Order of the Good Write

That Magic Feeling When the Words Flow. A Blog by Debi Rotmil


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Maybe That’s the Last Thing I Want

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As Robin Williams became more and more famous in the late 70’s and early 80’s, it was getting obvious that he became a victim of his own fame. (Hello, cocaine and booze anyone? How about depression? Magazine publicity, fans tearing at him, comedy specials, parties, Belushi, parties, Belushi, parties. )  Trying to deal with the recent death of John Lennon, plus the trappings of celebrity he endured, Williams pitched an idea to Gary Marshall on how he – Robin Williams – meets Mork in a psychological meta situation were the actor playing the character opens up to the world about his personal struggle with fame. In turn, Mork learns about the trappings of celebrity public adulation.  Very quirky and heady at the time, but in retrospect, shockingly sad and quite intelligent.

Some background on the premise:

Mindy is struggling to keep her job as a television reporter at a local news program. Robin Williams, the famous comedian is in town to perform and has been seen around visiting coffee shops, appearing at clubs and school functions. Everyone has met him, except Mindy – the one person who really needs to get to him for a featured interview or else she will be fired.

Luckily, Mork happens to look EXACTLY like Robin Williams. (Duh.) With Williams-fever hitting its peak with the famous star in town, everyone keeps mistaking Mork for the big guy.  Williams is due to perform at a local theater. Hoping to run into him at the stage door, M&M wait it out until Mork is mistaken for the star and allowed in. Boom! Mindy gets to interview RW, and Mork gets to meet his alter-ego doppleganger. (I’ve cut out some dialogue just to tighten it up since the scene is very conversational.)

From Mork and Mindy, 1981:  Mork Meets Robin Williams

MINDY:

How do you keep up the pace? You arrive from Hawaii, fly all night, then go straight to the university and go lecture for three hours. Then after the lecture – you performed until 3am at the Comedy Cabaret,  and now you’re doing two shows tonight.

ROBIN:
Well, two reasons. You see I’m a performing addict. I can’t get enough. Also the owner of the Comedy Cabaret is a friend of a cousin and a friend of a friend, so, I couldn’t say no.

MINDY:
Gee – that’s a great angle for my story: ‘Robin Williams, the Comedian Who Can’t Say No’

ROBIN:
I don’t know why I can’t say no. I guess I want people to like me. (I hate myself for that). But, I used to be able to say no. Before all this craziness started, my friends used to call up and go “Come on..we’re all going outside, there’ some gnarly waves, and we’re all going to hang out”, and I’d have to go “No my Mama say I have to stay inside and read Nietzsche tonight.” Later on, I guess I was afraid to say no because then they’d all say, like, “Oh…Robin William. Mr. Smarty Pants Big Shot. Oh, you forgot your old friends. Then, ‘lend me $10,000 for a new car’  when you tell them you won’t do the ‘shrimp’ benefit.

MINDY:

This is none of my business but it seems that if they’re really your friends they’d understand. But it seems to me you can’t say no to a total stranger.

ROBIN:
Well. You’re right. 

MINDY:

It also looks like you’re probably taken advantage of a lot. You know if you learn how to say no, you’ll probably have a lot more time to yourself.

ROBIN:
Maybe that’s the last thing I want.

[Security guard comes in for the two minute warning. They’re ready to start the show]

ROBIN:

(Getting up to leave. To Mindy)

Well, I hope I didn’t disappoint you.

MORK:

Disappoint her? Are you kidding? You’re breaking her perky little heart.

ROBIN:

I was always being the new kid in the neighborhood. Since I was suffering a case of the terminally shy, I couldn’t make friends that easily. I always spent a lot of time in my room and — I created my own little world. With all these little characters that had strange, unusual qualities.

After a while, I realized that well, people found these characters funny and outrageous, then I got to the point where the characters could say and do the things that I was afraid to do myself.

And, after a little while – here I am.

Wow.


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Those Happy Days….

GaryMarshallgang

I came across this picture while doing research on some of the blog posts I’ve been working on lately. I’ve always been a snob about the Gary Marshall franchise of 70’s comedy sitcoms, but I guess I’m feeling a little nostalgic. I’m writing on the Paramount lot now, since my day job is here – and kind of my night job as well, since I write when I can. I’m going to search for this doorway. It has to be somewhere on the premises.


