Robin Williams was one of the most successful comedians and actors in Hollywood. He brought a new and charismatic take to his stand-up performances and translated his diversity into his acting roles.
Williams was one of the few comedians who smoothly transitioned into cinema. Even though his exit from the world was tragic, his unique performance style will forever be remembered in film history.
Robin Williams in California in 2013 | Source: Getty Images
The Beginning of Robin Williams’ Career
Life for Williams began in Chicago, where he was born in 1951. The actor went to Claremont Men’s College and College of Marin before enrolling at Julliard School in New York. While he was there, he became friends and roommates with fellow actor Christopher Reeve.
Robin Williams during the comedy show “Laugh In” in 1968 | Source: Getty Images
Williams took a leap of faith and experimented with comedy in San Francisco and Los Angeles, which was a success. This was the beginning of his stand-up act that would introduce him to the world.
The comedian had the opportunity to work on programs like “The Richard Pryor Show,” “Laugh-In” and “Eight Is Enough,” which earned him his breakthrough role on the iconic sitcom, “Happy Days.” On the show, Williams debuted the character Mork, which became such a hit that the actor was given his own show, “Mork and Mindy,” where he acted alongside Pam Dawber.
Robin Williams on “Mork and Mindy” in 1978 | Source: Getty Images
The show aired in 1978 and ran for four seasons. From there, Williams was on his way to being a sensation in Hollywood, landing one successful role after the other. The actor proved that he could deliver on his impeccable comedic roles and do more serious ones.
In 1982, Williams appeared in the film “The World According to Garp.” Then he played a Russian musician in “Moscow on the Hudson.” He also landed a role as a DJ in “Good Morning Vietnam” and portrayed John Keating, a teacher who thought outside of the box in “Dead Poets Society.”
Robin Williams photographed in 1984 | Source: Getty Images
Williams’ roles in “Good Morning Vietnam” and “Dead Poets Society” earned him an Academy Award nomination for lead actor. He also starred in many more renowned films like “Night in the Museum” and “Jumanji,” cementing his name as one of the greatest comedians of all time.
Robin Williams in Los Angeles in 1999 | Source: Getty Images
While Williams enjoyed a series of highs in his career, his personal life had its ups and downs. He did not have the best of luck in love, but his third marriage brought him the love of his life.
Inside Robin Williams’ Relationships
Williams was first married to Valerie Velardi in 1978, but the union ended a decade later. He met his second wife, Marsha Garces, a film producer, and philanthropist, in 1984. She worked as a nanny to his son, Zak.
It was reported that the couple’s romance started when Williams was still married, but Velardi clarified that they started seeing each after their separation.
Robin Williams and first wife Valerie Velardi in New York in 1984 | Source: Getty Images
Garces and Williams tied the knot in 1989. She was already six months pregnant with their first child at the time. The couple welcomed their daughter Zelda Rae Willams in the same year. In 1991, Williams and his wife had their second child, Cody Alan Williams.
Eventually, Garces started working as the actor’s personal assistant, and together they collaborated on some of Williams’ most prominent movies like “Good Morning Vietnam” and “Dead Poets Society.”
Garces then ventured into production and worked as a producer on some of her husband’s iconic films like the well- loved “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Patch Adams,” and “Jacob the Liar.”
Robin Williams with second his wife Marsha Williams in New York in 1988 | Source: Getty Images
After a successful collaboration, the couple decided to start a production company together called Blue Wolf Productions. However, their marriage ended when Garces filed for divorce in 2008, citing irreconcilable differences. The divorce was finalized after two years.
Williams gave love another shot and married his third wife, Susan Schneider, whom he met in the Apple Store in 2007.
The couple’s first meeting was unexpected. They were both running errands and happened to be at the same Apple Store. Schneider recalled seeing the actor and wondering if he actually was Robin Williams.
Robin Williams and his wife Susan Schneider in Los Angeles in 2009 | Source: Getty Images
On her way out, she turned one last time to make sure her eyes were not lying to her, and Schneider’s eyes met with Williams, who had a big smile on his face.
Williams’ heartwarming smile nudged her to go to the actor and say hello. Williams was wearing a camoflouge shirt, and Schneider used it as a conversations starter. “How’s that camo working for you?” she asked, and the actor responded “Not too well, you found me.”
Robin Williams and his wife Susan Schneider in Hollywood in 2009 | Source: Getty Images
The couple dated for four years and walked down the aisle in 2011, making it Schneider’s second marriage. They lived in Marin County with Schneider’s two sons from her first union. Unfortunately, only two years after they married, Williams’ health started to deteriorate.
Robin Williams’ Final Days
In 2018, Marina Zenovich released a documentary about Williams titled “Come Inside my Brain,” which includes an old interview of the actor confessing his biggest fear.
Williams candidly spoke about how he feared losing his consciousness and reaching a point where his brain lost its creativity.
Robin Williams in Los Angeles in 2006 | Source: Getty Images
The actor became a sensation because of his out of the box thinking, which brought a fresh and theatrical take on comedy, therefore, Williams was petrified by the thought of losing inspiration for his ideas.
