Robin by Dave Itzkoff


This qualifies as the perfect audiobook for me:  it maintained my interest throughout, made me laugh, and was a poignant story. Robin Williams first became famous for the TV show Mork and Mindy which came at a time (1978 to 1982) when we only watched IU basketball and old movies on tv. We all probably remember him from appearances on late night shows like Johnny Carson, where he first appeared in 1981, the same year he was first on Saturday Night Live.

As a child, he apparently spent time alone in the attic playing with toy soldiers. His father had been very successful in the car industry, but left the business as younger men challenged him. The family moved to California. His mother was an aristocratic southerner who was his great fan. Robin found he loved drama in college and spent three years at Julliard. What he learned about the craft and using his voice stood him in good stead as he worked at being a stand-up comic back in California.

From Wikipedia I learned that Robin Williams lived for a time with Elayne Boosler before he married his first wife. I know of this comedian as the Twitter voice for some years of an elderly woman who lived in Manhattan, @QuiltingMuriel. When the real Muriel died in 2016, Elayne revealed she had spoken for her. Her tweets were funny, sweet, and always made my day.

The book describes in detail Williams’ work in comedy and movies, his marriages, his children, and his friendships with Billy Crystal, Christopher Reeves, and many others. We learn of his struggles with cocaine and alcohol in his early years, his many years of sobriety, his relapse into alcohol use, and a second recovery.

I now want to see a movie I missed, Good Morning Vietnam and it’s lovely to remember Good Will Hunting and especially Mrs. Doubtfire. He made a ton of movies, many of them pretty bad.

His death was tragic. He had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, so it was known he was facing a serious disease, but no one would have expected he would commit suicide. After he died, it was determined that he had Lewy Body Disease which in his case had affected his brain dramatically.

Dave Itzkoff, Robin, Henry Holt and Co., 2018, 544 pages (I listened to the audiobook). Available from the UVa and public libraries and from Amazon.

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