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    Posted August 12, 2014 by
    jpb53
    Location
    Phoenix, Arizona
    Assignment
    Assignment
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    In Memoriam

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    Unusual Restaurant guest

     
    It was the summer of 1981. I had just come back from 18 months in the United States and was working in a small, hole in the wall restaurant in Antibes on the French Riviera. I was 20 years old and trying to reacclimate to living in France. It was early evening and we were getting ready for the rush. I was standing at the front desk when the door opened and 6 guests came in. Right away, I could tell they were Americans. I looked up and my eyes fell upon a face that was strangely familiar yet I could not place it right away. He had tender eyes and a gentle smile which made me feel very happy at that moment. Then it hit me! “I know you!” I exclaimed while pointing to him. He smiled ever so humbly and said: “how do you know me?”. Without missing a beat, I said resoundingly: “you are Mork!”. His friends bursted out laughing and he looked at me somewhat perplexed. He added: “how do you know that? My show is not broadcasted in France yet?”. I explained to him that I had spent the last 18 months in the US and was an avid fan of his show and his character. We chatted for a couple of minutes while my fellow waiters were prepping his table. He shook my hand with enthusiasm and I showed him to his table. I said to him “Mr. Williams, it is a true honor to have you here and let me know if you need anything at all!”

    Our restaurant was made up of about a dozen tables. We had a capacity of about 40 to 45 people. That night we were full and our patrons were  all French except for his table. What was usually a very quiet, quaint little neighborhood restaurant became a boisterous gathering of old friends. Robin seemed totally unaffected by the fact that none of the people around him understood a word he said. He spent more time on his feet than he did sitting down. He would visit every table and somehow found a way to instill laughter to the bewildered French diners who were trying to grasp and understand this rather strange and endearing character. If I had to describe him then and now, I would say that Robin Williams is the "Hummingbird of comedy". He goes from one person to another injecting each one with the nectar of laughter and happiness, his lips never stopping for even an instant very much like the wings of the Hummingbird committed not to miss a single opportunity to entertain.

    That night was no different. Robin was electrifying, an absolute joy to watch and completely unaware that no one in that restaurant spoke his language except for his friends, myself and Roger, my Australian friend. The amazing trait of his personality is that he never spent any time thinking he might not be funny. Somehow he knew he was going to reach everyone's funnybone and tickle it like no other comedian could.

    He was always on like the Energizer Bunny of comedy. He went into the tiny kitchen and got Mr. Donato, the owner, to laugh hysterically even though he was known to be quite a grouch. He did not walk anywhere. He ran from tables to tables, in and out of the kitchen carrying food, up and down the stairs and even answered the restaurant phone in front of me. I watched him, mesmerized and amazed by his comedic genius, shaking my head in disbelief of how truly entertaining he was even when he was not supposed to be performing.

    Every customer who left our establishment stopped by his table and shook his hand. They thanked him for the most wonderful experience they ever had in a restaurant and were still laughing on their way out the door. When he left, he shook my hand with a big smile and said “Nano, Nano" and walked out of my life forever.

    I never had a chance to see him again. My son Elliot was lucky enough to catch up with him in New York a couple years ago. He had been his idol growing up when we watched Mrs. Doubtfire more time than I can remember. That encounter, however brief, is a precious moment Elliot will treasure forever.

    I remembered sitting on the stoop, next to the door Robin opened just a few hours ago and subsequently delivering to me one of the fondest memories of my life. I watched him throughout the years since then blossoming into a truly gifted actor and one of the kindest and warmest human beings I have ever been privileged to know, even if it was for a very short time.

    On this Monday night, August 11, 2014, I feel immense sorrow. I still remember that instant when our eyes met for the first time. His twinkling eyes gently caressing my soul and making me smile, unbeknownst to me. He had that ability to make you feel good, no matter what it took. His gentle smile was also hard to ignore. His kindness was contagious. The legacy he leaves behind is one few human beings could aspire to build. He was a celebrity but never celebrated himself. Everything he ever did was to bring happiness to others, regardless what it took from him internally. 

    Good night Robin Williams! Whether you were a woman, a DJ, a doctor or an alien, you will always be for me “the Hummingbird of comedy” and we all are better human beings because of you…. 

    Thank you,

    Jean-Pierre Brietta

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