ROBIN WILLIAMS: POET TO YOU, POPEYE TO ME
“Just stay alive. That’s all I’m askin’.”
– Robin Williams, “Popeye”, 1980
When I was a kid, I somehow acquired an 8 x 10, autographed photo of Robin Williams and Pam Dawber on the “Mork and Mindy” set. I was a fan of the show. I had a Mork action figure that said “Na-noo, Na-noo” and “shazbot”. And another Mork figure in its own plastic “egg” spaceship. Though young, I knew the show jumped the shark by bringing in Jonathan Winters as Mork’s son, but loved it anyway. I’m still kind of sad I never got rainbow-colored suspenders.
As an adolescent, I laughed at his brilliant, but definitely not for kids, standup.
I was never, honestly, a rabid fan of his movies, but I was always reliably entertained. Dead Poet’s and Aladdin. Goodnight Vietnam or Moscow on the Hudson. Years came and went, faster all the time, but you could always count on a new movie, or two, from Robin to make you laugh, even while there was a lump in your throat.
My favorite Robin Williams performance was his supporting role in Good Will Hunting when he managed to transcend his schmaltzy period – like Patch Adams or A-I – to be truly witty AND moving.
I’m watching Popeye, Robin’s second film, as I write this. I LOVED this movie as a kid. True, it’s really not a great movie. The look of the setting and characters is true to the history of the cartoon, and the cast is game, but…yeah, it’s not great. There’s enough there to get a glimmer of the Robin Williams to come; still young, a little uncertain about his on-screen persona, but full of life. In short, he’s all of us in our twenties. For those reasons, it struck me as a fitting way to remember the man and his work this week.
I intended to gripe in this post about the destructive power of celebrity and about the the public’ s morbid fascination with celebrity death. But, you know what? I think instead I’m just gonna relax and enjoy a mediocre film with a delightful lead.
That’s how tributes are made.