August 11, 2014

Back in the 80s, when I was doing concert lighting at the Uptown Theater in Kansas City, I was involved in a lot of shows and had some interesting things happen…my first time on a stage to fix something during a concert ( it was either Johnny Rivers or a metal show of some kind), the potential of going to Europe on tour with a band, drinking Scotch with the drummer of Quiet Riot in their heyday… And many other things.

One of the coolest things, however, was pretty amazing and unbelievable then and now. We had just gotten done tearing down the stage and got the truck loaded after a show that I believe was Karla Bonoff. Jean Luc Ponty was there the night before as I remember (it has, after all, been 30+ years). We went inside, and there was a member of one of the two bands on the piano, and the other was playing another instrument – perhaps a guitar.

Milling around on the stage was someone who caught us all by surprise…someone who was an enormous celebrity at the time. It was Robin Williams.

He was riding around K.C. in a limo, stopping at comedy clubs unannounced and taking the stage and doing improv as only he could. He stopped by the Uptown and hung out with us, partying and having a good time. You could see he was always thinking of things to say, looking around and cracking jokes about things like the clothes one of the bar guys had on (a fishnet shirt – worthy of ridicule).

He was the top guy in entertainment at the time and was tomgetbeven bigger as we all found out. He also seemed to be a reluctant celebrity but absolutely a genuinely nice, likable guy and very humble. He was the only celebrity that several of us asked for an autograph from during my time at the Uptown.

I have that autograph still to this day in my scrapbook.

Today is a sad day in that we lost one of the absolute great talents in our lifetime – a guy whose timing, quick wit, and intensity will never be seen again. My hope is that this tragic loss will perhaps make it feel a little closer to home and these issues will be taken seriously and watched out for and help is gotten by and for those who need it.

I have seen this happen before on a more personal level, and dammit… Get the help if you need it.

It is hard for us to imagine what it is like to be trapped in that gilded cage of fame. You think of the parties, the debauchery, the massive amounts of money and the trappings that come with it. People try to achieve it and then try to avoid it when they do find it. Those of us who have worked behind the scenes of concerts and such got to see some of it firsthand, but didn’t live it day in and day out nor to the extent of those in the limelight. I cannot imagine the feeling of being “trapped” like that.

R.I.P, Mr. Williams. Thanks for the fond memories of a late night all those years ago. Thank you also for some great movies and for the laughs. Your “Live at the Met” concert was one of the funniest things ever put on video.

I hope you found peace…

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