I was loading my dirty clothes into a washer in the laundromat on the corner of 2nd Avenue and 95th Street one year ago today when I heard a brunette woman folding shirts a few feet to my left tell someone on the other end of her cell phone: “Yeah, he killed himself.” I couldn’t believe anybody could talk about someone they knew’s suicide in such a casual way. I was disgusted.
I walked outside the hot laundromat to the slightly less hot street to kill some time. I checked Twitter and realized that she had been talking about Robin Williams. I was surprised by how sad I felt suddenly.
I dragged my feet around the grey Manhattan evening and just kept thinking about his movies and how much they had meant to me. How he was the celebrity I always hoped to bump into in New York. How I had daydreamed of meeting him on the subway and how he would be insane and nice and just keep talking a mile a minute. He was such a tour de force.
My mom made me watch Dead Poet’s Society when I was 9. Hook when I was 11. Mrs Doubtfire soon after and I thought this guy is THE MAN. He’s invincible! Not that he was bulletproof, he wasn’t, but he gave zero f*cks. That was true invincibility. That was something the toughest guys couldn’t pull off. And Robin never started giving a f*ck even long after he wasn’t considered “cool” anymore. He still went at it with gusto. Full-tilt Williams. He just did not have a dim switch.
I saw so many of his flicks later on when I was a teenager and I was equally blown away by Good Morning Vietnam, The Fisher King, Awakenings, Death to Smoochy and Good Will Hunting among others.
A few days after Robin passed away, I started re-watching his movies. I noticed I never felt sad about his death for even one second while watching them. I think that’s unusual and incredible considering the circumstances. It’s probably because he is such a happy, alive, lovable, exuberant, squirrely bastard on screen that it’s just impossible to not be in the moment and feel awesome while watching his high wire act.
I found a 1984 movie called Moscow on the Hudson in my local library this past winter. When you need a joke loving, jazz playing, saxophone carrying, circus employed, happy-go-lucky, bearded Russian to defect to America in a Manhattan department store, you call Robin. So good. We never had a friend like him before.