The Tragic Life and Suicide of Robin Williams: A Hollywood Legend

Herbie J Pilato

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He was introduced to mainstream pop culture through what was intended to be a one-shot guest appearance on the 1970s hit TV sitcom, Happy Days.

Instead, he, his comic genius, and mammoth and manic talent caught America and the rest of the world by storm. After a singular performance as the spastic-alien Mork from Ork, actor/comedian Robin Williams was spun-off into his own successful comedy series: Mork & Mindy, which co-starred Pam Dawber (future wife of CSI actor Mark Harmon), and originally aired on ABC from 1978 to 1982.

From there, Williams' career continued to soar, eventually leading him to more television appearances, live performances, and comedy and dramatic feature films, including Good Morning, Vietnam, Dead Poets Society, Good Will Hunting, Patch Adams, Mrs. Doubtfire, and the Disney animated classic, Aladdin.

Sadly, however, Williams' life was cut tragically short. On August 11, 2014, he was discovered dead, at age 63, at his residence in Paradise Cay, California. He was found with a belt wrapped around his neck, and investigators later found cuts on his left wrist. It was soon determined that Williams died by suicide.

According to CBSNews.com and a report on August 12, 2014, from Lt. Keith Boyd of the Marin County Sheriff's Office, "Williams was last seen at his home at 10 p.m. on Sunday. His wife went to sleep at 10:30 p.m. that night. It's not known what time Williams turned in, but Boyd said Williams retreated to a different room than his wife. His wife left the home in the morning believing Williams was still asleep and returned there after receiving a call about his death."

The comedian's personal assistant became concerned after he failed to respond to wraps on the door at approximately 11:45 a.m. The assistant found Williams in the room, where he was "slightly suspended in a seated position," Boyd said.

As journalist Sandy Schaefer recently relayed on SlashFilm.com, Williams experienced several pinnacles in his career, especially with movies like Good Will Hunting. In addition to that film garnering Williams his first and only Academy Award victory, Schaefer observed, "it was perhaps the first time Williams had completely shed his energetic comedic persona on-screen. Indeed, there's nary a moment in director Gus Van Sant's 1997 drama where the actor bursts into some hyperactive form of pantomime. Even when his character in the film — a reticent therapist and psychology teacher — cracks a joke about sleeping with his patients or how his late wife would fart in her sleep, Williams delivers the punch line in a fittingly dry, awkward manner.

"In a way," Schaefer continued, "Good Will Hunting was a prelude to what Williams would refer to in Dave Itzkoff's written 2018 biography Robin as his 'triptych of evil.'"

That was a reference to a period in Williams' career when he "tackled three dark roles in a row, each of them a far cry from the kind-hearted, gentle souls he was better known for playing," Schaefer noted.

"The idea of me doing this already starts people going, 'Wait a minute,'" Williams wrote. "I've only done warm, nice people, and already it puts people in an interesting mode — off-balance, which was great."

However, as Schaefer concluded, "What's really impressive about Williams' "triptych of evil" isn't that it proved he was capable of being genuinely unsettling and twisted on-screen. It's that he fully vanishes into these three roles, each of which is substantially unlike the others."

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Herbie J Pilato is the author of several books about pop culture including THE 12 BEST SECRETS OF CHRISTMAS: A TREASURE HOUSE OF DECEMBER MEMORIES REVEALED, MARY: THE MARY TYLER MOORE STORY, TWITCH UPON A STAR, GLAMOUR, GIDGETS AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, DASHING, DARING AND DEBONAIR, and NBC & ME: MY LIFE AS A PAGE IN A BOOK, among others. He's also a TV writer/producer, and has worked for Reelz, Bravo, E!, TLC, and hosted THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, the hit classic TV talk show (which premiered on Amazon Prime in 2019).

Los Angeles, CA
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