“Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”
I am certain I did not see Dead Poets Society when it first arrived in theaters in 1989; I probably didn’t see it until more than two years later when I could drive to Blockbuster and rent it on VHS. Maybe I saw an “edited for television” version at some point before then. One thing I can tell you: when I did see Dead Poets Society, the movie had a major impact on me.
I have always been in love with writing. I often put it off and procrastinate and beat myself up for my lack of skills, but I cannot resist the pull of putting words to the page. The words of John Keating, portrayed by the legendary Robin Williams, inspired me as a teenager. I wanted to seize the day. I needed to make my life extraordinary.
Somewhere along the line, though, “real life” got in the way. I gave up on dreams until I stopped dreaming. I walked away from opportunities because of fear of failure and lack of self-confidence. I discouraged myself, despite the encouragement of others all around me.
Now, three decades later, I want to seize the day; I still feel the need to make my life extraordinary. And I still have no idea how to do that.
Robin Williams: When the Laughter Stops
by Emily Herbert
John Blake Publishing, 2014
The tragedy of Robin Williams’ demise profoundly affected his fans, both here in the United States and abroad. Very few people knew of his struggles with depression, and news of his suicide opened many eyes. A man that was able to make so many laugh, but he was unable to find peace for himself.
Author Emily Herbert examines the comedian’s life in Robin Williams: When the Laugher Stops, bringing out the obstacles Williams faced throughout his life. Starting with his early encounters with bullies, and his attempts to gain his mother’s love and approval through his comedic personality, Herbert paints the picture of a tortured soul who many times used his comedy to mask his pain. Williams’ school days are briefly recounted, including his friendship with Christopher Reeve at The Juilliard School. Once Mork & Mindy comes around, Herbert relies heavily on reviews and interviews in publications to tell the story. Many of the actor’s films are treated similarly, showing both the critical and commercial response to his big screen career.
Herbert does not go into great depth on any particular aspect of Williams’ life, but points out several things that played a part in his life and ultimately his death. From the shock of overnight success and the disappointment of professional failures, to personal problems with drugs and divorce and the loss of friends such as John Belushi and Reeve, Williams had many things working against him. But there are many things his fans can remember him for as well, from his charity work to the comedic legacy he left behind on film.
This posthumous biography is written with his death on the writer’s and readers’ minds, and some may find it harder to read than a standard biography. Still, there is not a lot out there in printed form at the moment, and Robin Williams: When the Laughter Stops is a good overview of his career until a fuller history of the man’s life and work is made available.
I’ve been semi-binge-watching a lot of Robin Williams material lately. From Mork & Mindy to Hook to Good Morning, Vietnam to One Hour Photo, the talent of Robin Williams shines through every time he is in front of the camera. I still find it difficult to believe that he left this world, and that he chose to leave.
Williams was not much of a baseball fan, but that didn’t stop him from putting on a show when he stopped by Shea Stadium in 1989 with Billy Crystal. The Mets were playing the Reds that day, and Kevin Elster fouled a Rick Mahler pitch back into the broadcast booth.
I decided to create a Robin Williams baseball card using the Topps design from his birth year, 1951, as a template. I changed a few things about the card, going with “Camera” (as in “Lights, Camera, Action!”) rather than “Double” or other baseball terms. I also removed the baseball player caricature in the upper right corner and replaced it with a movie camera. The limited space in the bottom left corner made for some hard decisions…which television shows and movies would I mention? The list of good Robin Williams movies is quite long, but I decided to go with TV’s Mork & Mindy, my favorite Williams film Dead Poets Society, and the critically-acclaimed Good Will Hunting.
I’m having a difficult time processing what happened to Robin Williams. I doubt I will ever understand what would drive a person to do what he did, to give up and to think there was no better solution.
Some of the characters he played made people laugh, others made people think. I grew up watching Mork & Mindy, which is among my five favorite television show of all-time (along with Happy Days, Dukes of Hazzard, Smallville, and He-Man). He will always be Mork from Ork first and foremost in my mind.
(July 21, 1951 – August 11, 2014)
I was absolutely devastated by the news that comedian extraordinaire Robin Williams was found dead today at his home. The man made so many people laugh in Mork & Mindy, Good Morning Vietnam, Jack, and Flubber, and was the voice of the Genie in Disney’s Aladdin. He also demonstrated his serious acting skills in Good Will Hunting, One Hour Photo, and Dead Poets Society, one of my all-time favorites. He was larger than life, and will be remembered as one of Hollywood’s most beloved actors.