Robin Williams – Before He Was Dead
Before They Were Dead
Before Robin Williams was Patch Adams, Peter Pan, Teddy Roosevelt, Bicentennial Man, the Genie, a psychologist, a scientist, the man who survived Jumanji.
Before Robin Williams earned for himself multiple Golden Globes, SAGs, Grammys and an Oscar.
Before Robin Williams was found dead at his home in Tiburon California the victim of an apparent suicide at the age of 63.
Robin Williams was born in Chicago to a former model and Ford Motors executive. Due to his father’s career in the auto industry, Williams moved several times in his youth and never really came out of his shell until he discovered drama class in high school. He studied at The Julliard School for acting and astonished his teachers with his energy, accents and raw talent. By the late 70’s Williams had won a Grammy for his comedy album “Reality….What a Concept” and was broadcast to every home in America on the primetime sitcom Mork & Mindy. He overcame cocaine addiction but continued to battle alcoholism and mental health issues throughout his life.
Over the 1980’s Williams showed us that he was much more than the wacky Mork from Ork with his powerful performances in “The World According To Garp”, “Good Morning Vietnam” and “The Dead Poets Society”.
He brought to life some of the most memorable characters to ever appear on the big screen, and continued to do so until his death in 2014.
Robin McLaurin Williams was born July 21st 1951 in Chicago Illinois to Laurie and Robert Williams. With two older half brothers, Robin often found himself using humour and laugher to get his Mother’s attention.
Williams described himself as a shy quiet boy. By the time he was sixteen his family had moved from Chicago, to Detroit, to Tiburon California, but while in high school he found himself becoming more and more outgoing after enrolling in the drama program. He ended up being voted the funniest kid in his class and least likely to succeed. Well one out of two right isn’t so bad.
When starting college Williams tried to be practical enrolling in political science, but he quickly dropped out and switched to acting. After 3 years he had been accepted into the The Julliard School in New York and was one of only twenty students accepted into the program.
Three other classmates that year would be William Hurt, Mandy Patinkin and of course Robin’s life long friend, Superman himself, Christopher Reeves the two would become roommates at school.
Williams left Julliard during his junior year in 1976. It wasn’t because he was bad, or unteachable, it was quite the opposite. Most of his teachers considered him a genius, and his advanced class instructor, John Houseman, said there was nothing more he could learn in the program.
Robin moved back to California, performing stand-up and auditioning for television roles. It didn’t take long for him to become noticed and within three years of leaving Julliard Williams had released a Grammy award winning stand up album and turned a one off character on “Happy Days” into a full spin off series called, “Mork and Mindy”.
At the age of 27, Williams married Valerie Velardi, who soon gave birth to their son Zak. Williams would spend the early 80’s trying to balance marriage, fatherhood, an accelerating career, a celebrity lifestyle and it wasn’t so easy.
His cocaine addiction had gotten out of control but after the death of his friend, John Belushi, Williams had a wake up call. Though his alcoholism would be something he continued to battle throughout his life.
Through all of this Williams’s star continued to rise. He branched out from his wild comedy beginnings, making critically acclaimed movies like “The World According to Garp”, “Moscow on the Hudson” and “Dead Poets Society”.
His ability to balance comedic and dramatic acting earned him his first Oscar nomination in a little movie called “Good Morning Vietnam”.
He divorced his wife Valerie in 1988 and one year later married Marsha Garces, his son Zak’s nanny, who just happened to be pregnant with his second child, Zelda, she would be born later that year.
Williams entered the 90’s with a string of hits not only for adults but for the whole family as well. His roles in Fern Gully, Hook, Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire and Jumanji endeared him to a whole new generation.
It was in 1997 that Robin won his first Oscar for his role as the patient and world wise psychologist in Good Will Hunting.
And even though he had become one of the biggest movie stars in the world, Williams never forgot to give back. He participated in Comic Relief with fellow comedians Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal, which has raised over 50 million dollars for homelessness to date. Robin was also a huge supporter of the US troops and was a regular performer for the USO. After his death the organization thanked him for his years of entertaining the men and women of the armed forces.
Robin continued down the path of success well into the new millennium. He continued to cross genres, starring in drama, comedy, horror and animated.
In 1995, his friend Christoper Reeve was paralyzed in a horse riding accident. Robin was the first person by his side who managed to make the Superman actor laugh announcing upon entry that he was a proctologist eager to get to work.
But late into the decade his alcoholism once again became an issue, Marsha filled for divorce and he required open heart surgery. He overcame all three obstacles let’s fast forward to 2011 where he once again found love with Susan Schneider and remarried.
Things began to settle down in 2013, Robin found a home back where he started, on television. NBC’s The Crazy Ones received modest reviews but was cancelled after it’s first season and Williams would pass away a few months later.
Behind the scenes it was whispered that Robin was extremely reluctant to get back into television, he was also embarrassed by his need to make sequels to his previous successful work including Mrs. Doubtfire 2.
Robin Williams took his own life on August 11th 2014 at the age of 63. The cause of death was asphyxiation after he hung himself with a belt in his California home.
The early reports of his suicide pertained to Robin’s recent depression and diagnosis with Parkinson’s. But one year later in 2015, his wife Susan would shed new light on the situation.
She revealed that Robin had been diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia, a horrible disease that rapidly disintegrates the body’s mental and physical state. If Robin had stayed alive he would have had a few years left, and in the end been a shell of the vibrant explosive presence the world knew and loved.
And the rest of the story, well Robin’s legacy lives on in his work.
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