tv CNN Spotlight CNN October 10, 2014 7:00pm-7:31pm PDT
breaking the silence and speaking out. i'm grateful to sarah for sharing her story. i just -- i hope i'll see sarah again. i hate to have to report this. >> a shocking announcement. >> actor robin williams is dead at the age of 63. >> the apparent suicide of robin williams. >> mr. williams' life ended from asphyxia due to hanging. >> try a little faster. see if that picks it up a little bit. >> a brilliant comedian. a celebrated actor. >> dead poets are dedicated to sucking the marrow out of life. >> yet a tortured soul. >> i'll come back in the morning and i'll call you if you let me. >> on camera, he found humor everywhere.
but off camera, he was struggling with a debilitating depression and a frightening diagnosis. >> a personal statement from robin williams' widow. her late husband was suffering from parkinson's disease. which the world reeling from the shocking news, we look at the life and laughter -- >> i am what i am -- >> the darkness and despair. now a cnn spotlight, remembering robin. ♪ the vigil started almost immediately after the world learned that robin williams had died. >> he could be anybody. he could be all of us. he wasn't just robin, he was like the collective conscious, like a conduit for a lot of
people. >> heartbreaking and shocking because this robin williams, dark and depressed, couldn't have been farther from the man we first met. ♪ sunday, monday, happy days >> mork, the alien was first introduced to us on the tv sitcom "happy days." >> just count to three then, specimen. >> all right. hit him, fonz. one, two, three! >> no contest. let's go. >> it was kind of a fluke. garry marshall was inviting a lot of comics in to audition. it was an open call. richard luis which was going in, and he said i don't speak norwegian. i went okay, let's go in and just be crazy and see happens. >> crazy and unscripted always seems to work for williams. he got the part. >> remember me? mork from ork? you once called me the nutso from outer space. >> working with henry winkler as the fonz. >> and we started rehearsing, and i realized that i was in the
presence of greatness. hands-down, this is not hyperbole. >> henry winkler met williams the day he got on to the set. >> i just realized my only job is to keep a straight face. and it was impossible. because no matter what you said to him, no matter what line you gave to him, he took it in, processed it, and then it flew out of his mouth, never the same way twice. >> born in chicago on july 21st of 1951, williams grew up in michigan, played football, and then settled with his family in marin county, california. despite his shyness, high school drama drew him out of his shell and led him to become one of only 20 actors admitted to the prestigious juilliard school, along with classmate christopher reeve. >> we were both a program at
juilliard called the masters program, which is like an accelerated two year program, basically to get us into the acting company really quickly. he was obviously brought in as the handsome leading man. and i was brought in as the furry character actor. >> it was here that they both honed their skills. >> we were both in there together, housman sitting in a room with us, mr. williams, mr. reeves, the theater needs you. >> and created a life-long friendship. >> robin williams is the definition of generosity. >> christopher reeve told cnn's larry king all about it in 1996. >> 22 years, we go back to juilliard together. but there is this crazy cockamamy story that went around that we signed some pact. >> pact? >> yeah, like on a napkin in the cafeteria in juilliard or something. >> saying what? >> that if either of us gets in trouble, that we'll take care of each other in the future. >> in 1976, he left juilliard. williams was on a fast track. >> nanu nanu. >> mork was such a success on "happy days," it would spin off
as its own sitcom. >> you know, when he would break for lunch, and he was working with jonathan winters on his show "mork & mindy," they would walk down the street together, and all of the sudden just stop. and then they would start to kibitz. and then they would start to improvise. and then they would do this routine. in minutes, almost the entire lot was standing there like an open air theater, watching these two great minds go at it. >> it's a man! >> in the years after "mork & mindy," williams would have great success on the stand-up comedy circuit. >> it's been brief. 'tis over, and the lights do turn bright. i'm melting! help me! >> a comedic genius fueled by his incredible improvisation, something he discussed with james lipton on "inside the
actor's studio." >> are you thinking faster than rest of us? what the hell is going on? [ laughter ] >> what it is about the mind? what is it that does this thing to you? try to explain yourself. >> but it wasn't just williams' brilliance. during those early years, cocaine also fueled him, and a frenetic unpredictability became a hallmark. it would be the death of his friend john belushi in 1982 and the birth of his son that scared williams straight. years later, addiction became part of his historic stand-up act at the metropolitan opera house.
>> you know what i'm talk about? the peruvian marching powder, the devil's dander. a nice thing, cocaine. what a wonderful drug. anything that makes you paranoid and impotent, give me more of that. >> coming up, a sober robin williams wins over the world, but his depression is still lurking. in a race, it's about getting to the finish line. in life, it's how you get there that matters mt. like when i found out i had a blood clot in my leg. my doctor said that it could travel to my lungs and become an even bigger problem. so he talked to me about xarelto®. >>xarelto® is the first oral prescription blood thinner proven to treat and help prevent dvt and pe that doesn't require regular blood monitoring or
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>> in 1980s robin williams was still starring in the popular sitcom "mork & mindy" when he made his big screen premier as popeye for director robert altman. ♪ i yam what i yam what i yam ♪ and that's all that i yam because i yam what i yam ♪ >> popeye and the handful of films that followed were mostly disappointing. >> good morning, vietnam!
