I will admit that as a tour guide, I didn’t get a lot of the really high-profile tours. Early on, I was deemed “great with kids and dignitaries,” and while that may seem like a compliment, that means I got tours with a lot of kid and teen actors and singers and heads of state. That meant not the “big” tours I wanted as an early twenty-something, with folks like Tom Hanks or Steven Spielberg. So when I was told that I was going to be taking Robin Williams on tour with his family and friends (along with my friend and fellow guide Jacqueline), I was needless to say, thrilled. I was a long-time fan of Mr. Williams and couldn’t believe that I was going to meet someone who had brought so much laughter and joy to people.
I’m not sure who I was expecting to meet on the first day of the three-day tour. I think I was expecting him to walk into the Disneyland Hotel yelling “Goooood Morning, Disneyland!” ala the movie “Good Morning, Vietnam.” My friend Dave recently reminded me that I was worried before the tour that Mr. Williams would turn everything I said into punchlines. I was totally wrong on both assumptions.
I am not going to begin to act like I knew Robin Williams, because three days of walking around Disneyland with a man and his friends does not even an acquaintance make, and to make any sort of firm judgement of who this amazing man was would be nothing short of an insult to the people who knew him well. Moreover, time does cruel things to the mind and I regretfully don’t remember a lot from those three days back in May of 1996, but what I do remember will stay with me forever.
Jacequeline and I waited for hours for the Williams family to show up at the Concierge Level of the Disneyland Hotel. Their flight had been delayed and it felt as if they would never show up. As Mr. Williams walked through the doors he wasn’t Mork… or loud… or anything like what I had built up in my brain. He was just a dad, with his family… exhausted from a flight from Northern California that took entirely too long. He walked by us, almost shyly, barely making eye contact. My heart beat so fast and loud, I swore he could hear it.
I consider myself a good (make that great) judge of character. When my gut tells me something about a person, it’s almost always right. As our time together in the park lingered a few things about Mr. Williams became very clear. He was a very deep, soulful person–so much more than his jokes. He was insightful and kind and loved making people laugh. He could turn “it” on in an instant and seemed to love it when children in Toontown called him “Peter Pan” or “that lady” (from Mrs. Doubtfire). I remember him going on a riff in front of some guests in New Orleans Square just as we were walking into the Blue Bayou for lunch and then sitting down and only minutes later having an incredible meal in which we all talked about politics and his relationship with the Clintons. I hung on his every word. I was completely in awe of his complexity and ability to be so publicly funny and zany one minute and incredibly deep, passionate and articulate on current affairs and politics the next. To my 21-year-old brain, he was the most fascinating person I had ever met.
Perhaps the one moment that truly stands out for me was when we visited Goofy’s Kitchen for breakfast. During the meal, the Genie character visited our table. The Genie! What a sight to behold! The Genie and Robin Williams side by side. And if you think this was a treat for the rest of us, you are right, but what transpired between Mr. Williams and his beautiful daughter Zelda was pure magic. She couldn’t wrap her mind around how the Genie and her dad were standing side by side. It was so beautiful and so special as he did the voice and she looked on–partially puzzled, partially amazed and totally in love with her daddy. I hope she remembers that moment, because it has been forever seared in my brain.
On Monday, I was back-to-school shopping with my children when I looked down at my phone while paying for new clothes at the Gap. There was a text from my husband that read, “Robin Williams committed suicide.” I stopped in my tracks. My heart sank. I looked at my own children and felt a lump in my throat. He was a dad. I had seen the way he loved his kids. I had seen the way he loved making people laugh. I had seen that he was more than the laughs. Just from those three short days, I had become more than a fan of his work, I was a fan of Robin Williams the person.
During this time, my heart is with Mr. Williams’ children, especially his daughter Zelda who has experienced negativity in social media and has decided to suspend the use of her social media accounts. I can’t blame her, but hope that one day she returns to social media and knows that those trolls are worthless and don’t matter because they are only there to be hurtful to fragile targets. I hope she sees this post and knows that there are millions of people who feel sadness over the loss of her father, including me.
|One of my most treasured possessions: After the tour
with the Williams family, I was sent a bound copy of the
script from the movie “Toys” autographed with the inscription:
You give great tour.