At a certain juncture in our lives, generally beginning with this thing called “middle age,” we look back on our formative years with a mixture of sadness and gladness. The sadness comes from remembering those who are no longer with us, be they parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings or friends, even family pets. The gladness comes, in part, from the same.
Life was simpler then, we tell ourselves. We smile and laugh at our and our friends’ silliness and naiveté, at the foolish things we said and did. But the memories of carefree days and nights are, often, the result of rose-colored glasses. No one’s childhood is without drama. Some have more, some have less and, sad to say, some simply have too much.
As I remember it, I had little worries in February 1978. I was 12 1/2. Tuesday nights meant Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley and Three’s Company, and then bed. And on that last Tuesday of the month, the 28th, I laughed myself silly: On Happy Days, a funny-looking guy from outer space had arrived to take Richie Cunningham to his home planet, Ork.
That guy, of course, was Robin Williams.
He was the topic du jour at school the next day – not that we knew his real name. We just called him Mork. And that fall, like most everyone else I knew, I tuned into the newly minted Mork & Mindy sitcom, which aired on Thursdays.
As the years passed, I saw some – though far from all – of his films; and I attended his concert at Penn State’s Rec Hall in October 1986. (You can read the Daily Collegian’s review of it here, if you wish, but my review is this: I laughed so hard that I missed half the jokes.) I think it’s safe to say that he was at his best on stage – any stage. His visits with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, for instance, are legendary. His humor could be silly, pointed and profane, often all at once, and rarely possessed malice.
We, all of us, are products of many things – our families, primarily, but also a variety of outside influences: teachers, friends and, yes, the icons of our youths. Their work and words, their looks and mannerisms, become ingrained in our DNA. Such is the case with Robin Williams. Nanu-nanu, Mork. You’ll be missed.