I have a multitude of connections with Robin Williams. The great majority of these are similar to those shared by millions: A performance in a movie or TV show or concert, or an appearance on a talk show or charity benefit. I had a knock-off pair of Mork suspenders. My brother and I imitated Popeye’s fall into deep water during days at the pool. I saw Dead Poets Society during that profound period of transition between high school and college, and it made me yearn to bring my own verse to the world. After Todd Anderson had his breakthrough in class, John Keating said, “Don’t you forget this.” I haven’t forgotten it either.
I’ve been entertained and enthralled by Robin Williams' work for nearly my entire life. So, I was thrilled when we connected face to face a few years back:
I was assigned to draw Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo as part of my regular assignments for Broadway.com.
Robin went to Juilliard and had a pretty deep connection to the theatre. He joined Steve Martin, F. Murray Abraham, and Bill Irwin for a production of Waiting for Godot in the 1988 and he had brought his comedy to the Broadway stage. But he made his Broadway acting debut in Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo wherein he played the titular role. Set in troubled Iraq, the story sought glimmers of friendship, redemption, and beauty amidst the tragedy and absurdity of war. These days, producers often anchor a production's ticket sales with a star that’s known beyond the theatre. Robin was the anchor of this production and it was such a thrill to see him work live.
Once my illustration posted on the website, Robin’s assistant contacted me about his desire to buy the original ink sketch as well as five prints. What an honor! I worked solely with his assistant who asked if I would ship directly to his home on the west coast. I did so. I was jazzed but still wished I would have had the chance to meet him. But then many others in his cast also bought prints, and on the day I delivered them, I found myself alone in the stage management office at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, awaiting some payments. A familiar face appeared. “Are you the artist?” John Keating and Mork and Popeye flashed through my brain as I said “Yes.” “I think I bought the original.” “Yes you did, and thank you.” We shook hands and I stammered through some feeble attempt at summing up all the admiration I had for his work. He was gracious, but he had to rush off to run the fight choreography before that day's performance. After I finished my business, I had to cross the stage to exit the stage door. I tried to be discreet, but as I passed, Robin briefly held fight call. He gave me two thumbs up and said “Good job, boss.”
I should add that earlier that day, the producers of their play had announced that their play would be closing prematurely. It was so lovely and incredibly classy of this fellow to think of others in the midst of a tough day. I’m so grateful for that. Thank you Robin.