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  • Approved for CNN

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    Posted August 13, 2014 by
    rossgipson
    Location
    Glen Carbon, Illinois
    Assignment
    Assignment
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    In Memoriam

    My Two Hours With Robin Williams

     

    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     rossgipson told me, 'This meeting meant a lot for me because I was getting to meet someone I admired greatly, but it was the meeting itself that had the most lasting impression. I think everyone expected Robin to be the extemporaneous comedy juggernaut at all times, and when I talked to him off stage he was not that at all. He was kind, gentle, and warm. He talked for hours about his early work, and then he turned the tables and began asking me about my life - who I was, where I grew up, who my parents were, what my plans for the future were, what going through cancer was, what living in the aftermath of it was like. He wanted to know about the kind of art I did. He wanted to know about the music I write. He wanted to know everything. And the entire time I never felt like I was talking to Robin Williams the super famous comedian. I felt like I was talking to Robin Williams the human who was genuinely interested in the life of every person he ever came into contact with. I think seeing this side of him meant more to me than any of his movies, TV shows, or comedy specials. He made me feel like we were old friend and had been my whole life.'
    - hhanks, CNN iReport producer

    In 1999, I was fortunate enough to meet Robin Williams at a fundraising event for Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. For those not familiar with the camp, Hole in the Wall is a camp for children with cancer and other serious illnesses. A childhood cancer survivor myself, I was a camper there from 1994-1996, and Hole in the Wall asked me to come and speak at their fundraising event in 1999. While there I got to meet Robin Williams, one of my childhood and teenage idols.

    I grew up with Robin. From the time I was a wee lad, I can remember Mork and Mindy playing on our television set. My father was a tremendous fan of Robin’s movies and comedy. Dead Poet’s Society was routinely quoted in my house. To say Robin was a fixture would be an understatement, and getting to meet him was going to be a very special treat for me. But nothing could have prepared me for the experience of sitting down and just talking with him.

    I approached Robin when he was coming off stage after a rehearsal (the fundraising gala always had a little show that went with it). I asked him if I could get a picture and ask him a few questions. He gently put his arms around me, smiled that emblematic smile, and said, “I would love to.” We snapped a few pictures and then he sat down with me, and I asked him some questions about some things he had done in his early career – his 1978 standup special at the Roxy, his 1986 appearance on SNL, things that his average fan did not ask him about. He answered my questions and then proceeded to ask me about my life, who I was, who my parents were, what it was like to deal with cancer, what my plans for the future were, and before I knew it two hours had passed us both by.

    The entire time I talked to him I felt like I was getting to see something not everyone got to see. When it came to Robin, everyone always expected to see the extemporaneous crazy man who like a juggernaut of perpetual motion blazed up and down the stage like lightning, but the real Robin Williams was much much different. He was calm, gentle, witty, kind, playful, and genuinely interested in the lives of the people he met throughout his life. I have never forgotten how kind he was to me, and how for two hours I didn’t feel like I was talking to a celebrity…just a person who loved life and people. That’s the Robin Williams I knew…and that’s the one I will remember.

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