>> finally, director barry levinson found the actor a role that offered the perfect fit. >> is that me or does that sound like an elvis presley movie? viva dan nang. >> his role as a road military disc jockey won him a nomination for best actor. >> too loud? >> as did his role as a quiet and inspiring boarding school english teacher in 1989's "dead poets society." >> dead poets dedicated to sucking the marrow out of life. >> i think dead poets was probably my favorite. just to get started, the idea of doing a movie that people
treated as more than a movie. i once met a guy who said i gave up my job at sears and became a teacher because of you. i went i hope things are going well. >> excuse me! >> williams earned a third such oscar nod for his depiction of a man who becomes unhinged and homeless after the murder of his wife. >> even movies on the plane. let me off. >> i had movies that had premieres on planes. >> that's why people, go, i don't need the headset. >> put us down in denver. >> i just don't like this. >> we were going to tokyo. please, let us off. >> williams and billy crystal teamed up with whoopi goldberg to co-host comic relief. eight telethons over 20 years,
using their humor to heal and give hope. raising more than $50 million. >> start dialing. don't be afraid. let go for a moment. get to the phone. >> the last telethon was in 2006, the same year he played teddy roosevelt in a night at the museum. in 2006, also the year that struggles with addiction led williams back to rehab. >> live with larry king. >> he would joke with larry king about that and what came after. >> you keep going, a strange secret organization that you go to. >> alcoholics anonymous. >> don't say it. it's unanimous. it's unanimous, shh. you go to those and you find out that other people have done things that make you look amish. and you come out the other side. i almost have a year now without that. so it's good.
>> but staying clean and sober would remain a challenge for williams, even as other parts of his life seem to be unraveling. in 2008, his 19-year marriage to his second wife would end in divorce. then 2009, he would be rushed to the hospital. heart problems. surgery, and the difficult recovery he'd laugh about on the ellen show. >> you a heart surgery, and literally, they open you up. they crack the box. and you get really vulnerable. you'd be like a kitten, oh, god. it's a kitten. and you get very, very emotional about everything. but i think that's in a way a wonderful thing. it really opens you up to everything. >> robin williams' life trajectory would take a decided upward turn two years later. there was marriage to third wife susan schneider, and his broadway acting debut in "bengal tiger at the baghdad zoo" with williams playing the tiger who narrates the play.
>> it's alarming, this life after death. the fact is tigers are atheists. all of us unabashed. >> then just last year, his career came full circle. when he returned to the small screen with former "mork & mindy" co-star pam dawber in the cbs sitcom "the crazy ones." >> you look like an alien! >> but offscreen, williams was struggling with depression. >> he had at least three reasons to have severe depression. he clearly had the genetic basis for it. he had addiction. and addiction, and a recent relapse after a long period of sobriety. and he had cardiac surgery. people need to keep in mind when you have your chest cut open, the biology is such that it affects the brain and causes severe depression sometimes. >> there is also something else williams was dealing with, parkinson's disease, a neurological disorder that affects movement. williams was in the early stages of the disease. >> the diagnosis of parkinson's disease was a significant fear and burden. it would be for anyone. but in the case of robin
williams, he used cycling and exercise as a way to help manage his depression. and the notion that he wouldn't be able to be as physically active only added to that depression. >> on monday, he was found in his home, dead, an apparent suicide. he was 63 years old. >> the personal assistant was able to gain access to mr. williams' bedroom and entered the bedroom to find mr. williams clothed, in a seated position, unresponsive with a belt secured around his neck with the other end of the belt wedged between the clothes closet door and the door frame. >> this more man, and he survived -- his cardiac disease he survived. but his brain, he was taken away from his family, himself, us. the brain disease is what took him away. >> took him away from family, fans, and friends, stunned by the loss.
