Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams

It was about 3 o'clock in the morning in the fall of 1975, at the gas station where I worked on Lombard Street in San Francisco.  An old VW came rolling in slowly, and after a moment a young man about my own age stepped out and asked for a dollar's worth of gas "just to get me across the bridge."

Gas was 50c a gallon in those days but it still didn't take long to pump in a buck's worth. As I did, he started telling me about his day-- the places he'd been, the people he'd met, the routine things he'd done-- in the most hilarious, engaging, impressionistic detail. Within a few moments I was chuckling at everything he said, at the way he imitated the voices and mannerisms of various people. I managed to get in a few comebacks but mostly I listened in amazement as he laid out what amounted to a five-minute comic synopsis of the Human Condition.

After a moment he looked at me, shrugged, held his hands palms-up and said, "Sorry, man, I don't have a dollar for the gas. I'm flat broke."

I roared and clapped him on the shoulder: "Don't worry about it," I said. "I've spent ten times that much in clubs and never laughed half as much. You," I said, "oughta be in show business."      

Little did I know. We shook hands and went our separate ways, and I never saw him again,  until three years later when the TV show "Mork and Mindy" came on-- and I took one look at Mork. "That's HIM! That's-- The Guy!"

He was a true comic genius, and he will be missed.  RIP Robin.