A hero by any other name
Julie Wainwright was recently called a “Zero” (July 15) in the letters section by a Pacific Sun reader, whom I shall refer to as “Mr. Not-So.” This was after Ms. Wainwright was called a “Hero” by Nikki Silverstein in the July 8 Hero/Zero section of your newspaper. Ms. Wainwright was called a “Hero” for starting an online petition to gather signatures to change the name of the Waldo Tunnel to the Robin Williams Tunnel in honor of the late actor/comedian. Over 60,000 signatures later and now her dream is about to become a reality. Apparently, Mr. Not-So doesn’t think Mr. Williams is deserving of such an honor and Ms. Wainwright was a “zero” for wasting her time and thinking otherwise. I totally disagree.
First of all, Ms. Wainwright is following that great American tradition called petitioning whereas someone gathers signatures in order to change something. Normally, it is not an easy task. It takes time, determination, self-sacrifice, being able to take rejection, but most importantly it takes passion to follow through on something that you believe in so strongly that the rejection, time and self-sacrifice doesn’t matter. Thanks to the Internet the job is made much easier but it still takes passion, believing in something and the commitment to follow through. If Robin were alive today I know he would encourage Ms. Wainwright to follow her passion and he would probably say, “You go, girl!”
What gives me the right to speak of or for Robin Williams is the fact that I knew Robin since we were drama students together at the College of Marin. I was witness to his growth as an actor and can still remember his outstanding performances as Fagin in Oliver and as Malvolio in Twelfth Night. We would see each over the years and we worked together on Flubber. I was lucky enough to call him my friend.
For Mr. Not-So to call Robin “wildly overrated” is the most misguided, narrowed-minded and sad thing I’ve ever read in the Pacific Sun. To say Robin isn’t deserving of anything because he hadn’t appeared in a decent movie since Good Will Hunting fails to acknowledge the fact that Robin was so much more than just an actor on screen. It is true that the parts offered to him in later years weren’t up to his talents and abilities but he can’t be blamed for the lack of quality material being offered to him. Nor can he be blamed for how a film turned out—he was an actor hired act and to follow the direction of the director. It should be noted that Robin never phoned in a roll—even when he was just a supporting player. Each time he stepped in front of the camera he gave a professional, solid and honest performance.
What Mr. Not-So seems to have forgotten is the fact that what Robin did off the screen was just as important as what he did on screen. Whether it was helping a local theatre group, working on Broadway, offering encouragement to other actors and comedians or taking the time out from his busy schedule to acknowledge and say a few kind words to a young girl facing the horrors of cancer, Robin helped more people than Mr. Not-So could ever imagine. Over the years, Robin entertained thousands of American troops and I’m sure those soldiers would happily testify that Robin was NOT “overrated,” but greatly appreciated.
If anything, Robin was underrated because anytime anyone tried to measure Robin’s talents or what he was capable of doing he was off the charts. Johnny Carson thought enough of Robin to invite him to be one of his final guests on his program. As a matter of fact, all the late night hosts had nothing but kind words for Robin when he passed away. Mr. Not-So’s critique of Robin’s work as “wildly overrated” has no grounds and Mr. Not-So is not qualified to judge another man’s life especially when that individual is no longer here to defend himself. The idea that Robin’s family, friends and fans still live in the area and [could] happen to read Mr. Not-So’s thoughtless venting is simply sad.
What Mr. Not-So doesn’t understand is that being a hero isn’t something you label yourself. Mr. Not-So claims that when he had nothing better to do he felt a duty to help an old lady with her bags and that somehow makes him a better person than Ms. Wainwright. He is missing the point. Mr. Not-So claims he didn’t think his action was heroic but I’m sure in the eyes of the lady he helped, Mr. Not-So was a hero. Unfortunately, Mr. Not-So has diminished his own heroic act by his callous attack on Ms. Wainwright and Robin Williams.
Is it possible to be less than a Zero? If it is, Mr. Not-So is that individual.