TIME celebrities

Robin Williams’ Ashes Scattered Over San Francisco Bay

Robin Williams at "The Crazy Ones" Press Conference at the Four Seasons Hotel on October 8, 2013 in Beverly Hills.
Robin Williams at "The Crazy Ones" Press Conference at the Four Seasons Hotel on October 8, 2013 in Beverly Hills. Vera Anderson—WireImage/Getty Images

The day after comedy legend Robin Williams was found dead in his Tiburon, California, home, he was cremated and his ashes were scattered “in San Francisco Bay off the coast of Marin County,” according to his death certificate obtained by NBC News on Thursday…

Read the rest of the story at NBC News

TIME Appreciation

Mara Wilson Pens a Beautiful Tribute to Her Mrs. Doubtftire Dad Robin Williams

Kobal
Twentieth Century Fox

"Robin Williams, as I knew him, was warm, gentle, expressive, nurturing, and brilliant"

Former child star Mara Wilson, who memorably played Robin Williams’ daughter in Mrs. Doubtfire, said she was too devastated last week to talk openly about the actor’s shocking death. Three days after the fact, she posted a “quick update” on her blog, briefly explaining that she was felt “shocked, confused angry, regretful, and above all, sad.”

Now, having had a week to process her emotions a bit more, the 27-year-old has posted a beautiful, thoughtful tribute.

“He always reminded me a little of my father,” she begins. “Robin Williams, as I knew him, was warm, gentle, expressive, nurturing, and brilliant. While it can be hard for me to remember filming Doubtfire, I’ve been flooded with memories in the past few days.”

She recalls his brilliant comedic mind and his ability to relate to kids without ever being patronizing or condescending. But she also remembers seeing a more vulnerable side of his personality:

Robin was so on so much of the time that I was surprised to hear my mother describe him as “shy.” “When he talks to you,” she told her friends, “he’ll be looking down at his shoes the whole time.” I figured he must have been different with grown-ups. I wouldn’t see that side of him myself until a few years later, when I was invited to be part of a table read of What Dreams May Come. … Robin crossed to me from across the room, got down to my level, and whispered “Hi, how are you?” He asked how my family was doing, how school was, never raising his voice and only sometimes making eye contact. He seemed so vulnerable.

Read Wilson’s full blog post here.

TIME celebrity

Robin Williams Recorded This Video Message for a Terminally Ill Fan Before He Died

He was helping a 21-year-old mom with cancer finish her bucket list

Robin Williams recorded a video message a few months before he died to cheer up a terminally-ill fan, New Zealand’s Sunday-Star Times reports.

Vivian Waller, 21, who is living with cancer in an Auckland hospice, drew up a bucket list in January that included getting married, seeing her daughter turn one, and meeting Robin Williams, the beloved actor who took his own life on Aug. 11.

While the first two items have been completed, she has been too sick to travel to the U.S. to meet the star, so he emailed her this approximately 30-second clip instead.

“Hey girl, what’s going on down there in New Zealand? Sending all my love to you,” Williams says in the video. “Mark this off your bucket list.”

TIME Appreciation

Pizza Place Honors Robin Williams With Awesome Themed Specials

For example: the Pork & Mindy pizza and the Good Will Hotwing

People around the country have been finding all kinds of ways to honor Robin Williams following his shocking death Monday. In Brooklyn, the employees of Vinnie’s Pizzeria created a tribute that was a bit tastier than the rest. They named their specials after some of the actor’s most memorable works and displayed them on a whiteboard next to some lovely illustrations:

Vinnie’s is known for its pop culture-themed specials and corresponding illustrations — seriously, check these out, because they’re really great — but this one definitely stands out as a lovely tribute to a fallen star.

(h/t Grubstreet)

TIME celebrities

Michael J. Fox ‘Stunned’ to Hear About Robin Williams’ Parkinson’s Diagnosis

Robin Williams and Michael J. Fox during "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Cure Parkinson's..." Benefiting the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research 2004 at The Waldorf Astoria in New York City.
Robin Williams, left, and Michael J. Fox during "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Cure Parkinson's ..." benefiting the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City in 2004 KMazur—WireImage/Getty Images

Williams committed suicide Monday

Actor Michael J. Fox tweeted Thursday evening that he was “stunned” to learn that Robin Williams, who was found dead after committing suicide in his home Monday, had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

Fox, who was himself diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1991, sent the tweet after Williams’ wife, Susan Schneider, released a statement saying her husband was in the early stages of the disease.

“Robin’s sobriety was intact and he was brave as he struggled with his own battles of depression, anxiety as well as early stages of Parkinson’s Disease, which he was not yet ready to share publicly,” the statement read. Williams was 63 when he died.

