Robin Williams wanted to talk to me.
Sharon worked for the WPIX executive who discovered and hired me in May 1985. Chunks of my Robin Williams interviews were on my demo reel seen by that executive. She was his secretary and booked my flights when I was flown in for the job interviews. She and a date had gone to a comedy club. Robin Williams made a surprise appearance after midnight. He was the last act. Sharon went up to him afterwards, introduced herself as a WPIX TV employee there in Manhattan and asked if he remembered Bobby Rivers, a black guy from a Milwaukee TV station who'd interviewed him. He did and told her how much fun he'd had in those interviews. (Let's face it. Back in those days, I was one of the few black people on the movie junket scene. You didn't see as many of us covering entertainment then as you do know.) Sharon told him I'd been hired by her boss and that I was now in New York. He said, "Get him on the phone."
He congratulated me on the gig and said that he was not surprised that I got to New York. He felt that's where I should be. He asked me specifics about the job. I told I was hired under a staff news contract because the programming department didn't have the budget. I was bit concerned because I'm more entertainer, more the programming department, than a hardcore news journalist. Robin's response was to see how far it would take me, adding "The most important thing is that it got you here." Then he gave me some very serious and sage advice to deal with the possible margins of being within a staff news contract. He said "Don't be afraid to be funny." He gave some weight to that statement. It really landed on me. In time, I'd come to realize the wisdom of it. It wasn't just about dealing with the WPIX contract. Robin's advice was much bigger -- and it was most generous.
I wish a most groovy, cake-filled, fabulous birthday to Robin Williams. Happy Birthday, Robin! He's another of the former ABC stars who graduated from sitcom performances and getting laughs on that network to winning Academy Awards for dramatic work. Sally Field was Gidget and The Flying Nun, Tom Hanks was on Bosom Buddies, Ron Howard was on Happy Days and won his Oscar for Best Director (A Beautiful Mind, Best Picture 2001). Robin Williams won Best Supporting Actor for Good Will Hunting.
Near the end of my second year at WPIX, I got an offer to be a VH1 VJ. I had three of the happiest years of my career being a national TV entertainer on VH1. I loved that New York gig. How was I contacted? A top VH1 exec saw me being funny on Channel 11.
Those weren't the only two times I chatted with Robin. I had further interviews with him during my New York years. Robin Williams is one of the hairiest, funniest and sweetest men I've ever had the privilege to interview. And I'm still thankful for his great advice.