With the passing of famed actor and comedian Robin Williams yesterday, it is an appropriate time to reflect on what he did for the radio industry. Those old enough to remember would no doubt immediately think of Williams’ standout performance in the hit 1987 movie “Good Morning, Vietnam” based on the life of Armed Forces Radio Service (AFRS) DJ Adrian Cronauer.
In the film, Williams is in his element portraying the witty and irreverent jock who brought smiles to the faces of troops fighting in the Vietnam War. In doing so, he provided some top-drawer PR for radio. Who can say how many kids were drawn to radio careers after watching GMV?
Williams also served to remind our industry – as well as the general public – of the force of personality in radio. The unique experience of connecting with a DJ: something that remains an industry advantage to this day.
In 2006, Williams revisited the world of radio when he played a gay DJ in New York who befriends a young patient with AIDS. That film was “The Night Listener.”
The loss of someone like Robin Williams is immeasurable. He brought laughter – and insight – to millions. And radio is also in his debt.
Leaving the last word to the man himself, here is how he signed off in GMV:
“Gooooooooood-byyyyyyye Vietnaaaaam! That’s right, I’m history… I’m outta here. I got the lucky ticket home, baby. Rollin, rollin, rollin’… keep them wagons rollin’, rawhide! Yeah, that’s right… the final Adrian Cronauer broadcast… and this one is brought to you by our friends at the Pentagon. Remember the people who brought you Korea? That’s right, the U.S. Army. If it’s being done correctly, here or abroad, it’s probably not being done by the Army.”