I need to write this now. Right now.
You don’t need to read this but I need to say this, not because it needs to be said but because I need to say it.
I need to get the words out at this moment because the conjecture has already started, speculation is rampant and the truth (which may or may not ever come out and is sincerely none of our business) may uncover things that are too sad, too hurtful or even hideous to conceive.
Suicide is like that. Depression is real and can be all consuming. Answers are rarely complete. And we are each only human.
At the moment, my remaining ignorance (save for the one truth that is still a bit unreal) is bliss.
In this moment – which is very much not about me – will be now arrogantly be made about me by me. You’ve been warned.
It was 1978 and the ridiculously silly TV Show “Mork and Mindy” was a first season hit, a new series that was born of an episode of “Happy Days” featuring a performer no one had heard of before but would never forget.
I was in eighth grade and my hidden, inner performer was intrigued. Hmmmm.
But it was his comedy album that captivated me…”Reality, What a Concept” along with the HBO special of the same time. Just this weekend I watched a clip of it on YouTube. He gave me another moment of joy while in his life at that moment he might have been hurting.
The birth of a comedy legend. What creativity, what energy.
What was this thing called improvisation?
How does one think so quickly with such humor?
Where do those voices come from?
And who else? Jonathan Winters? Red Skelton? Unknowingly, he was their student. I was his.
I memorized the album, I recited it for friends, I created new ideas from it and I let free form ideas flow out of my mouth (sometimes with success and sometimes not so much). But the tightrope walk was exhilarating…people laughed…better yet girls laughed. I was on to something.
As he went on he took chances in his career. He dared. He moved forward. I was not so brave.
I found shelter from such public daring, more often than not, behind a microphone or behind a desk. A toe in the water, maybe a foot, but never full immersion.
Timid, scared, unsure? Probably. Shy and introverted? Without question, yes.
But I watched him, learned and took to the stage when I felt sure enough that I could cause some enjoyment but little damage.
My words and ideas became less like him and more like me. That was good at least. And I couldn’t tell you from where in my brain the ideas came from – then or now. But that well would have remained untapped, I think, without him.
I was not an actor, I was barely a performer but I did my best when my time came. WWRD?
All this while, unto this moment, I laughed, I took mental notes, I listened, I observed his performance. I marveled still at this simple, human performance machine.
Now, he has created a void within me he didn’t know he had been responsible for filling all this time. So empty, yet paling in comparison to the void felt by his true family and friends. And maybe it was an unbearable painful void within himself that brought him down. Conjecture…shame on me.
Why?!!! Still I wonder.
Well, we people of good conscientious know the answer to that really isn’t our business. Can we ever again show some respect in a day when gossip passes for news?
Some matters shouldn’t be a Movie of The Week or some kind of hit film. Probably because we lack his creativity, it will be anyway, because of our society’s over-developed fascination with celebrity. It shouldn’t be that way.
Much in the same way one person shouldn’t make the tragic and unfathomable death of a kind of a long-distance teacher about him.
But he did anyway. And he meant it with all the respect and admiration he had banked in his heart for someone he never met and didn’t know. A poor man’s tribute.
With thanks and many prayers, good-bye and God bless.