Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Chance Meeting: Robin Williams Remembered

Our friend Bob Joles, who has known my husband since their college days, is a talented voice actor and musician. In fact, something Bob shares in common with Robin Williams is that they have each worked on animated Disney films.

After the sad news yesterday of Williams' passing, Bob contacted me and said he'd been moved to write down the story of a special moment he'd shared with Robin Williams, and he wondered if I might like to publish it on my blog. I'm delighted to share Bob's remembrance of a special evening in Williams' career with my readers. Here it is in Bob's words:

During the 1990's I worked as a music copyist and music librarian for most of the studios in Hollywood. A great deal of that work was done at Paramount Studios. During my tenure there, I got to work on the music for the Academy Awards Orchestra.

On March 23, 1998, the 70th Academy Awards show was held at the Shrine Auditorium. That year they had the orchestra on stage instead of in the pit. Normally, they would have one librarian in the pit just in case any of the musicians had their stand knocked over (which has happened!). The librarian was there to get the musicians' music back in order very quickly and then everything would continue as usual.

The 1st librarian was situated in the percussion box above the orchestra; the three percussionists and the librarian couldn't come down until the end of the broadcast. I was the 2nd librarian, situated back stage right (in my tux) within quick reach of the rest of the orchestra and could run on if a music stand got knocked over. Thankfully that never happened that evening.

Early on in the evening's program, the award for Best Supporting Actor was announced - Robin Williams for GOOD WILL HUNTING. After his acceptance speech the show went to a commercial. I was sitting backstage on some risers. Robin was escorted off stage right and was greeted by dozens of backstage crew that had a few minutes free while the commercials ran for the home audience. I took in the scene as he very graciously accepted all of the congratulations and kudos from the gathered throng surrounding him.

Suddenly, the voice of the stage manager was heard saying we're back in 10… 9… 8… and everyone scurried away as though a bugler was calling everyone back to their post! We could hear the orchestra playing and the announcer (Norman Rose) giving the next introduction. It was very quiet and only a handful of people were left in this area of the Shrine Auditorium. There was Robin, with his OSCAR statuette, myself and two gentlemen who were sitting on the level below me on the risers.

Robin was pacing around, waiting to be taken back to the press room to have his time before the ladies and gentlemen that were reporting on the evening's winners. As he came close to risers one of the guys sitting in front of me said something to Robin and handed him his card. I can only assume he was either an agent or a manager looking to possibly snag a new client… a new Academy Award winning client!

Robin very graciously accepted his card, listened to whatever it was this guy said to him and he nodded and said thank you. As Robin walked away from these two guys, they got up and left the backstage area. So now only Robin, the stage manager and I remained.

Robin continued to pace around. He came back by where I was now the sole occupant of the risers. He stopped and looked up at me, and I looked at him. I put my hands together and very quietly applauded him. Robin, with his left hand holding his OSCAR, pulled it to his chest, slowly swung his right arm out and bowed to me. When he straightened up, he said "Thank you" and smiled very broadly. And I smiled a big ear to ear grin back at a man whom I have admired ever since I saw him on a comedy special decades before. He was truly one of a kind.

He was escorted to the press room a few minutes later. I will never forget that moment, sitting backstage at the Academy Awards, quietly applauding a true comedy genius and a brilliant actor who had more than proven his acting abilities to his peers by winning an OSCAR.

Bob Joles
Voice Actor - http://tinyurl.com/Bob-Joles
Twitter - @BobJolesVO

4 Comments:

Blogger Katy Rochelle said...

Thank you for sharing this graceful and wonderful story. A lot of experiences are being released about Williams kindness and genuine heart; it's nice to read and see what a gracious man he was.

11:32 AM  
Blogger Raquel Stecher said...

What a beautiful story! Thanks for writing it Bob and thank you Laura for posting it.

11:45 AM  
Blogger Joel Williams said...

Wow, what a great story! So glad I read this.

2:03 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

Lovely story. My son and I each had our own separate encounters with Robin Williams and they reflect, I think, two opposite sides of his character.

In my case I was doing extra work on CADILLAC MAN and saw Robin in action all day long. He was "on" every moment. The director would call "Cut" and Robin would start ad-libbing. Early in the day it seemed funny, then it began to seem desperate, by the end of the day he was sweating profusely, still improvising like mad and it didn't seem so funny any more. I wanted to go over and pat him on the shoulder and tell him to relax, but extras don't bother the stars.
I did have one moment between takes when I actually got to ad-lib with the improv master for just a moment. It was a kick to interact with that lightning fast brain, even for just a couple of seconds.
My last view of him was as I was leaving for the day. He was standing outside the door of his trailer, facing his very pregnant wife who was obviously put out with him. I couldn't hear the words, but he was clearly being apologetic or soothing or something. But she was having none of it and calmly closed the trailer door in his face. My last look showed a famous, beloved movie star standing alone in the street, looking very lost and with nowhere to go.

Thankfully, my son's encounter was much more positive. He was visiting his mom on the set of HOUSE OF D and Robin Williams was working on the movie. Somehow Robin became aware that my son was nervously facing his SAT exams the next morning. So he sat down with my son and talked to him for quite a while. He was not "on" on this occasion, no comedy, no movie star. My son said he just gave "fatherly advice" on staying calm despite the stress of the exam. My boy came out of it thinking that Robin Williams, beyond being a comic genius, was just a really, really nice guy.

So, the other night my son watched JUMANJI in his honor. I was glad to hear that because I remembered taking both my sons to see that movie when it was new. And I remembered how much they enjoyed it.

I wish I could thank Robin Williams for all the laughs and for treating my stressed-out son so kindly. And I hope he now finds the peace that seems to have eluded him in life.

9:25 AM  

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