News Column

Robin Williams made South Bend memories "the old-fashioned way"

August 12, 2014

By Andrew S. Hughes, South Bend Tribune, Ind.

Aug. 12--At some point during Robin Williams's performance Oct. 1, 2009, at the Morris Performing Arts Center, he spotted a woman near front of the audience taking photos of him.

He asked her not to.

She responded, "But how will I remember this?"

Williams pointed to his head and said, "The old-fashioned way."

The off-the-cuff line accomplished a lot with just four words: It confirmed his improvisational skills remained intact, gently rebuked the amateur photographer and subtly commented on the unique and vital nature of live performance, that one must be fully engaged to experience it fully.

"It's just so sad," Morris executive director Dennis Andres said Tuesday about Williams' apparent suicide Monday at age 63.

"When I heard that news last night," he said, "I was like, 'No, no, they've got to have this wrong.' "

Andres met Williams "half-a-dozen" times, both at the Morris and when he ran the Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville.

"He was a gentleman, and he was as zany off stage as on," he said. "He was a funny guy. He will be missed. His adlibs were so on the money, folks. ... What you saw on stage was his personality. He was zany -- exclamation point."

After his 2009 performance, Williams conducted a meet-and-greet with about 50 fans and Morris staff.

Denise Zigler, the operations supervisor for booking and events at the Morris, said Williams' interaction with people backstage went beyond what many celebrities give.

"All I remember is that he was very friendly and joked with everyone and made it very personal rather than pushing them through," she said Tuesday morning. "A lot of times, it's the end of the night and they're tired and they want to go home and they push them through, but he stopped and talked, and we gave him South Bend Chocolate."

During Williams' day and evening stay in South Bend, Chris McLaughlin served as his driver, taking him to and from the airport and "here and there" for Williams to get a sense of the area.

"He was a down-to-earth guy," the owner of the former C&C Limousine service said. "Very nice. You never know what you'll get with these guys. He was one of my favorite trips in the area."

At the Morris, McLaughlin said, he asked to have his photograph taken with Williams.

"He was very gracious," McLaughlin said. "With some people, you get the vibe not to ask, but he was so relaxed and nice to be around. He was very respectful and acted like a normal person."

Williams, McLaughlin said, was both serious and humorous in their conversations in the car.

"He was a little sarcastic and funny," he said, "but at the same time, professional. ... He was very friendly. To meet him would have been cool, but to be around him and drive him, made it neater."


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Source: South Bend Tribune (IN)

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