his at the Rainbow Music Hall in Denver, right at the height of Morkmania. It never occurred to me at the time just how dark the dark side of all that light might be. It became apparent soon enough. No one was more candid and open about his failures as his star rose ever higher. He wasn't shy about biting the hand that fed him, even when that hand turned out to be connected to Walt Disney. It meant doing time in movie jail, which meant that he ended up with more grist for his comedy mill.
And through it all, he struggled with the part that wasn't laughter. When his friend and fellow clown John Belushi died of a cocaine overdose, Robin Williams quit "Peruvian Marching Powder" cold turkey, or so the story goes. When the steam ran out of this ball of exuberance, sometimes depression set in and the demons would arrive. The way he chose to deal with them was partly through humor and partly through drinking, both of them to excess.
That's because Robin Williams went through life that way: Excess. I have recovered somewhat from the split sides, butsted guts and slapped knees, but my heart is still broken because that feeling that there will never be enough Robin Williams in the world must have been shared with the man himself. Never enough. That's why he left some giant-sized footprints from where he stomped on the Terra. I will miss him in all his guises, and in ever wheezing paroxysm of laughter. Genie, Garp, Mork, friend, father, and member of the fraternity, he will be missed. Here. In Boulder. On Ork. Aloha, Robin.

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