>> yesterday we had a superstar. today, unfortunately, we have a legend. ♪ ho are nursing, pregnant, or may become pregnant. tell your doctor all medicines you take. call your doctor if you have muscle pain or weakness, feel unusually tired, have loss of appetite, upper belly pain, dark urine, or yellowing of skin or eyes. these could be signs of serious side effects. are you down with crestor? ask your doctor about crestor. cozy or cool? exactly the way you want it ... until boom, it's bedtime! your mattress is a battleground of thwarted desire. enter the sleep number bed. right now, you can save $400 on our most popular bed. he's the softy. his sleep number setting is 35. you're the rock, at 60. and snoring? sleep number's even got an adjustment for that. you can only find sleep number at a sleep number store. right now save $400 on our most popular bed, plus 36-month special financing. hurry ends columbus day. know better sleep with sleep number
he is a legend. unbelievable. >> one of the greatest. we're all blessed to have had that experience. those of us who had the chance to work with him are even more blessed. if anything else, i learned how wonderful it is to be an artist by watching him, how wonderful it is. rest in peace, my brother. >> he was also revered by the fans whose lives he touched. >> there is no one that can top him. >> for me, this is my hero that has passed. and it's a really devastating time. >> if you're having a bad day or down for any reason, watching any of his movie could lift you up. >> the closest to williams say they're overcome by profound grief, but want his legacy to be one of happiness. robin's wife, susan schneider released a statement reading in part, as he is remembered, it is our hope the focus will not be on robin's death but on the
countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions. various marquees of l.a. comedy clubs paying tribute, from the comedy clubs of hollywood to the san francisco neighborhoods he called home. on the streets of new york and in the halls of washington, the outpouring of tributes to williams are a testament to the impact of his work. president obama recalled some of his most memorable roles. robin williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang peter pan, and everything in between. but he was one of a kind. he arrived in our lives as an alien, but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit. williams' spirit was described as electric. henry winkler worked with him on the tv show "happy days." >> he was electrifying. and he was like that no matter what he did, all the time. when i watched him, when we crossed paths, when he was doing his show up the street on
paramount. all i saw was boundless energy. he would work all day. he would go to the clubs at night and do stand-up and work on his act. you met him and this was a wave of warmth that swept out of him that covered you like a blanket. >> his talent? >> irreplaceable. there is no one now to fill his shoes. those shoes will remain right there, empty forever. >> comedians at caroline's in new york remember williams with admiration. >> he was a genius. he was very, very quick. if you laughed at one of his jokes, if you didn't get it, he was on to the next one. so a lot of times when you watch his stuff you have to rewind it and go back, because he is just so fast, and it came naturally to him. >> and at l.a.'s comedy store, where williams' career took off in the '70s, paul rodriguez
choked back tears. >> i was working at the comedy store. in the parking lot, hoping for open times. and he talked to the owner, mitzie shore and he said this kid deserves to be on the lineup. and i got on the lineup. >> pauly shore, whose family owns the club, reminisced. >> when we used to have the comedy store, robin used to pick up his check from "mork & mindy" in his outfit, in his nanu nanu outfit. and he used to pick up his check and do nanu nanu to me. >> in hollywood, williams is already an icon. >> yesterday we had a superstar. today, unfortunately we have a legend. >> as an individual, i think he had a lot of heart and a lot of compassion. he did a lot of things for a lot of people, publicly and privately.
he transcended his sphere of expertise which is like a benchmark as a comedian, and he crossed over into other areas and excelled at everything. he is gone way too soon. he was very talented, and we're all going to miss him. >> he will be missed for more than his talent. u.s. secretary of defense chuck hagel expressed appreciation for his military support, saying from entertaining thousands of servicemen and women in war zones to his philanthropy that helped veterans struggling with hidden wounds of war, he was a loyal and compassionate advocate for all who served this nation in uniform. he will be dearly missed by the men and women of dod. so many of whom were personally touched by his humor and generosity. >> we've raised over about a million dollars. i think there is more coming in. i feel real good. >> an active supporter of comic relief from its inception in 1986, williams helped raise more than $50 million to combat homelessness. regarding the shocking news of his dear friend's death, billy crystal tweeted, "no words." >> darcy here grew up riding horses. >> williams was also a tireless advocate for st. jude's children's hospital. >> a tough cowgirl, battling a rare and inoperable brain tumor.
>> generous, described by those who knew, described by nathan lane, he said what i will always remember about robin, perhaps even more than his comic genius, extraordinary talent and astounding intellect was his huge heart, his tremendous kindness, generosity, and compassion as an acting partner, colleague, and fellow traveler in a difficult world. a difficult world made lighter by the laughter williams brought to it. williams leaves more comedy work behind. he has several upcoming films, including another "in the night at the museum" series. williams, who spoke often and lovingly of his three children might likely consider them his greatest legacy. his daughter zelda paid tribute to her father on twit were a quote by the french writer antoine de saint exupery, you, you alone will have stars as no one else has them. in one of the stars i shall be living. in one of them i shall be
laughing. and so it will be as if all of the stars will be laughing when you look at the sky at night. she added, i love you, i miss you. i'll try to keep looking up. tonight on "unguarded with rachel nichols." baseball legend joe torre talks playoffs. saying good-bye to dareic jeter and the future of alex rodriguez. >> i think we are all curious to see alex come back. >> the mvp good guy kevin durant on today's sports culture and how even he is the target of hateful social media. >> people are hoping that i get hurt. i heard racist remarks. i heard everything. >> and the cincinnati bengals, devin stiff shares an update on his 4-year-old daughter whose battle with can