Is not the subject of this column.
Hollywood lost two giants recently. Joan Rivers was just laid to rest. A few weeks ago, Robin Williams left us. I am not going to write in-depth tributes to these two amazing people; that has been done and will continue to be done for a long time. And there are many who know a lot more about both than I do, who can tell a lot more, and tell it better.
But isn’t it always the case that we lose someone or something when we can least afford to incur that loss? Every day brings a new catastrophe. I wake up in the morning thinking, “OK, what happened overnight? What will happen today?” ISIS, Hamas, Iraq, Yazidis, Ukraine, Boko Haram, Ebola, bigotry, anti-Semitism, et. al. The world appears to be going to hell, out of control, spiraling downward like an airplane on fire. When even a news junkie like me tires of the day’s latest tragedy, when my own aches and worries have taken too much attention, when I can take no more, I turn to what makes me want to smile and not cry. But when the laughter dies, then what?
Those who know me know I am a character, a Type A at-times-take-no-prisoners personality, who may not always be perfectly diplomatic. I can control myself for the most part, but I am no shrinking violet. (I can actually feel some relatives and friends thinking, “Tell me about it,” as they read this.) Taking the liberty of speaking for those among us who are characters in our own right, who love to enliven the room, who are quick with the quips and at times acerbic comments, who, for better or for worse it’s known when we arrive, when we are there and when we leave, I find the loss of Robin Williams and Joan Rivers, two brilliant and gifted pioneers, especially sad. They were like us. They couldn’t sit still. They had to talk and talk fast, because everyone needed to know what they were thinking and life was too short. We were not only entertained, we identified.
When Robin Williams or Joan Rivers entered our line of vision, like so many other fans, we perked up. We may not have liked every role or every comment, but we wanted to hear and see it all. They were not only a break from the mundane and the calamitous, they were a respite from the usual celebrity narcissism we find plastered all over the media. Some of those bereft of common sense are actually talented, mind you, and I admit that; others are simply celebrities just for being celebrities, with nothing more to show than a lot of skin and ex-husbands. Now don’t get me wrong. I am no prude, and I plead guilty to at times allowing myself to be titillated or amused, or just plain fascinated, as one spoiled heartthrob tries to break the world record for most mug shots taken of him in a 6-month period, and yet another pampered party animal goes in and out of court and rehab or jail with so much frequency, credit should be given not just for time served, but also for customer loyalty.
Look, the world needs entertainment, and yes, I believe it needs Hollywood and celebrities too. We love to hear about the super-rich and famous, and for multiple reasons. Fantasizing makes us human, and yes, even jealousy and anger may be useful emotions when they stir the imagination and make one industrious. But I shake my head each time an anti-role model’s escapades supersede what is more urgent and important, or when some train-wreck-coming, fortunate enough to have broken into the stratosphere of great fame and fortune, hurtles seemingly uncontrollably toward disaster.
I am saddened by the deaths of Robin Williams and Joan Rivers, but I also mourn for what else we have lost. They were not simply magnificent artists, they were a dying breed. (No pun intended. Well, maybe a little. But I am sure both Robin and Joan would appreciate that.) Beneath their hyper, larger-than-life personas, beneath the veneer of joyful genius, unlike the selfish celebrities who could care less about what really matters or anyone else, Robin Williams and Joan Rivers were like the rest of us. And we knew it. On our own levels, we felt their victories and their pain, their ups and downs. They were decent people who cared about more than just themselves. And because they were among the entertainment elite, that was important.
Robin and Joan, I would join so many others in telling you both to rest in peace, but wherever you are, I am sure you are gesticulating and saying so much and so fast, those souls nearby are already exhausted.
Thank you for being what you were. You could have each lived to 120 and your leaving this world would have still been too soon.