I have watched the new documentary, Robin Williams, Come Inside My Mind on HBO 2 ½ times now. It is a luminous piece of work that peels back the many layers of William’s tragic clown persona.
Fame is the mask that eats your face a friend reminded me recently. Williams started as a serious-minded preppie who went to elite single-sex schools bent on turning out the leaders of tomorrow. But touched by genius and seduced by youth culture, the minute he could escape the established path, he did. He married well, three times, he had three gorgeous children, made several fortunes and for a decade was possibly the most loved man on earth.
And he spent the last 20 years of his life eating himself alive.
I was in the same hippie veggie store on Saltspring with him once. He smiled at me, then turned his head up and twirled looking at the building. He looked like a dwarf, all shrunken into himself, deflated, cartoon-like, squat, ugly. I had never seen anyone so exhausted, so much a husk of an individual.
Williams succumbed to the spirit of the age, addicted to the high of his vertiginous talent, addicted to oblivion that gave him rest, by the 2000’s he had descended into scatological invective, his brain firing so fast, sweat pouring from his body during performance, it was like watching a man burn to death
He will be remembered for the next 500 years as an incandescent genius who immolated himself for our pleasure and his own.