- Posted August 11, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Salmon Headed Friend
- hhanks, CNN iReport producer
In the summer of 2002 I was living in New York City, eagerly awaiting a visit from my sister. I found out that Robin Williams was going to be performing stand up on Broadway, and thought it would a nice treat to buy us tickets. It was only a few days before the performance, so I was excited that I managed to get two tickets, even though I knew they were in terrible seats.
I had also recently dyed my hair what I thought would be purple, but turned out as a bright magenta. No matter - I was unemployed; a victim of the dot-com bust and the post-9/11 employment issues. Who needed normal hair when I hadn't had a job interview in months?
When we arrived at the theater we discovered two important things: first, the performance was being filmed. For what, we didn't actually know. And second, our tickets were as terrible as I thought. We were in the third row from the very back.
It could have been worse - at least we were in the center section with an unobstructed view. And we were together, in NYC, getting ready to see Robin Williams live. We had grown up watching his standup show, "Live at the Met", on HBO, enjoying the occasional Mork and Mindy episode, and being dedicated fans.
While waiting for the show to start, a man appeared at the end of our row, with an official looking ID on a lanyard.
"Do you like Robin Williams?" he asked.
My sister and I were a little hesitant to answer. "Yesss..." we replied together.
"Do you like to laugh?"
"Yessss," we both replied in unison, a little more excitement creeping into our voices.
"Give me your tickets," he demanded. And we handed them over.
He handed us two brand new tickets, and while we sat staring at him, stunned, he gestured his arms at us and his meaning was clear: Go find your seats!
We mumbled our Thank Yous and started down the stairs, not looking at the tickets until the next landing, and only then registering that the ticket said "Row A".
Disbelief was the prominent emotion at the moment. Were we really going to the front row? That couldn't be possible! But as we looked at the row letters on the seats and kept walking further and further down the stairs, we realized that it was true: we had been sent to the front row, close to the center.
We looked around us, most of the audience now behind us instead of in front of us. It was then we spied the celebrities dotting the rows. I can't remember who we saw except for one - Christopher Reeve. Although he was far from where we sat, there was no mistaking his wheelchair and the shape of his face from where we were. We had no idea what a big production this show really was.
When the show started Mr. Williams walked up and down the stage, clapping and smiling, and my sister and I were right there in the front row, clapping our hardest and smiling with him. Even though we knew we were on camera, and had been planted in the front row for what the producers hoped would be excellent audience shots, our joy and laughter was genuine. As child fans of such a big personality we knew we could never be close to him, and here as adults we had the means, the luck, and the uncanny timing to be closer to him than we had ever imagined.
He walked along the stage and exclaimed, "Hello, my little salmon-headed friend!" putting his hands on either side of my glowing magenta hair.
Right then I knew I would never in my life forget that moment.
At the end of the show he came towards me with arms spread, and I met him with my own open arms, as he leaned down and gave me the biggest, sweatiest hug I had ever experienced. The childhood association immediately took over - when the hug was broken and I withdrew with his sweat all over my face, neck, shoulders, and arms, I thought of Marcia Brady after Davy Jones from the Monkees kissed her: "I'm never washing this cheek again!"
But childhood thoughts are fleeting, and the adult in me knew a nice shower was on the agenda for later that evening. It was just a man's sweat, after all. Even if that man was Robin Williams.
I had always wanted to try and get his autograph on two pictures of me and my sister from my apartment before the show. I even had copies of the picture made, and did some quick research on how to send him fan letters. But life intervened, and I put them to the side, figuring I would get to it some other time. And I had this small hope, ever so slight, that maybe, just maybe, he would remember me, and maybe it would give him a small amount of joy to know and understand how much that time on Broadway meant to me.
12 years later I remember that evening with full clarity. And i have a good story to tell, and the proof on the DVD release of Robin Wiliams "Live on Broadway".
You will be missed, Mr. Williams. And the laughter and joy you brought to millions will never be forgotten.
Your little salmon-headed friend