Fox tweeted on Monday after the initial announcement about Williams’ death:

Fox did not disclose his condition until seven years after his diagnosis. Since then, he has established the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and continued to act. Recently, he has had recurring roles on The Good Wife, Boston Legal and Rescue Me. He also starred in the short-lived The Michael J. Fox Show last year.

Parkinson’s affects nearly 10 million people, according to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. It is a movement disorder that attacks the nerve cells in the brains, resulting in trembling of the hands, arms, legs and face. The progressive disease gets worse over the course of time.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

Robin Williams’ Parkinson’s: The Link Between the Chronic Disease and Depression

Robin Williams
Tracey Nearmy—EPA

Williams' widow reveals actor was battling early Parkinson's

Receiving a positive diagnosis for Parkinson’s can be devastating. It’s a chronic disease that progressively worsens, causing formerly competent men and women to gradually lose control of their own bodies, and it’s the second most common neurodegenerative disorder after Alzheimer’s. As revealed on Thursday by his wife, the late actor and comedian Robin Williams was privately battling the early stages of Parkinson’s on top of his more public struggles with anxiety and depression.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) acknowledges there is a link between Parkinson’s and depression, though the association is not always biological. It’s estimated that about half of all people with Parkinson’s will experience depression at some point during the disease. For some, depression can be spurred as a result of receiving the diagnosis, learning that the new ailment may turn their mind against their body.

Other research has shown that depression may be the result of biological factors that the two diseases share and that a chemical imbalance in the brain could contribute to both. For instance, changes in levels of hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain, like dopamine and serotonin, caused by Parkinson’s may increase the likelihood that a person will also develop depression, since both are involved in mood regulation. But it should be noted that Williams’ depression and anxiety were likely established separately from his Parkinson’s.

What’s known about the connection is that having depression on top of Parkinson’s can negatively influence the outlook for the disease. People who have both depression and Parkinson’s have higher levels of anxiety and trouble moving, according to the NIH, compared to people who have just one or the other. Similarly, individuals with both diseases may have greater difficulty concentrating than people who suffer from depression alone.

Williams’ death, by an apparent suicide earlier this week, is a reminder of the weight that people with both diseases carry. As Williams’ wife said, “It is our hope in the wake of Robin’s tragic passing, that others will find the strength to seek the care and support they need to treat whatever battles they are facing so they may feel less afraid.”

TIME celebrities

Robin Williams Was Battling Parkinson’s Disease, Wife Says

Susan Schneider and Robin Williams
Gilbert Carrasquillo—FilmMagic/Getty Images

Says "sobriety was intact" when he died

The wife of Robin Williams revealed Thursday that at the time of his death, the late comedian was not only battling depression and anxiety but the early stages of Parkinson’s Disease.

“Robin’s sobriety was intact and he was brave as he struggled with his own battles of depression, anxiety as well as early stages of Parkinson’s Disease, which he was not yet ready to share publicly,” said Susan Schneider, in a statement.

Parkinson’s affects nearly 10 million people, according to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. The National Institutes of Health cites that “for people with depression and Parkinson’s disease, each illness can make symptoms of the other worse.” Research linking the two has focused on depression following a diagnosis, but it can be assumed that the actor’s depression predated his Parkinson’s diagnosis.

Schneider was Williams’ third wife. Read her entire statement below.

“Robin spent so much of his life helping others. Whether he was entertaining millions on stage, film or television, our troops on the frontlines, or comforting a sick child — Robin wanted us to laugh and to feel less afraid.

Since his passing, all of us who loved Robin have found some solace in the tremendous outpouring of affection and admiration for him from the millions of people whose lives he touched. His greatest legacy, besides his three children, is the joy and happiness he offered to others, particularly to those fighting personal battles.

Robin’s sobriety was intact and he was brave as he struggled with his own battles of depression, anxiety as well as early stages of Parkinson’s Disease, which he was not yet ready to share publicly.

It is our hope in the wake of Robin’s tragic passing, that others will find the strength to seek the care and support they need to treat whatever battles they are facing so they may feel less afraid.”

TIME celebrity

Cast of Broadway’s Aladdin Pays a Special Musical Tribute to Robin Williams

Remembering Williams' classic role as the Genie in 1992

On Wednesday, Broadway theaters across New York City dimmed their lights to honor to Robin Williams. But the previous night, one particular group of Broadway performers paid a much livelier tribute to the actor, who died Monday at 63.

After their performance, the cast of the musical version of Aladdin took a moment to pay their respects and then lead the audience in a singalong rendition of “Friend Like Me.” Williams, of course, sang this song when he played the Genie in the 1992 animated Disney movie.

James Monroe Iglehart, who plays the Genie on Broadway, also spoke a bit about Williams’ incredible talent and influence, calling him “one of the greatest — not comedians — but one of the greatest entertainers of all time.”