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Lord, What Lovable Fools These Non-Orkins Be!

Nanu Nanu, Earthlings.

I’ve been binge watching old episodes of Mork and Mindy on YouTube like it’s the second coming of Orange is the New Black, so please accept this greeting. The phase of Ork flows through me.

Having been a teenager during the original ABC-TV airing of Mork and Mindy, I ignored the sensation that was the ‘Man from Ork’. In my pimply view, Mork was a show for children, and I had just completed my hard earned years of childhood, ready to shed all things babyish for other things – like The Clash, REM, boys and makeup.

Having turned my nose up at the Mork phenomenon in the past, I’m stunned by how sweet and funny I find it today. Yes, the show fell into the network television trappings of triteness, but it was also light fluffy fun mixed with some tear jerking moments.

What can you say about Robin Williams that hasn’t already been said?  It’s no surprise that this otherworldly talent crashed onto the scene portraying an innocent alien.  He was sharp, physically quick as lightening, athletic, mentally agile, handsome, achingly sweet, and he exploded forth with hilarious outbursts obviously unscripted.

Williams was also surrounded with an extraordinary cast. Tom Poston, who dutifully played M&M’s downstairs neighbor Franklin Delano Bickley, has always been a welcomed addition to any sitcom. His timing and sardonic wit felt comfortable, like bedroom slippers. Pam Dawber, forever the all American girl (with the enviable hair and figure) was so lovely, warm and happily receptive to Williams’ maniacal pace, you have to give her mad props while witnessing her Mindy keeping up with his Mork. Dawber and Williams also had a warm, close friendship and their admiration for each other clearly shows. That alone makes me go all syrupy inside, knowing how Hollywood egos (I’m looking at you, Laverne and Shirley) can make for juicy stories in the whose-trailer-is-bigger-than-mine category.

My personal favorite is Robert Donner, who portrayed their eccentric friend Exidor. The writers on staff must have had a blast coming up with incredibly funny lines and insanely wild situations for him. Exidor made Mork’s strange behavior seem normal, perhaps even symbolizing the insanity of earth and its inhabitants. It’s obvious Exidor was a mentally ill man, and one has to wonder if his character could be written as well today with the PC police in full force.

The show was also heart warming. Mork’s innocence allows him to be a sensitive receptor to the human experience, fumbling his way through various emotional channels and situations that make up mankind. In the end, he connects with his big fat commander Orson (a dig on Orson Wells?) to tell him what he’s learned about our species. Falling in love, kissing, running away, feeling inadequate, loneliness, death and loss – he covers all the bases as the spaceman on the outside looking in, no matter how odd the circumstance may be.  And there are plenty of crazy odd things he encountered.

Last night, I stumbled upon the weirdest episode of M&M ever. It was the season premiere of season two entitled “Mork in Wonderland”.  Mork ends up taking cold medication that makes him shrink and disappear into another strange world where no laughter is allowed. All the characters are parallel opposites of familiar celebrities and people Mork knows in Boulder, Colorado, especially Mindy – who is now a more subdued version of herself named Mandy. Mork tries to get to the big bad dictator/king (an evil version of Exidor) who has put a ban laughter, by playing the fool in his court. After painfully dealing with the death of Mandy, he returns to earth to reconnect with Mindy, who was mourning what she thought was the death of Mork.  With his experience earned, the show ends with another cosmic commentary by Mork to Orson about life and death that made me a bit weepy.

Orson:  Mork, I know this may be painful, but tell me exactly how you felt when Mandy…passed on.
Mork:  Hmm. Well? I felt anger at first. Then anguish. And a sense of deep loneliness.
Orson: I can’t even fully comprehend one emotion. All those emotions at once. It must cause insanity.
Mork: Well it does, at first sir. Then you have time to think and you realize the good side. You realize that love can extend beyond universes, and even beyond death.

Until next time, this is Order of the Good Write, signing off.

Nanu Nanu!

(Bows)