Monday, 25 August 2014

Robin Williams - a curious end

In the wake of the complete shock of Robin Williams' suicide being announced, part of me also felt anger. How could he? He who starred in just about every film about human triumph and redemption against the odds? It felt like a betrayal of his fans. It was only after watching his last interview that I saw for myself how genuinely ill and haunted he looked. Mind you, it was a bizarre interview with the interviewer seemingly firing random questions at him including ironically one about whether he thought communication with the dead was possible.

Nevertheless certain things have been haunting me about the manner of his death, despite his unquestionably depressed state;

Sleeping in separate bedrooms alone is of course no indication that his 3rd marriage had hit the rocks, but the fact that his wife Susan Schneider seemingly didn't even check on her severely depressed film star husband, having not seen him for over 12 hours, before going out the following morning is very odd. Had they had an argument the previous night which pushed him over the edge? 

Then there was her almost immediate statement on his death a few hours later: 'This morning, I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one if its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings. I am utterly heartbroken. On behalf of Robin's family, we are asking for privacy during our time of profound grief. As he is remembered, it is our hope that the focus will not be on Robin's death but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.' 

Pretty slick for a woman so shockingly widowed only hours earlier but look again at the last line - she doesn't want us to 'focus' on Robin's death. 

The following day we now learn, she had somehow persuaded the coroner's office to release his body for a hasty cremation  only 24hrs after he had been discovered and before most of us had even had a chance to get our heads around the tragic death of a legend many of us grew up with (and before the toxicology results were through). How and why did she do this? While perhaps understandable to desire a private funeral, surely she would have struggled to get the whole family there in time, never mind if the coroner had wanted to conduct further tests on the body. And then there's how suspicious such a hasty fanfare-free funeral was going to look...

It would take days or even weeks for the body of a suicide or one deemed to have died of unnatural causes to be released  for funeral in Britain as foul play and other possibilities need to be ruled out. All this takes time. In addition sometimes the body is needed for further examination which obviously cannot happen if it has been cremated.

Not that I am suggesting foul play in this case. I completely believe Robin was severely depressed and  thus, emotionally vulnerable. However if Robin was his wife's 'best friend' as she stated in her tribute to him, where was she in his hour of need? How come his publicist was the one to find him some 12 hours after his death? I don't doubt it's no picnic being married to a severely depressed man, but if his wife couldn't cope alone, where were the hired psychiatric nurses to help her? Why didn't she get him sectioned if he was that depressed?

So what was Robin depressed about?
Well his comeback TV series 'The Crazy Ones' had been cancelled the previous year which he was known to be upset over.
He reportedly had financial issues, though the nature and scale of these have not yet been revealed. However if they were genuinely off the scale, did his insurance cover suicide? (some suicides have been known to take this course of action if their cover does and they are in dire financial straits and want to ensure their family is looked after.)
Robin was apparently in the early stages of Parkinsons (according to a statement released by his widow at roughly the same time she was getting him cremated, though at the time of writing we have yet to see medical corroboration of this).

Speculatively he could also have been depressed about the following:
Was he facing the end of his third marriage after only three years? This doesn't seem unlikely in view of his wife's odd behaviour and indecent haste to get his death and funeral over as quickly as possible.
Did he feel that his career was all washed up? (though even if he had Parkinsons, he could have continued to do lucrative voiceovers for some time to come, if not act as well).

Then there was the manner of his suicide. Here was a man who was a self-confessed ex junkie and ex alcoholic. Why then would he painfully saw away at his wrists with a knife before rather bizarrely managing to yank himself sideways from a chair to asphyxiate himself? Wouldn't anyone else just get the drugs and opt for a quick and painless overdose as their first choice? Ok so perhaps his dealer was no longer on speed dial in his attempts to get clean, but this highly intelligent man would have still known how to get hold of drugs and fast. In addition he surely had enough legitimate prescription anti-depressant drugs in the house to kill an elephant so why not use those?

For all his irreverent humour and zaniness Robin was a practising Christian or 'Catholic Lite' as he joked about Episcopalians. In fact one of his wry observations as a stand-up was; 'Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.'

As I said before I am not suggesting that it was not possible for Robin Williams to have taken his own life, just that there seem to be more unanswered questions than there are answered ones. It hasn't even been established if he left a note yet. Why?

Marilyn Monroe was known to have made several suicide attempts during her life, yet 51 years after her death, it is still being hotly debated whether she died accidentally, by her own hand or was helped along the way.

For all his flaws, Robin Williams was an admirably honest star. The least he deserves is the whole truth to come out. It can't possibly be more sad and sordid than it already appears. In fact his widow would be doing herself a public favour to share everything she knows as she hasn't exactly covered herself in glory as far as Robins' fans are concerned. And better if she turns out to have been on the verge of leaving him rather than suspected of worse. That said, some internet conspiracy theorists think his death is an Iluminati hit, though I don't see it myself.

Either way it's an ironic end for a man who brought hope and happiness to millions through his work. I am sure I am not the only one who grew up with him lighting up the screens. RIP Robin Williams. So long and thanks for all the laughter.


Steve said...

I must admit I am nonplussed by the lack of media curiosity surrounding Williams' death compared to the riot that followed Michael Jacksons...

Barry Coidan said...

I think it's difficult enough for ourselves to know who we are. How much more problematic for those close to us.

There are many instances of supposedly sane, level headed, rational, in control people being completely overwhelmed by emotions, anxieties and fears they'd didn't know existed.

It's possible in an instance to be overwhelmed by a tusnami of feelings you did not know existed and have no idea how to control. That can generate a hopelessness, dispair and emptiness that is catastrophic.

Many couples are living with strangers: many of us are strangers to ourselves.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Steve, yes it is very odd isn't it?

Barry I agree with you completely that the human psyche can be a complex mechanism. I have even been on courses dealing with extreme mental states (for work). But I also remain convinced that there are aspects of this story which can (and do need to) be explained in order to lay the matter and, therefore, Robin Williams, to rest. It's not a pretty story anyway, so how much worse can the full story be? My partner is a former national newspaper journalist and he has been bothered by this story since the first. He has a journalist's instinct for when there's more to a story than meets the eye or something seriously amiss.