I've been writing a lot about "mean people" lately; particularly Show Business mean people. So, I wanted to counter that with a little story about someone who struck me as "not mean enough." Oh, so, "one of the good ones."
I used to be a huge fan of hers. But when her show Ellen's Game of Games debuted four years ago; her mask started to crumble for me. I remember staring at the TV aghast as Ellen gleefully toiled over her torture control device to send innocent people shoosting through trap doors and falling down chutes and basically being treated like ants by a particularly sick child with a magnifying glass. I mean look at her in the above picture. She looks deranged. Around the same time she started pranking her guests on her talk show. But these weren't pranks. They were attempts to terrify people into shitting their metaphorical pants. I recall watching Game of Games and turning to my husband and saying: "This is kind of disturbing..." "No," he said, "it's sick." I caught a segment the other night while I was channel surfing. It seemed Ellen had upped her game of "Get the Guests." The contestants were now further humiliated by having to wear demeaning costumes. Just had to get that insult layered on the injury I suppose. Ellen must've been getting bored. I'd love to see her get strapped into one of her devices and let other people have a go. We could start with Dakota Johnson. Yeah, Ellen definitely strikes me as the type who can dish it out but can't take it--in the least.
Coincidentally, isn't it interesting that Kate McKinnon's "Ellen" disappeared from SNL around the time the game show came on? I think we're all due for an SNL "Game of Games" spoof. How about Ellen's Game of Thrones?
So, back to sweet, kind, nice Robin Williams. And those qualities are just assumptions on my part. But I think in this case I'm correct.
Toys has gone down in Hollywood lore as one of the biggest disasters of all time. It cost about 95 million dollars to make in today's money. It was the pet project of writer/directory Barry Levinson. It was one of those bottom drawer scripts that probably should've stayed in the drawer; but since Levinson, in the early 90's, was coming off a slew of hit movies (particularly Rain Man) he was able to basically get a blank check from 20th Century Fox. Robin Williams was at the height of his stardom too. He had done Good Morning, Vietnam for Levinson. That had been a hit. Toys seemed like a great idea. A sure fire hit. The Big Christmas Release of 1992. I'm certain they all thought they were going to create a mega-smash movie. Oh, it was a smash all right.
Yeah, it was a smash. Like the Titanic going full speed ahead into the Rock of Gibraltar. It got smashed by bad word of mouth. I saw it at the theater and recall squirming in my seat after about fifteen minutes. And it was a two-hour movie. I stuck it through though. I happened to be seeing it with a co-worker (Fred) who I was kind of smitten with. Being less than six inches from him was enough for me to suffer through the off-putting and nearly incomprehensible mess that was Toys.
But I wasn't surprised. I had been at the Toys premiere after party. You see, Along Came Mary specialized in Hollywood movie premiere extravaganzas. Over the top parties that would put ancient Rome to shame. These events were usually held in circus tents. The Toys party was no exception. The massive tent was decorated like a giant toy store, with props from the movie and whimsical touches everywhere. It was like a giant Toyland for adults; and instead of getting to play with toys, the grown-ups got to play with food. Food glorious food! It was everywhere. Station after station of amazingly prepared foods. Meat stations and salad bars and finger-foods and soup stations and truckloads of cookies and cakes and pies...
Meanwhile, I was assigned to a meat carving station. A massive leg of lamb. I had one customer. Blythe Danner. As for me, a starving young artist, I had never had lamb before. But I sure did that night! I wasn't crazy over it; but it filled my stomach. And mint jelly. What's that all about? Maybe to kill the taste of the lamb? Kinda gamey if you ask me.
Here's Robin in that jacket again, discussing Toys with Arsenio Hall:
So that night Robin was literally on his own. I don't remember seeing Barry Levinson or Joan Cusack (I don't think I would've known who LL Cool J and Robin Wright were at that time) or anyone else from the movie. The massive tent, like I said, was nearly empty which made poor Robin running around, talking to the few people who were there and clowning for the kids all the more humiliating. I think his wife was with him (well, there was a woman with him and I assumed at the time it was his wife). Watching him, I could tell that he felt responsible for everything. Here was a 95 million dollar movie riding on his shoulders. He was Atlas and Toys was the globe. And the globe was already hopelessly cracked. He stayed until the very last person was gone. At some point, like I said, he was standing right next to me. I so wish I had said something. I know he would've chatted with me. But I didn't. One of my few Hollywood regrets. And I often wonder what happened to all of that uneaten food.
I always suspected that Robin's hyperactive act was just a cry for attention to his parents. Probably, mostly, his dad.
And in doing a little research, sure enough, it seems that was exactly the case. He came from money, I'm assuming, as his dad was a big-time automobile executive and Robin went to all kinds of swanky schools. But I also read that he worked as a bus-boy at a restaurant during the summers when he was attending Julliard (huh, I've been misspelling Juilliard all this time Oh, who cares? That extra "i" is pretentious). I highly doubt it was out of necessity. I've been a bus-boy. Something else Robin and I could've commiserated about. Yes, he was one of the "nice" ones. Nobody of his stature would've endured that party if they weren't.