It was not until Williams passing that the doctors discovered in his autopsy that he suffered from a severe case of Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) and Schneider still remembers the time the doctors presented her with her husband’s autopsy results
They asked her if she was surprised that Williams had been suffering from LBD, and she admitted she wasn’t because it put a lot of his behavior into perspective. “The fact that something had infiltrated every part of my husband’s brain? That made perfect sense,” she said.
Robin Williams in New York in 2012 | Source: Getty Images
According to reports, Lewy Bodies are clumps of protein that infest the brain and are known to be responsible for 10-15% of dementia cases.
Some symptoms include anxiety, hallucinations, memory loss, and insomnia. These are also said to be connected with symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Since discovering the cause behind her husband’s tragic death, Schneider has made it her mission to educate the public on the disease and set the record straight about all the assumptions and theories surrounding her husband’s passing.
Comment about Robin Williams | Source: Reddit.com
During one interview she had after Williams’ death, Schneider showed no interest in the questions about her husband’s celebrity life.
But the question that got her out of her seat was about how Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and LBD are connected and how they can lead to a misdiagnosis.
To illustrate this, Schneider had the bright idea to create a movie about LBD. She proposed it as a scientific film and said producers laughed in her face.
Robin Williams with Milo Jacob Manheim and his daughter Zelda in California in 2011 | Source: Getty Images
However, she found another way to honor her husband’s memory and raise awareness about LBD by creating a documentary called “Robin’s Wish,” which focused on the actor’s experience with the disease.
Schneider admitted how difficult it was to put herself through this painful process, but she did it because her husband was famous, and she wanted to discuss the mystery that surrounded his death.
Williams had lost his life to a rare illness that needed to be highlighted, which was why his wife thought the documentary was the right thing to do.
Robin Williams and his wife Susan Schneider in New York in 2012 | Source: Getty Images
Williams was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2014, and he did not waste time before informing his three children, Zak, Zelda, and Cody.
However, at the time, the actor’s initial diagnosis did not solve the mystery behind his anxiety, depression, delusion, and paranoia. His wife added that these symptoms were not treated as the main neurological problem but rather as mild side effects of the bigger diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.
Williams’ symptoms became noticeable to his wife when he pulled back from his shows. His immense anxiety stopped him from doing one of his favorite things: testing his new material and interacting with fellow comedians at the Throckmorton Theatre in California.
It was apparent to his wife that the anxiety started taking control over Williams, and removing him from what he loved—entertaining crowds on stage.
According to Schneider, LBD has more than 40 symptoms, but the Lewy Bodies affected a part of Williams’ brain that makes it impossible for him to regulate his emotions of fear, and that crushed his world.
One patient, Teresa Cohen, who was in rehab with Williams, recalled the deep sadness and depression that sat on the actor’s face. It was evident to Cohen that the comedian was dealing with something bigger than himself.
Williams still tried to embody his goofy persona, said Cohen, but at some point, he could not hide the sadness that invaded his mind and body. She noticed that he never looked like he was fully relaxed.
However, the actor did his best to disguise what he was dealing with and tried to be present in his life. Williams’ last Instagram post commemorated his daughter Zelda’s 25th birthday. He shared a childhood picture of them and reminded Zelda that she would always be his little girl.
The actor also surprised his wife with a final romantic gesture weeks before his death, taking it back to where it all started, the Apple Store.
Schneider said she was at the Apple Store running the same errand she was when they first met, when she suddenly saw Williams walking in with flowers.
Despite the actor’s memory loss, he still remembered where he and Schneider’s love story began. Out of shock, Schneider said, “Oh my God, what are you doing? and Williams reminded her “This is where it all began.”
The day before Williams died, he and his wife spent their Saturday doing everything they loved together, and by the end of it, Schneider was convinced her husband was getting better.
After a long day of fun, the couple went to bed and wished each other goodnight as usual, “Good night, my love”, they said to each other. Schneider still hears these words echo in her head.
Unfortunately, Schneider woke up to the terrible sight of her husband’s lifeless body. The couple slept in separate rooms as per the doctor’s recommendation, but it became clear that Williams wanted to give her a final gift and a positive lasting memory of them together.
Robin Williams in New York in 2005 | Source: Getty Images
One thing they did not get to do was go to the neurocognitive testing facility that Schneider had scheduled for Williams. The actor took his life a week before their appointment, and she believed it was because he feared being locked up.
Since her husband’s death, Schneider has not contacted Williams’ children. The family went through a messy legal battle about the actor’s $100 million estate.
Robin Williams’ home | Source: Youtube.com/Famous Entertainment
Schneider expressed that they each wished each other well and went their separate ways. She was unsure if Williams’ children had seen her film, but understood if it was difficult for them to digest.
The actor’s wife also confessed that she still struggled to watch some of Williams’ work, but she felt consoled by the developments made in LBD research.
Schneider said two years before her husband died, they had a conversation about the legacy they wanted to leave behind, and she recalled Williams saying, “I want to help people be less afraid,” and each day she hopes to fulfill her husband’s wish.