Billy Crystal’s tribute to his friend Robin Williams was the highlight of last night’s Prime Time Emmys. What makes me proud is that Crystal’s memory of Robin was in my home baseball stadium, Shea Stadium. I’m a Mets fan, so it hit me right in the gooey part of my heart. The tribute segment is above. The Shea Stadium moment that Crystal refers to is below.
It has recently come to my attention that Mork and Mindy was filmed in Stages 26 and 27 on the Paramount Studio lot, only a holler away from the building where I currently work. I’m sitting there now, writing on the sly, banging out these words during a few moments of down time. Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley were also filmed here – shows that are part an echo, lost in time. Back then, I was in middle school three thousand miles away in New York learning about earthworms in science class. I had a mad crush on John Ritter, and religiously watched Three’s Company, daydreaming of a life where I could move to Hollywood and walk along the sandy sunny beach of Santa Monica. That dream has come true, but it took a long time getting here. Sadly, John Ritter had departed by the time I arrived.
Last night’s tribute to Mr. Williams at the Prime Time Emmy Awards brought back more pain over the loss of this sweet, funny soul. As a fan of alternative comedy, and a past student at the New York training center of the Upright Citizens Brigade, I grew snobbish over the old guard of comedian who once inspired me: David Letterman, Billy Crystal, Jerry Seinfeld…Robin Williams. My turmoil over Robin’s death is complicated for me. You see, in the last several years, just hearing that Robin would be a guest on a talk show would make my eyes roll. Yes, I’m terrible sad in this admission. The frenetic, one hundred miles an hour speed of his speech, once exhilarating, was now exhausting. I’ve come close to the world of comedians, and easily realized that depression and insecurity runs their lives amok. It exists with comedian’s Twitter feeds that are mostly snarky quips in the guise of another persona, and it’s palpable in interviews where personal, hard-hitting questions get diverted with jokes and characters. The funny is that crunchy hard shell comedians in which they swath themselves. It keeps people from getting too close, and from getting inside. Robin seemed to have that hard protective coating for days. It was hard to get answers from him; yet, when you did, it was a glorious, sweet realization about life shining with lovely pearls of wisdom. “Ah…”, I thought. “That’s the Robin I would love to see more.” He even said himself that his recent heart surgery made him depressed because they literary cracked him open and opened up his heart. That must have been horrendous for someone whose soul was in pain.
I took him for granted when he was on this earth. I forgot the joy he gave me in The Fisher King and Hook. I forgot the life changing moments in Dead Poet’s Society. I forgot the wonderful evening I spent so many years ago when I attended a Saturday Night Live Dress rehearsal when he was host. (He was always on – even during the commercial breaks).
There’s this old song entitled For a Dancer by Jackson Browne that says it best:
“You were always dancing in and out of view. I must have always thought you’d be around. Always keeping things real by playing the clown. Now you’re nowhere to be found.”