Monday, at 7:10 P.M, I logged on to my Facebook page and randomly scanned my friends’ posts. I was stopped dead in my tracks when I read my dear friend, Lita's, post: Thanks for the laughs, Robin Williams. Sorry for the pain. My head spun and my stomach flipped. I immediately googled Robin’s name and held my breath as I awaited the results. My worst fears were realized when I read the gut wrenching news that Robin Williams had died by suicide. I felt as if I had been kicked squarely in the heart.
It was May 20, 1989, backstage on the set of SNL when I first met Robin Williams. I remember the night vividly because it was one of great sorrow. Gilda Radner, one of America’s precious treasures, had succumbed to ovarian cancer that morning. We heard the news late that afternoon, only a few hours before the rehearsal run-through that always precedes the live show. Actors and members of the crew gathered together, weeping and hugging, trying desperately to comfort one another.
Steve Martin was the guest host that week and he and Lorne Michaels had been behind locked doors for hours, putting aside their profound grief, to formulate a last-minute plan to revamp that evening’s show to best honor Gilda. While we waited for them to emerge, Robin Williams quietly walked on set. He hugged each member of the cast and crew. His blue eyes were filled with his own tears of sorrow as one-by-one he made it a point to comfort us all. He spoke softly and tears were replaced by smiles as he gently reminded us of Gilda’s warm heart and antics.
I was by no means Robin Williams’ friend, but over the years I caught glimpses of him at industry parties or crowded restaurants. One thing remained constant, wherever he was, he lifted spirits and laughter rang out. His genius wit and his comedic timing are legendary. I am certain that what you will hear, in the days to come, what I witnessed first-hand, stories about his warmth, sensitivity, kindness, and generosity.
In the days since his tragic passing, everyone I've spoken with feels the same—we are in shock. Robin Williams left behind the walking wounded. He was not our friend, our father, our son, our brother or our cousin, yet we mourn. Robin Williams had the ability to transcend the stage, break down the fourth wall, jump out of our television sets, land in our living rooms,and dive into our hearts.
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Alison is the award-winning author of The Lily Lockwood Series: The Seeds of a Daisy and soon to be published The Silver Cord.