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Sat, Dec 20, 2014

VINSON: Common thread: Elvis, Lennon & Mrs. Doubtfire

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Indeed, it was a gala event, a “lamb roast” held at a plush home celebrating a political victory. And what a tight, borderline-nasty race it had been on Aug. 7, with our favored incumbent narrowly beating her challenger by a mere 4 percent of the votes, which made the lamb feast all the more jubilant!

Joy and positivity filled the air as an eclectic mix of humanity mingled, ate, drank, and conversed.

I was sitting on the back porch with Brenda, Nick, Danny and Billie Jean. We were chowing down on roasted lamb (a true delicacy), chatting back and forth, and thoroughly enjoying ourselves. Checking her phone, Billie Jean looked at me with a serious expression and said, “That was sad about Robin Williams, wasn’t it?”

“What about Robin Williams?” I responded.

“He committed suicide today,” Billie Jean answered.

The next few moments were more surreal than sad, and thinking about Robin Williams’ death forced me to travel back in time and recall the deaths of Elvis Presley, “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” and John Lennon, a founding member of The Beatles.

I can remember, precisely, where I was at, what I was doing, and to whom I was talking when I learned of Elvis’s death on Aug. 16, 1977, and Lennon’s death on Dec. 8, 1980. It was as though time stopped, I was in a fog-like daze, and finally, I was forced to accept that something very important had been taken away from mankind. Well, it was the same reaction when Billie Jean alerted me of actor/comedian Robin Williams, found dead at his California home on Monday, Aug. 11, 2014.

Publicly open about his ongoing battles with depression and substance abuse, Williams, 63, was the victim of an apparent suicide.

I first came to know of Robin Williams via his starring role on the TV sitcom “Mork & Minday,” which ran from 1978 through 1982, where Williams portrays an alien, named “Mork,” who comes to Earth from the planet Ork, traveling in a small, one-man, egg-shaped spaceship.

Though I wasn’t a connoisseur of comedic talent, I knew, even back in 1978, there was something special about Robin Williams’ off-the-wall, never-before-seen antics, and he would have an everlasting impact on the world of comedy. I remember once reading where the producers of “Mork & Mindy,” from time-to-time, would have to discipline Williams because he would go “off-script,” and the TV crew would be laughing so hysterically that they couldn’t finish — “wrap” —an episode.

Now, about the timeless movie “Mrs. Doubtfire,” which was released in 1993. In the movie, Robin Williams plays Daniel Hillard, an unemployed voice actor. His career-oriented, no-nonsense wife Miranda (portrayed by Sally Field) files for divorce and gets custody of their three children, a son and two daughters. In need of a babysitter/housekeeper, Miranda runs an ad in the paper. Daniel manipulates the ad, and has his brother, a gay makeup artist, turn him/Daniel into a plump, veteran Scottish nanny named “Euphegenia Doubtfire.” Miranda hires Mrs. Doubtfire . . . and for those who haven’t seen the movie, do yourself a favor and rent it.

Personally, I consider “Mrs. Doubtfire” one of the all-time greatest comedy movies. To impress on you just how good it was, I’ll share this story with you:

My niece, Samantha, was about 9-years-old in 1993. My mother, 76-years-old in 1993, was babysitting Samantha. This particular morning, in 1993, I left mother and my niece around 7 a.m., and they were already watching “Mrs. Doubtfire” on VHS cassette (a precursor to DvD), cackling with laughter. When I returned around 7 p.m. — 12 hours later — they still were watching “Mrs. Doubtfire,” and still were cackling with laughter!

Though Robin Williams would play “darker” characters in movies such as “Insomnia” and “One Hour Photo” (both released in 2002), I’ll always remember him for “Mrs. Doubtfire”.

To tie all this together, I suppose I need to explain the “common thread”: As was the case with Elvis Presley and John Lennon, I wager I’ll always remember, precisely, where I was at, what I was doing, and with whom I was talking when I learned of Robin Williams’ death.


 

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