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Thursday, December 13 , 2018, 4:52 pm | Fair 72º


Rona Barrett: Robin Williams — Fears of a Clown

As the guy at the suicide hot line said, "Life isn't for everybody!"

OK, I know, suicide isn’t funny. But when Robin Williams told that joke we all laughed.

But we’re not laughing anymore.

He’s out of the headlines now, but still on my mind — for personal reasons and because people continue to ask me, “How could someone so funny do such a tragic thing?”

I was fortunate to interview Robin five times. The first was prior to his playing Mork from Ork in a style he described as CTS — Comedic Tourette’s Syndrome.

Here are a few personal impressions and memory grabs from those interviews.

The more you got to see him and know him, the more you realized that inside that head was an unending reel of unspooling genius film.

He was funny, it seemed to us, 24/7. But when he was safe at home, people close to him told me he let down his guard and went into deep depression.

Robin called cocaine "God’s way of saying that you’re making too much money.” When I first interviewed him, cocaine was fast becoming the new drug of choice in Hollywood. I knew he had addiction problems, but I never saw any of it.

He seemed to believe that it was his job to take care of others by being funny, alleviating the pain that he apparently felt.

He reminded me of Johnny Carson. Both would tell a little bit, reveal something, and the minute they thought, “Why did I say that?" they stopped and went back to making us laugh.

In a later interview I asked, “Robin, what do you think is the most tragic part of your life?” He was very silent and then said, "Needing my father’s approval.” His answer was so scary that he stopped himself — then returned to Ork.

The how and why questions are impossible to answer.

I do know, from personal experience, he may have thought, “I just can’t handle one more thing.”

Things get so black. I have experienced the blackness myself. This unfathomable sense of helplessness and hopelessness takes over from the bottom of your feet to the top of your head. The brain is being squeezed hard, like the blinders on a horse, they close in on you tighter and tighter, until you’re looking through your fingers but you can’t really see the daylight. You come to the conclusion: There’s only one way to end the pain.

I tried but, thankfully, didn’t succeed.

What prevented me from succeeding? I couldn’t believe that at 35 this was to be the end. I thought someone out there must have an answer. Knowing I couldn’t escape the blackness alone, without help, I was referred to a very good psychiatrist who I saw five or six days a week.

There's nothing wrong in seeking help. You’re not alone when you get dark feelings. And that is what you have to tell yourself. No matter how bad it is. You are not alone.

I got a second chance. I wish Robin Williams had a second chance.

Until next time, keep thinking the good thoughts ...

— In honor of her late father, entertainment journalist, author, senior activist and Santa Barbara County resident Rona Barrett is the driving force behind the Golden Inn & Village, the area’s first affordable senior living and care facility, scheduled to begin construction in early 2015. Contact her at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are her own.

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