Robin, Richard and the Fates

This was originally going to be written 10 days ago, to commemorate history’s yard waste, but that never happened. (oh, I’ll get to Milhouse, have no fear) Enough has been written about him to make David McCollough jealous. His mere presence, from his ascendancy to fall, has put the Republican Party a Khan-like single-mindedness hell-bent on destroying whoever or whatever they feel like, including themselves, to get revenge. But more on that later.

I was going to write about all that, even last week, but then Robin died. Which in a strange way, ties in with Nixon. Back in 1970, Robert Altman made the most subversive anti-war movie about a war that showed the comedy and pathos and futility of war and life. The movie, M*A*S*H, was set a generation before it, in Korea, except (most) all references to Korea were taken out. Making it the perfect anti-war movie for the war in Vietnam. It made stars out of Donald Southerland, Elliott Gould, Tom Skeritt, Robert Duval, Sally Kellerman and featured the most hilarious football game in cinematic history. But the subplot was the horrors of war and the destruction it brings, both on an emotional and physical scale.

The Unit’s dentist, unable to consummate with a nurse, decides that suicide is the only way out. Played brilliantly by John Schuck, he is both wise and foolish at the same time. In the movie’s most macabre and poignant scene, Schuck’s character, fearful that he might be a homosexual because of his malfunction with a visiting nurse, asks advice on a reliable method. Hawkeye, Trapper and Duke suggest that he use the “black capsule”, a fictitious fast-acting poison. At a farewell banquet that satirizes The Last Supper, Walt takes the capsule (actually a sleeping pill) and falls asleep in a coffin. Hawkeye persuades Lt. Maria Schneider to spend the night with Walt and cure him of his “problem.”

The song used at the beginning of the movie alludes to this subplot. It was written and preformed by Johnny Mandell.

Through early morning fog I see
Visions of the things to be
The pains that are withheld for me
I realize and I can see…
[REFRAIN]:
That suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it if I please.
I try to find a way to make
All our little joys relate
Without that ever-present hate
But now I know that it’s too late, and…
[REFRAIN]
The game of life is hard to play
I’m gonna lose it anyway
The losing card I’ll someday lay
So this is all I have to say.
[REFRAIN]
The only way to win is cheat
And lay it down before I’m beat
And to another give my seat
For that’s the only painless feat.
[REFRAIN]
The sword of time will pierce our skins
It doesn’t hurt when it begins
But as it works its way on in
The pain grows stronger…watch it grin, but…
[REFRAIN]
A brave man once requested me
To answer questions that are key
Is it to be or not to be
And I replied ‘oh why ask me?’
[REFRAIN]
‘Cause suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it if I please.
…and you can do the same thing if you please.

Which, in a roundabout way, brings us back to both Robin and History’s yard waste. Robin Williams suicide and the reason’s behind it will remain a mystery even to those closest to him. He was an introvert who made us laugh and much like his hero, Jonathon Winters, struggled with depression most of his adult life. I personally think most adults are depressed at some level if you dig deep enough.

There was a movie of his that I had never seen before until yesterday called “World’s Greatest Dad”. It is a story of a father of a lonely teenager who dies while masturbating. Williams makes it look like a suicide and writes a fake suicide note and subsequent book about his son, supposedly taken from his journal. The book becomes a best-seller and Williams is a celebrity, gets the girl of his dreams (sort of) and appears on an Oprah-esque TV show to talk about the book and has offers to make a movie from the book.

His moment of clarity comes at the end of the movie, when he confesses as the school’s library was to be named in his son’s honor. After his faux-girlfriend dumps him and his students abandon him, he runs out of the room and down the hall, stripping himself naked as he runs to the school’s natatorium and jumps off the seven-meter board into the pool. His voice over is heard to say this:

“I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is ending up with people who make you feel all alone.”

In that way, Nixon was alone too. He never trusted anyone, not even his staff. It was his greatest failing as a President and a man. I was 15 when he resigned from office, a mere teenager finding my way in a world that i’m still trying to figure out 40 years later.

There was one good thing that came out of that summer. ABC had a summer replacement show called “Happy Days,” which starred Ron Howard, Henry Winkler and Tom Bosley. It was the summer’s biggest hit, so much so that it was brought back as a permanent show in January, 1975. Three years later, the show introduced us to a far-out character named “Mork” an alien who landed in Milwaukee and took on the Fonz. He appeared on two episodes and were the two highest rated shows of the season. The actor who played this alien? Robin Williams. Garry Marshall, the producer, saw gold in that character and the rest is history. Good history. So, Nixon, a relic of the past, inadvertently gave us a show set in the past but gave us someone so unique and transcendent not even his sudden death will diminish his accomplishments.

In the meantime, Nixon, along with Hoover, keep digging deep in the ninth level. Nixon, I’m sure, keeps asking “If we keep digging, will we get to China?” No, Dick, you’re just making room for Cheney, Bush and the rest of them.

Oh, the eternal question: Whatever happened to Chuck Cunningham?

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7 Responses to “Robin, Richard and the Fates”

  1. Andy k Says:

    History is a tangled web indeed, Mr. A.

  2. Dan Riley Says:

    Nice job of weaving people and event here, Kent…one of your best

  3. rollingwheelie Says:

    Thanks, Dan.

  4. Robin Lux Says:

    I must agree with Dan, well done!

  5. rollingwheelie Says:

    Dan, Robin, thanks. And Andrew, you know that I have a unique view of things. 😉

  6. lisa A Rycus Says:

    thanks Kent…..I always enjoy your writings! I wish I was as eloquent as you are.

  7. rollingwheelie Says:

    Well, thank you. 🙂

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