Robin Williams killed himself today, and I find myself seriously bummed about it, certainly more bummed than I would have thought I would be. (Maybe partially because I see on MSNBC that he was only a year older than me, and I DID NOT NEED that particular little stat.)
Usually, with celebrity suicides I’m more pissed-off than sad. My close friends, musical associates and total strangers I encountered at gigs will tell you I was particularly savage towards Kurt Cobain when he blew his brains out in 1994. (In my own defense, that was because Mr. Cobain was a rock & roll star – perhaps the biggest rock & roll star on the planet other than Axl Rose at the moment he offed himself – and ALL I HAD EVER WANTED TO BE SINCE I WAS 16 YEARS OLD WAS A ROCK & ROLL STAR! I just could not process or abide that boy’s suicide.)
I have a very specific memory from September of 1978 when “Mork & Mindy” debuted on Channel 6 (ABC-TV) here in Columbus. I had met Willie Phoenix and his band, Romantic Noise, that previous February. And I had met the young girl I would break up my first marriage with the month before that. And by September that girl, me, Willie, and some combination of Greg, John & Dee (the other Romantic Noise members), their girls, or just The Cookiebakers & such who hung around the band would gather around a TV somewhere, and laugh our asses off at Robin Williams in that show.
Willie and I were, in those days & months, embarked on a loud, sacred mission to bring some measure of innocence back into rock & roll. In his punk/power-pop and my overly wordy West Side rock & roll we wanted somehow to counter the likes of Kiss, Led Zeppelin, Styx, Journey, Kansas & Foreigner, whom we perceived as debasing & degrading our beloved rock & roll with their “suck my dick” lyrical, musical & stage stances.
And somehow, in Robin Williams & Pam Dawber as Mork & Mindy we saw that innocence being played back and validated to us on our televisions every Thursday evening. Robin Williams was power-pop TV to us.
I’m not gonna go into all of Williams’ accomplishments here – the classic David Letterman appearances where he would just be OFF HIS BRAIN hilarious; his peerless performances in “Good Will Hunting” and “Dead Poets Society”; the first season of the aforementioned “Mork & Mindy” – you can get all that on Grantland, the Huffington Post and the 24-hour news channels with all their endless blathering.
I’m just gonna say, “Thank you, Robin Williams, for being Mork.” and end with the words of Bruce Springsteen from “Johnny Bye-Bye.” - “You didn’t have to die, you didn’t have to die.” – Ricki C. / August 11th, 2014