 

TIME Media

Genius, Mensch, Sad Clown: Dissecting What Robin Williams Really Meant to People

Robin Williams
Peter Hapak for TIME

The words used to describe the icon have a rich history that makes them even more appropriate than people realize

The world has lost a lot this week: a comedic genius, a real mensch, a sad clown. Remembrances of actor and comedian Robin Williams, who was found dead on Monday, have repeatedly summed him up with the same few words.

Some readers were learning the terms that cycled and recycled through the news. After Steve Martin tweeted his reaction to Williams’ death—“I could not be more stunned by the loss of Robin Williams, mensch, great talent, acting partner, genuine soul.”—mensch became the fifth most searched word on Google.

But even those who didn’t have to thumb through their dictionaries may be surprised to learn the history behind these suddenly ubiquitous words, much of which makes them even more appropriate for the sad task they’ve had this week.

“Robin Williams, an Improvisational Genius, Forever Present in the Moment”

— New York Times headline on August 11, 2014

genius (n.)

In the Middle Ages, a genius was a supernatural being. In classic Latin, the word referred to the male spirit living in the head of a family, which was then passed into everyone else through him. And in the Middle Ages, genius came to describe an attendant spirit that was assigned to each person at birth, and sometimes two mutually opposed spirits (you know, the good genius and the evil genius). This same root gave rise to the word genie, like the lamp-dwelling one Williams’ voiced in Aladdin, who could be good or evil depending on who his master was.

Because a genius was to accompany people through life, fulfilling their fortunes and then escorting them off the mortal coil, the word came to refer to the essential character of someone and their natural aptitudes for things. And so writers using it now to refer to Williams’ singular talents are also, likely unknowingly, connoting a battle of the selves that geniuses have represented throughout history.

I could not be more stunned by the loss of Robin Williams, mensch, great talent, acting partner, genuine soul.

— Steve Martin (@SteveMartinToGo) August 11, 2014

mensch (n.)

This Yiddish word is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as a person of integrity who is morally just. But there is more to the word’s aura than that. Yiddish scholars could argue endlessly about the precise nuances, but mensch is often used to describe someone who is not only admirable but who should be emulated, a willing mentor who thinks beyond themselves in a way that shows strong character, not passivity.

Writer H.L. Mencken described a mensch this way: “an upright, honorable, decent person” and “someone of consequence.” Others argue that a mensch must be approachable and that a true mensch would never call himself a mensch, probably because he’s too busy putting the community above himself.

Like many Yiddish words, this one has been adopted into the American vernacular in a way that is evolving and richly imprecise. But most qualities assigned to the word, however Steve Martin meant it, have been reflected in other words people have recently used to describe what Williams’ was like as a family member and neighbor. The local comedy club in Mill Valley, Calif., where Williams could often be found backstage encouraging young comedians, canceled their weekly comedy night for the first time in 10 years this Tuesday, out of respect for their mensch.

The word’s origins are related to those of mannish. No, not the mannish we use now to refer to hairy or masculine folk, but a long obsolete usage. In Old English, being “mannish” meant one was of mankind, exhibiting humanity itself and human nature. And being mannish is at the heart of comedy, the quality of unspoken truths Williams’ indirectly told his audiences about, and made them laugh about, through his jokes and voices. You know, it’s funny because it’s true.

Robin Williams the ‘sad clown’

— Toronto Sun headline on August 11, 2014

(sad) clown (n.)

The word clown originally meant something along the lines of “lump.” From there, the word came to describe a clumsy boor or a lout—often some crass hayseed-type with no class or culture. Circa Shakespearean times, clowns evolved as fools who played up their ignorance or cultivated oddity for laughs, either in a court or on a stage. They were servants and sidekicks who might humiliate themselves, and hide their true selves, for others’ pleasure. And they could use that distance to mock more powerful figures by transforming themselves into something grotesque—and funny.

In Europe’s Romantic days, the notion of a sad clown—the type of character whose costume romantically masks inner turmoil—became popular. Part of this comes from the Italian Commedia dell’Arte theater that relied on certain stock characters that cropped up again and again. One of them was a bumpkin that actors began playing as a melancholy clown. Literary types were drawn to the sad clown as a character who was a creative master unappreciated by the public (no doubt because some of them felt that way themselves).

Certainly Robin Williams was appreciated, though perhaps not for the whole artist he might have been, after deviating from the Flubber era into more serious, darker roles. But he came to the American public as a clown. His first big part, as an alien learning human behavior on Mork & Mindy, was a creature weird and unrefined, a figure on the margins of humanity that knew life on this planet in a different way than the rest of us, in all its cruel, lovely sense and nonsense.

This is an edition of Wednesday Words, a weekly feature on language. For the previous post, click here.

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