When I was very young back in the early 90s before I had discovered animated classics such as The Lion King, Toy Story, and Beauty and the Beast. I remember one animated film that embedded itself into my mind more than any other and that film was Aladdin. Sure it was a great story with beautiful animation and memorable characters but the one thing that mesmerized me to no end wasn't just a character but THE character, of course I'm talking about the bright blue jinn that stole every scene he was in and was the main selling point and driving force behind the success of Aladdin, the Genie. I remember thinking to myself "who is this manic genius that can shoot one liners in rapid fashion all the while seemingly blending into characters on a dime", of course my vocabulary wasn't that advanced back then so it was more like "whoa who's the big blue guy, HE RULES!!!". Needless to say, it was love at first sight, following this discovery, I begged my mom to buy me as much Aladdin merchandise as possible but ONLY of the Genie. Of course being the good mother that she is she tried her best to buy me all Genie related products she could find. I remember endless nights playing with my Genie action figure, shouting in joy when finding a miniature figurine of Genie in my stocking one Christmas morning, and gazing in awe at the Disney Store in what would become my very first visit there, where the attraction of my awe would be instantly drawn and focused like a laser beam to the big screen at the back of the store which would be showing?, you guessed it the Never Had a Friend Like Me musical number. The big screen would not only serve as the victim of my rabid astonishment but another display surrounding the screen would also serve as a casualty to my rabid 4 year old mind, a display that was literally COVERED with Aladdin plush toys. I think I can recall a thought that I had that went along the lines of "can I just sleep here, FOREVER!". The other everlasting memory I have of my "Aladdin era" self was the first time I glanced at an advertisement on the television promoting Disney's Aladdin on Ice, with much respect to the talented performers of the show but my attention was zoned in on one brief glimpse of a clip not even a nanosecond long that showed who, but my big blue idol sitting among the audience and talking to the children in attendance, my heart sank with envy but then a notice would appear on screen at the end reading "Coming to Rupp Arena". It was then my heart rose like a fiery phoenix reborn again at the chance of meeting the greatest thing I had ever seen. It was then where my poor mother would succumb to an explosion of begs and pleas to go to the show and have the chance of a lifetime to meet the Genie in person. To her credit, she acquired the tickets and there I was sitting in the stands of Rupp Arena my hands trembling and words crossing my mind of what to say to him should he ever grace me with his presence. Needless to say that moment never happened and as I sat there saddened and depressed as I watched the actor playing Aladdin "fighting" a giant Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade float shaped like a giant cobra, although I ended up getting a pretty sweet light up Aladdin sword, it was probably that day where I decided that my Aladdin days were over and that it was time for me to move on.
So as I buried my Genie action figures and plush toys deep into the dark sad abyss of my toy chest, I heard a familiar voice coming from the television. "It couldn't be" I thought as I raced to the living room and saw a live action Peter Pan, but this wasn't the Peter Pan I remember from the cartoon, this Peter Pan was dare I say it, grown up. Suffice to say my interest was thoroughly gauged as I sat and watched what I would shortly learn was called Hook and it was that moment where I saw the tried and true Genie in person, there is when I first laid my eyes upon the majestic madman named Robin Williams. I didn't quite know what it was, his infectious smile, his endless energy, or his youthful exuberance but I knew right then and there that I would be a fan of this man for life. Following Hook which again I had to watch over and over and desired action figures from that film as well, I turned to another film that starred the funniest person I had ever seen, in this film he dressed as a kind elderly woman named Mrs. Doubtfire. It was this iconic film where I would truly witness Mr. Williams' comedic greatness and his excellent acting, I would also watch Mrs. Doubtfire on an endless loop forever dreaming to have a nanny as kind hearted and gentle as Mrs. Doubtfire. Following Mrs. Doubtfire, I began to notice an image for another film of his called Toys, I was never able to see this one unfortunately but I'll never forget the image of it's promotional material with Williams' ever present grin dressed in a red suit and topped with a bright red derby. Following this I discovered another film that would have a profound impact on my childhood, a film that would feature a constant drum beat, rampaging rhinos, a pack of mischievous monkeys, a massive venus flytrap, and a bloodthirsty hunter on the trail of the most dangerous game, but the selling point was once again Mr. Robin Williams, this time playing a lost soul trapped in a board game known as Jumanji. Of course this would become another VHS that would find it's film completely worn out from the never ending loop of consistent viewing. The sheer sight of Williams battling monkeys, a lion, a stampede, a giant alligator, and lastly a human hunting villain, all the while protecting a duo of young siblings had me floored with amazement and wonder. Moving on from Jumanji I began viewing another iconic role (to me at least) that Williams forever chiseled into my childhood, the role of an absent minded professor who's creation had become a living spectacle of a mixture of joy and chaos, the gelatinous green blob of fun called Flubber. To this day I can remember watching this film in the theater and dreaming of someday owning my own Flubber and once again staring up at it's creator with an almost kind of worship. It would be these five roles and films that would become one of the many factors that made my childhood the greatest moment of my entire life.
