Entertainers with ties to area remember Williams

Actor Paul Dooley, a Vienna native, remembers Robin Williams as being a “nice guy, extremely funny” who also “had a sad quality.”

Choreographer/performer Tamara Schrader, a Belpre native, recalls Williams’ comedic talent and kindness and how he related to street performers in New York City.

Dooley and Schrader provided their thoughts in interviews following the death this week of the comedian and actor Williams in his California home.

Dooley, who lives in Burbank, Calif., spent several months with Williams and other actors and crew filming the 1980 movie “Popeye” on the Mediterranean island of Malta. Williams played the role of Popeye the Sailor Man and Dooley was the character Wimpy.

“Robin entertained us on our downtime” on the movie set, said Dooley, a 1945 graduate of Parkersburg High School. “It was almost always comedic. We welcomed it. Everyone loved him,” Dooley said of the actors and crew on the set of “Popeye.”

Dooley remembered there wasn’t much to do on Malta, which is south of Sicily, Italy, and the actors and crew became a family during the six months of filming for “Popeye.”

“He (Williams) was a companionable guy … amusing. He was like one of us,” Dooley said.

Dooley also worked with Williams in the 2002 movie “Insomnia,” which was filmed in Alaska, and the comedy film “Shakes the Clown” in 1991. Williams played a mime in “Shakes the Clown.”

Looking back and speaking as an “amateur psychiatrist,” after working with Williams and watching him on TV and in the movies, Dooley said he suspects Williams faced a sad side in his life, at times, when not entertaining

Schrader, who lives in New York City, said many entertainers in “The Big Apple” knew Williams and were deeply saddened by his death.

“I was hired to entertain as a mime for the National Spinal Cord Injury Association where (actor) Christopher Reeve was a speaker along with his great friend Robin Williams. The job was special to me because when I was 21, I broke my neck in a car wreck where my 5th cervical vertebrae was broken just short of paralysis,” Schrader wrote on her Facebook page this week.

“My previous training in Mime One Progenesis … a college mime company saved me from being paralyzed because of all the neck isolations and inclination exercises, so here I was as a walk around mime entertaining at this very special event,” Schrader said of the Spinal Cord Association dinner.

“As I was doing walk around mime playing off all the guests, Robin (Williams) came up to me and we started doing all kinds of fun improvisations together. He told me that he started out as a street performer doing mime in front of the Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City). That’s where I used to street perform with Elan, Raima and a few other mimes and break dancers,” Schrader said.

“Robin Williams was so much fun that night and his speech during the ceremony (at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City) brought real tears to me …. not just mime tears,” said Schrader.

Schrader studied mime at the North Carolina School of the Arts and at West Virginia University as a theater major. Schrader said she still gets a lot of work as a mime.

“Robin Williams was a brilliant mime. He used it a lot on the (television series) ‘Mork and Mindy,'” said Schrader, a choreographer/performer for several entertainment companies.