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Barry Levinson Remembers Robin Williams: ‘We All Lost a Friend’ (Guest Column)

Academy Award winner Barry Levinson directed Robin Williams in the first of his four Oscar-nominated performances, as the Armed Forces Radio DJ Adrian Cronauer in “Good Morning Vietnam.” Director and star went on to collaborate twice more, on 1992’s “Toys” and 2006’s “Man of the Year.” In addition, Williams guest starred on the second-season premiere of the Levinson-produced NBC series “Homicide: Life on the Street,” playing a tourist whose wife is killed during a hold-up on the streets of Baltimore – an appearance that earned him an Emmy nomination as Guest Actor in a Drama Series.

He was amazingly funny. Not the usual tell a joke funny. Some other kind of funny. A funny that defies all imagination. When he was on, he was the human version of a fireworks display. Funny ideas and characters traveling almost at the speed of light. “How is that possible?” More than one person has asked me over the years when Robin would go on a long wild comedic routine off the top of his head, “Where does he come up with this? Where does it come from?” There is no answer to the question. Genius cannot be explained. There are only a few among us who pass through this world with an ability that can’t be described or the process understood.

What makes his death so difficult to understand is the question “How can someone so funny be so sad?” We can reflect on it, try to understand it, analyze it, but nothing will truly answer the question. The fragility of the man, his sensitivity, his deep feelings for life….all that allowed for him to carve his comedic sensibilities, were the same feelings that took his life. He felt too much perhaps?

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There was always a kindness to Robin. An inquisitive man trying to understand the madness of mankind. But when the comedy motors were off, you could sense the vulnerability of the man. There was always a sense that he could easily be hurt. And if he were hurt, how quickly could he heal? A bleeder in a world of sharp edges. There was an innocence to his thoughtful intelligence. If there were an endangered species list for mankind, he would have been first on that list. He was perhaps too delicate for this difficult world. We lost one of a kind. We all lost a friend.

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