However my admiration and sheer love of Williams didn't stop with my childhood. This wasn't a performer who's talents were squarely aimed towards children. It was during my adolescence that I began to learn about Williams' earlier roles such as his confused extraterrestrial Mork, his living breathing portrayal of Popeye, his bellowing radio announcer in Good Morning Vietnam, and his charismatic and fiercely intelligent professor in Dead Poets Society. I was in high school the first time I watched Dead Poets Society and it was there that I realized, this man is not only a comedic maestro, but he's also a remarkable dramatic actor who could not only make us cry from laughter, but also take our breath away and make us cry from his powerful performances alone. Towards the late 90s and early 2000s Williams would shy away from comedic roles and begin appearing in more dramatic and suspenseful roles such as his Academy Award winning performance in Good Will Hunting, his terrifying serial killer in Insomnia, and his disturbed photo developer in One Hour Photo.
As I began entering adulthood I began noticing Williams' stand up comedy, it was here that I would see right then and there my true comedic and celebrity hero, idol, and father. Watching his stand up material, I can never understand how someone could be that hilarious and that intelligent all at the same time. Now from watching his stand up comedy, all I need to do is just remember all of the countless and outrageously funny lines and just smile. I'm smiling now knowing that he realized that he did his job and did it beautifully and better than anyone else on the planet.
This past week I've been struggling to find the right words to remember this uncanny human being who tragically died on August 11th. I tried thinking of the right quotes to describe this magical maniac and thoughts on how to remember him and how much I truly idolized him. Perhaps Billy Crystal said it best when he simply tweeted "No words". That's really all you can say about the passing of the funniest human being that has ever lived. I tried thinking of a quote from the man himself when I read perhaps the best tribute to him that didn't include a quote from him and it goes like this "Man goes to the doctor, says he's depressed, says life seems harsh and cruel, says he feels all alone in a threatening world where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain, doctor says treatment is simple, the great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight, go and see him, that should pick you up, the man bursts into tears and says but doctor....I'am Pagliacci" With everything that has been revealed about Williams' life this past week it seems only fitting that that quote be attributed to him and describes his life with poignant and somber accuracy. As the cynics read this and spout the usual cliche's of "But you never knew him personally" or "Get over it, he's just another dead celebrity". I say this to you, up close and personal that no you are dead wrong, he was not just another dead celebrity. He was a human being that brought joy and laughter to those that desperately needed it, especially in a world today where cruelty, war, and devastation reign supreme, where ignorance and stupidity are abundant and actually celebrated as it is constantly projected in front of our face. Sometimes I say to myself that the way he died could perhaps be a form of mercy killing just to leave this world full of greed and malice. Now the man that spent all his life trying to serve as a light to the darkness that engulfed this world and bring laughter to a world full of despair has now become lost in that same darkness. So this is now the world we live in where bright spots are merely just flickers of light in a globe full of dread and destruction. Take this time to take a few minutes out of your day to just simply smile and laugh and think to yourself of what the world used to be. I have one very bright spot in my life that I simply couldn't live without in my beautiful fiance Emily and in 2 months time, my world will be fully bright as we welcome our son Ryker into the world.
Now the time has come to say goodbye to my hero, my idol, my Genie, my captain, and in some ways my second father as he shared a birthday with my real father. In conclusion I wish to share with you a dream I had the night he died. In the dream, my friend Cody (whose life was also touched by Williams) and I actually visited Williams in his home, what transpired was a fun conversation and mock interrogation where me and Cody would jokingly force Williams to admit to us the worst movie he ever made and react in shame and disgust when he said Death to Smoochy (another great film from the master). It was then during the dream where the moment of truth would happen where I would discover that Williams hadn't realized that he had died and that I would have to be the one to give him the bad news and in that moment the saddest moment I could ever imagine dreaming happened as my hero who I had admired, respected, and greatly loved for all my life shared an emotional embrace as he hugged me tightly with tear filled eyes and my face buried deep into his shoulder, soaking his shirt with tears as we said our final goodbyes. I'd like to think that it was his way of saying good bye to me and apologizing for never being able to meet me in this plane. So now as the world cleans the desks of the footprints and wipe the tears from their cheeks. We somberly sit here and realize that we will never see the rooster crowing, Bangarang spouting Pan the man, we will never open our door to find a sweet old woman with that soft Scottish accent, we'll never hear the words good morning Vietnam over our speakers, we will never see an eccentric but lovable bat with a radio in his head. As we ice our wrists from trying to roll so many fives and eights and treat our raw palms from trying to rub the lamp so many times, but now the only thing we will see is a dusty old board game and an ancient empty lamp. Thank you Mr. Williams for being that voice from my childhood, that comedic inspiration that made us believe that the world was alright and full of joy. Thank you for making me smile in my hours of need and showing us that spark of madness that you yourself said we should never lose. The world will never forget you, there will never be another like you, and we will always love you from Neverland to Agrabah and everywhere else in between. As I type this on my tear stained keyboard, I say this to you Mr. Williams, there will be a time where we shall meet again and I can only hope that we share that same tearful embrace we shared in my dream, only this time instead of tears sadness, it'll be tears of happiness. Thank you Mr. Williams for making me giggle in my childhood, inspiring me in my adolesences, and bringing laughter to my adult years. That's all I can truly say, thank you for being there Mr. Williams, thank you for being you, and thank you for coming into this world and making it cry with tears of laughter. You said it yourself that if heaven exists hopefully there's laughter, well I can guarantee you this without conviction, there's laughter now as it is now the angels' turn to smile and laugh and now God has his court jester that can bring a little bit of happiness to his life as well. You came into our lives a confused alien, and now you have left it as a beloved angel. The world nor I never had a friend like you. Thank you Mr. Williams.......for everything.