“Robin Williams. What a concept.”
So said Billy Crystal at the Emmys Monday night, as one of dozens of public figures to give a tribute to the late legend since his passing.
Williams was one of many celebrities acknowledged in the memorial segment of the show, including Lauren Bacall, James Garner, Don Pardo, Shirley Temple, Mickey Rooney, Paul Walker and Philip Seymour Hoffman, to name a few. But as great a legacy as these people created, it is doubtful any of them left behind as many fans and admirers as Williams did.
The world was shocked to hear of Williams’ death on Aug. 11, and even more shocked to find out he took his own life. But I’m not here to talk about his suicide. I’m here only to talk about the contribution he made to my childhood and the contribution I know he made to yours.
Robin Williams ruled our childhood. He built and defined worlds of comedy and adventure.
When I was little, my dad would take me to the Blockbuster down the street to let me rent one VHS tape every week. I chose Hook every single time. My dad would roll his eyes, not understanding how I could watch the same movie over and over again. But I would unashamedly hand him the tape and let him pay for it, knowing what a treat I’d be in for when I got home.
That movie was magical to me. All of Williams’ movies were magical. He was our hero in Hook, our best friend and sidekick in Aladdin, our favorite mad scientist in Flubber, and our partner in crime in Mrs. Doubtfire.
As we got older, we could appreciate his dramatic genius in films such as Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets Society and Patch Adams.
But it wasn’t just his acting that made him special. Yes, the man could act – and his range was undeniable. But when I was a child, I didn’t care about his acting. I cared about his characters and the lessons they taught me. He showed me how to be bold, daring, funny and carefree. More importantly, he showed me how to be kind and caring to everyone – even in the face of seemingly impossible challenges.
Williams is one of the precious few people this generation has seen with enough influence to shape people across the entire world and help them become someone with character and dignity.
I will freely admit I cried when I heard the news of his death. I will probably weep openly the next time I watch one of his movies. I will miss the treasures he could still have brought into the world for many years to come, but I will always be grateful for the ones he already gave us.
Carpe diem, my friends. Go make your lives extraordinary.