There’s just… I feel like the kid in Eight Men Out, following Joe Jackson around. “Say it ain’t so, Joe. Say it ain’t so.” Like so many of my generation, I first encountered him through Happy Days and Mork and Mindy, then his zaniness through his films, such as Popeye, Good Morning Vietnam, and even Disney’s Aladdin.
He was an icon. I had HBO while growing up, and remember watching him do introductions for an animated Shakespeare series.
What drew me in, though, what made me truly a fan, was the breadth of his roles. Sure, comedy was always his thing, but how easily he could slide into a drama – Dead Poet Society is the instant association most will have, and no doubt on some level that affected my chosen career path. Good Will Hunting might be the other go-to options – it is what earned him his Oscar. But before those was The World According to Garp. When I first encountered the film, it was flipping channels, saw Williams, and thought “Oh, this should be funny.” I came in near the end of the movie. It wasn’t funny, but that short part of the movie that I saw, that performance has stuck with me. (I have yet to watch the whole movie, or even read the book, but more than 20 years later, I still remember those final scenes, and the pain in those moments. That was one gut-wrenching jump-cut.)
I was lucky enough to see him in person, during a taping of Letterman back in 2002, when he was touring for his “Live on Broadway” special that was being released on DVD.
I’m just… “Oh Captain, my captain…”