Sunday, August 24, 2014

Remembering Robin

Robin Williams

I'm... more than a little behind on things here lately. I usually am. There are many articles I plan to write, plan to continue to write, and, well, I keep saying a new comic strip entry is on the way. It is. Things can slow us down though, and sometimes, things can really knock us for a loop. Earlier this month, we lost a few Hollywood icons to be sure. One in particular hit me rather hard though, and clearly not just me. For most, I assume it was because it was so unexpected. I guess most of us have some powerful nostalgic feelings for one Robin Williams film or another, if not several. Particularly my generation and those that followed have deeply cherished childhood memories of Robin Williams dressed as a benign grandmother, running from a herd of jungle animals through a suburban town, granting wishes as a big, blue genie, and flying around Neverland as Peter Pan. I say this started with my generation because I grew up watching Mr. Williams in his first major roles, playing the friendly alien Mork from Ork on TV's "Mork and Mindy", and the legendary comic and cartoon sailor man, "Popeye", in a live-action, theatrical feature film by Robert Altman. And, I dare to set myself apart, if just a bit, from the masses of mourners for this American treasure, by saying that as a very small boy, I idolized Robin in these roles. He was, without a doubt, a childhood hero of mine, most notably as Mork and Popeye, though I've loved much of his other work since then. In fact, these photos of myself from Halloweens past should help illustrate my point...

Come to think of it, earlier this year, I was considering putting together a Mork costume. Clearly, these characters brought a lot of joy to a lot of people. I know I'm not the only one who was this big a fan. For one example, there's a phenomenal cosplayer on Instagram who goes by "bulgyarms" and has put together an amazing suit inspired by Robin's take on Popeye. It's been a lifelong dream he finally completed, and it's glorious to see how it all came together.

Of course, I never knew Robin Williams personally. Like many others, I just have all these cherished memories of various pieces of his work, his life, that served as a big influence and inspiration on me and my life. I'll be honest and say that I really was never even much of a fan of Robin's stand-up comedy. He was clearly passionate and energized by it, and many people found him hilarious in that area, but it was Robin the actor, if mostly the comedic actor, that blew me away. And, when I think which role of his I love the most, as much as I LOVE Genie, there is no question that it always comes back to Popeye, the 1980 movie musical that I watched for the umpteen-millionth time on the night I heard of his tragic death at the hands of depression, something I'm not unfamiliar with myself.

In the wake of Robin's death, the one thing that wasn't altogether heartbreaking was my discovery of something called Popeye Village, a tourist destination in Malta that has become a definite bucket list visit for me. I'm gonna keep this memorial brief, but also end it by sharing this one pleasant surprise I had during this very dark time in the lives of myself and my fellow Robin Williams fans. As it turns out, the village of Sweethaven from the movie, "Popeye", still stands on the island where it was filmed. It is now known as Popeye Village, a half museum, half theme park (I use the phrases very loosely) for the entertainment of family oriented tourists off the hauntingly beautiful shores of Malta. The village isn't exactly as we remember it, unfortunately. It has some modernizing, some tacky paint jobs, and they oddly chose to turn the house we'd probably want to visit most, the Oyles' boarding house, into a bizarre, Christmas-themed attraction that is not related to anything, but overall, it's still the same ramshackle, wooden town from the movie. There are some great videos about it on YouTube. I truly hope I can see this place live and in-person someday. Just to walk the same streets Robin walked in the role of Popeye make that place something of a mecca for me. I wonder if bulgyarms knows about it.

Anyway, that's all I've got for now. I just wanted to ramble a bit about Robin Williams' role in my own life and how much I always looked up to him and his work, as I'm sure many people my age and younger did. I really hope he is somewhere better, where he is no longer tormented by the many things that can wear us down in this world, and where he is truly happy and at peace in his own Sweethaven. We're missing you already, Robin. Na-Nu, Na-Nu.

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