OP-ED: The Legacy of a Sweet Soul


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If only "Mrs. Doubtfire" could be shown rather than the scheduled "Lost in America," I e-mailed David Williams, president of the Carl Schurz Park Conservancy, which sponsors two outdoor film screen showings each summer. No reply, which is unlike Mr. Williams in an era of non-responders, about which George Bernard Shaw once opined: "The most perfect expression of scorn is silence."


Well, Robin Williams was, of course, a responder, which helped make him such a rare sweet soul in a time when sour is the norm, especially in the show business world.


As for the Carl Schurz Park movie night, of course New York City's First Family would be invited to the screening, being shown only a few minutes walk from their new home. And yes, it's hilarious and G-rated, but "Mrs. Doubtfire"'s message about family and especially about father love is, for me, Robin William's most-needed professional legacy. And we need the DeBlasio family and other movers and shakers to believe that. too.


The film is about a divorced, talented, but out of work actor daddy so desperate to share more time with his three children that he is able, through amazing physical and voice disguises, to be hired and become an indispensable nanny to his children. And yes, the situations are hilarious and wonderfully acted, but it's the custody hearing when this adoring father pleads for more time with his children that is so utterly heart-rending. It goes to the heart of what/who matters, and how these primal relationships need time - adequate time. It's a general need, but in custody hearings, adequate time is often denied even to the most responsible fathers.


But this Washington Post obituary excerpt is rather typical: "His (Williams') roles at times danced awfully close to cloying sentimentality, especially in family fare like "Mrs. Doubtfire," but then he shifted comfortably into outright chilling roles in "One Hour Photo" and "Insomnia" about homicidal-inclined men." Well, to quote Cole Porter, "The world has gone mad today, and good's bad and bad's good?" Yes, I'll write a letter. So should you.


Robin Williams' tragic death leaves an enormous void, yes for older artists in the entertainment world, but even more for those with his personal traits praised in countless tributes similar to this one from Conan O'Brien: "Robin was one of the all time greats (professionally), but he was an even better person ? just one of the sweetest kindest guy I've ever worked with, just such a soft, warm emotionally sweet guy." Endangered characteristics in our time, and especially in the trend-setting entertainment world.


Yes, depression, which reportedly largely figured in Williams' tragic suicide, needs far greater attention, and so do Alcoholic and other Anonymous groups, which likely assisted in his admirable 20 years of sobriety. And, incidentally, churches and temples where their meetings are often held should often commend them. Small-town newspapers wisely list their meetings.


But there are social factors, and as one obituary notes, including the fact that older white men are the group most likely to commit suicide. Their work life remains a priority (sometimes too much of one) but it may be endangered and ageism also affects even world-renowned talents like Williams, who may sometimes color the gray, to stay working. And what Warren Farrell called "the masculine mystique" seems more evident now than when his 1970's men's consciousness-raising groups worked to overcome anti-male images and demands.


Ah, and surely dreaded and totally debilitating neurological disorders like Parkinson's disease, which recently attacked Williams, need infinitely more research and support, not to mention more public understanding and concern.


But, from now on out, Robin Williams' unique sweetness of soul is what the world most urgently needs to remember, emulate and to proclaim. It can be done if enough of us try.


Bette Dewing


dewingbetter@aol.com


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