Hi, Robin, excuse our enthusiasm

Originally published on May 11, 2004 | Winnipeg Free Press | written by Gordon Sinclair, Jr.

THOSE who have seen Robin Williams up close and personal since he arrived here late last month have described him in nothing but the most endearing of terms.

Polite, humble, unassuming and even shy. Oh yes, and accommodating.

Even people who have never met him seem to get the accommodating part.

Which is probably why they've been writing with invites for Robin Williams.

For instance, a mother of three wrote to ask if his famous face would mind dropping by her school fundraising brunch at the Fort Garry Hotel. Twenty minutes would be nice.

Even one of our own famous faces--Justine Jones, the wife of Blue Bomber quarterback Khari Jones--had an invitation for Williams.

"Khari and I are disappointed we haven't had a bird sighting ourselves," Justine began.

She was referring to last week's column on "Robin sightings." Justine explained that they were more likely to run into him in San Francisco, where he lives and they're from.

"My parents, who live across the street from Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, have seen him out and about in the park with his family a few times," Justine continued. "The people in San Francisco seem to treat him with the same respect that the Winnipeggers are showing him now."

Then Justine got to the offer.

"Since we've adopted Winnipeg as our home, we want to adopt the 'Friendly Manitoba' slogan and invite him over to dinner."

Now that shooting on the film has started, and given his 15-hours-a-day schedule, Williams might have trouble doing brunch or dinner anywhere but on the set. But then, even if he could make it, there's no guarantee that any one of us would really be ready for our close-up with Robin Williams.

Case in point.

This story is courtesy of a middle-aged man, who, for reasons that will become apparent, asked that his identity be kept between him and me.

"I was pleased to see that most of the people are treating him as a normal human being," Middle-Aged Man began. "Some of us are so dumbfounded upon seeing him that we may say things we later regret.

"I am one of those."

Middle-Aged Man explained that he was attending a wedding reception at the Fort Garry when he saw Williams get out of a compact car in front of the hotel. Now, Middle-Aged Man knows people in the local film industry and they've warned him about how to behave upon a chance encounter with the stardust that surrounds the Hollywood famous.

But he couldn't help himself.

"Nanoo, Nanoo," he blurted.

Middle-Aged Man knew immediately that he'd embarrassed both himself and the actor he admired so much. He tried to recover.

"I am sure you haven't heard that before," he said.

"Only for the last 23 years," Robin Williams replied.

Middle-Aged Man wanted me to pass along something he now wished he had added.

Something he hopes the rest of us never have to say to the American actor who has treated Winnipeggers with such graciousness and respect.

"I am sorry, Mr. Williams."

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