'Cocaine Is God's Way of Saying You're Making Too Much Money' BIOGRAPHY ROBINby David Itzkoff (Pan Macmillan [Euro]18.91)

Daily Mail (London), June 15, 2018 | Go to article overview

'Cocaine Is God's Way of Saying You're Making Too Much Money' BIOGRAPHY ROBINby David Itzkoff (Pan Macmillan [Euro]18.91)


Byline: ROGER LEWIS

ROBIN WILLIAMS was noisy to the point of cacophonous, energetic and peppy to the point of hypomania. His comic style, in his stand-up acts and more than 80 movies, was unrelenting, unrelaxed -- a shriek of multi-coloured consciousness. 'You got to be crazy,' he believed. 'Madness is the only way I've stayed alive.' Even as a child, Williams was the same. 'You couldn't keep up with his mind,' said a former schoolfriend. It was going so fast. He was going off on all these tangents.' It is not a surprise that only death could provide Williams with that 'quiet inwardness' which had always eluded him.

This is therefore a rather grim biography, as Williams's helter-skelter personality and frantic career were heading only in one possible direction. His suicide, in July 2014, was almost a foregone conclusion.

Williams's father was a wealthy executive in the Detroit motor industry. His mother was a southern belle. There were big homes, servants, a private education.

Although there were step-siblings, they were grown-up, and Williams, born in 1951, was more or less an only child, left to his own devices. He loved Danny Kaye, Peter Sellers and Alec Guinness movies.

At college, Williams was the class clown. 'I learned that by being entertaining, you make a connection with another person.' A contemporary remembered: 'He was a total show-off, but in a very endearing way ... He would almost literally bounce off the walls with craziness.' In 1973, he went to the Juilliard School to study drama, arriving in New York wearing Hawaiian shirts and thong sandals.

His professor was the venerable John Houseman, who pontificated about the sacredness of the theatre, 'and a week later we saw him in a Volvo commercial'.

Williams couldn't really be taught anything.

He wasn't able to rehearse or repeat himself, as that was stultifying, and was at his happiest in nightclubs, delivering an off-thecuff stand-up routine.

He'd pretend to be a clueless Russian, a venal evangelist or a munchkin. He'd speak in lots of different accents, and riffed about politicians ('I believe Ronald Reagan can make this country what it once was. A large Arctic region covered with ice'); city life ('Why do they call it rush hour when nothing moves?') and feminism ('If women ran the world we wouldn't have wars, just intense negotiations every 28 days'). Not all of this would find favour in 2018. He quickly came to the attention of television producers.

Mork And Mindy, in which Williams played an alien from the planet Ork confused by Earth's customs and technology, was created in the late 70s with his talents in mind.

His starting salary of $15,000 a week was increased to $40,000 as viewing figures rocketed to 26 million.

Williams's growing reputation, however, contributed to his eventual downfall. He'd discovered drugs and was soon to come out with his famous quip: 'Cocaine is God's way of saying you are making too much money. …

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