In the mid-‘80s, I lived on Vista Del Mar Lane in Tiburon, Calif., overlooking Keil Cove, parts of the East Bay and the northern half of Angle Island. Robin Williams’ parents lived across from me on Paradise Bay Road. I was in their home once to discuss the fate of a neighbor who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Mr. Williams appeared tall and lean, with graying hair and mustache, with Hollywood good looks of an era gone by, but he appeared somewhat frail and lost in thought. Mrs. Williams, by contrast, appeared quite fit and was a very witty conversationalist, with a lot of energy.
From time to time, a black limousine would be parked in front of their home, and you knew that Robin was visiting.
Mrs. Williams was quite social in town and delivered witty and funny talks to various social and fraternal groups. It seems that she always wore a hat.
Some years prior, I met Robin at a gin mill called Charlie Bolton’s in Novato, which was owned and operated by the California Café bunch. It was a Wednesday standup-comedy evening at Bolton’s, and a bachelor friend and I were there in hopes of introducing ourselves to some female patrons.
Robin Williams appeared unannounced and took over the stage, much to the delight of the audience.
After performing his impromptu and unrehearsed act, he came over to our table and sat down with us. He explained that he was on his way home to his digs in Napa and decided to stop by Bolton’s, knowing it was comedy night there.
Later on, taking a restroom break, I observed Robin snorting cocaine, which was the social drug of choice during that era. Fortunately, I did not partake in this socially acceptable but illegal substance abuse. A lot of people I knew did, and many lost everything because of it.
From time to time, I observed Robin in Mill Valley at the Bus Depot, a one-time Greyhound bus station that was converted into a retail bookstore and coffeehouse. You could see him sitting alone on the outdoor patio, reading a book and sipping coffee, sometimes gesturing with his hand and arm as he read.
Prior to all of this, in the ‘60s or ‘70s, Robin attended College of Marin, where I was also a student. I cannot remember if it was before or after my three combat periods (two tours) in Vietnam, but given his age, it was most likely after I returned.
In any event, he participated in the theater-arts program there, directed by James Dunn. Their theatre group traveled to London to compete in a Shakespeare competition, where they performed one of Shakespeare’s plays in a cowboy motif and theme. I cannot remember which of the Shakespeare plays they performed, but the troupe won some first-place honor. Many claim that Dunn’s teachings and directions were responsible for Robin’s success as a thespian.
I did not closely follow Robin’s career, but I did enjoy a couple of his films and an occasional “Mork & Mindy” episode.
It is too bad he took his own life — or for that matter anyone else who may do so, as suicide is the permanent solution for what is most likely a short-term problem.
May Robin rest in everlasting harmony.
EARL REILLY is a Magnolia resident. To comment on this column, write to QAMagNews@nwlink.com.