You may have heard of the passing of Robin Williams earlier today. He was 63 years old.
So many of us found laughter and joy in his films and admired his more serious works. You might have even been in the audience of a live performance or seen him on The Actors Studio or similar venue.
You know Robin as a comedian and actor. Did you also know he was an accomplished cyclist?
For several years, I participated in the Lance Armstrong Foundation Ride for the Roses when it was only held in Austin, Texas. This was a weekend-long event, with seminars and expo Friday and Saturday and the ride on Sunday. It may have been 2004, but I’m not sure as I attended the ride for several years in a row back then. I booked a bed and breakfast suite in Austin and made it a weekend of self-pampering. Of course, the highlight of the weekend was Sunday’s ride. Here’s me crossing the finish line in 2004.
Thousands of cyclists – over 6000 - came from all across the nation and literally from around the globe. You never really knew who you might be standing next to at the event staging area.
Riders were composed of survivors like myself, those riding in support of someone battling cancer and those riding in memory of someone who had passed.
There was so much energy in the air, so much spirit, courage and determination. It was somewhat of a spiritual experience. That day, during those hours of the ride, we were a family.
We were one, united by cancer.
At these events, groups of riders depart the start in stages. The riders for the longest route go first, then the riders for the next route and so forth until everyone is on the road. There can be hundreds of riders in each group, so this can take a bit of time.
So here it was early morning and chilly; the sun had barely risen. We’re at the staging area, the National Anthem has been played, Lance has given his pre-ride talk and the first group of riders is away.
Who appears on the stage?
Robin started talking . . . and talking. The entire crowd started laughing. I’m sure his was an impromptu “performance;” heck, it was just Robin talking to us and I don’t even remember what he was saying. What I do remember is the sound of laughter filling the early morning air. My group waited for almost an hour but – you know what? It seemed like five minutes thanks to the antics of Robin and his ability to engage the crowd.
During this, a rider standing next to me started telling me how he had encountered Robin at the expo the day before. He said Robin was so down-to-earth and asked the guy why he was riding. He told Robin how he was riding for his girlfriend, who was extremely ill with cancer and a huge fan of his. Next thing he knew, Robin told him to call his girlfriend and he would would say hello to her. The guy called and handed his phone to Robin when his girlfriend got on the line. The guy told me the conversation went like this (okay, it’s been several years, but the last line is basically verbatim”"):
“Hi! This is Robin Williams!”
“No it’s not. No way.”
“Well, who the hell do you think it is?!?!?”
The guy told me his girlfriend and Robin had a nice wee chat. She was absolutely overwhelmed and so thrilled!
There was no press release about this, no cameras . . . it was something Robin just did to brighten the day of a cancer warrior.
I never met Robin at these events and didn’t even get close to him; however, I am feeling a personal loss at his passing.
Robin’s status as a celebrity was huge . . . but not nearly as big as his heart.
There is less laughter in our world today . . .