Billy Crystal Opens Up About Friend Robin Williams' Final Days: 'This Was Just a Scared Man'
Robin Williams died in 2014 at age 63 after suffering from Lewy Body Dementia, a brain disease that affected his thinking, memory and movement control
In a new biography Robin by Dave Itzkoff, Crystal, 70, opens up about when he noticed a few distressing signals in regards to Williams’ health.
“He wasn’t feeling well, but he didn’t let on to me all that was going on,” Crystal said about Williams — in a Vanity Fair exclusive excerpt of the book — disclosing the discomfort he felt at the time. “As he would say to me, ‘I’m a little crispy.’ I didn’t know what was happening, except he wasn’t happy.”
Crystal also gave one specific example, when Williams’ health was noticeably declining.
“I hadn’t seen him in about four or five months at the time, and when he got out of the car I was a little taken aback by how he looked. He was thinner and he seemed a little frail,” said Crystal, who recalled going to see a movie in Los Angeles with his wife Janice and Williams in fall 2013.
“He seemed quiet. On occasion, he’d just reach out and hold my shoulder and look at me like he wanted to say something. He hugged me goodbye, and Janice, and he started crying,” Crystal said. “I said, ‘What’s the matter?’ He said, ‘Oh, I’m just so happy to see you. It’s been too long. You know I love you.’ ”
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Then, Williams called Crystal to share the news of his Parkinson’s diagnosis.
“His number comes up on my phone and he says, ‘Hey, Bill.’ His voice was high-pitched. ‘I’ve just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s,’ ” Crystal remembered. “I didn’t miss a beat. Because of my relationship with Muhammad Ali, I knew a lot of really good Parkinson’s research doctors. I said, ‘In Phoenix, the research center is great. If you want, we can get you in there. It would be totally anonymous. Do you want me to pursue that?’ Would you?’ ”
Adding, “I never heard him afraid like that before. This was the boldest comedian I ever met — the boldest artist I ever met. But this was just a scared man.”
Not only were they good friends, but Crystal and Williams also worked on a number of film projects together, including In Search of Dr. Seuss (1994), Hamlet (1996), Father’s Day (1997), Deconstructing Harry (1997) and Get Bruce (1999).
Williams died in August 2014 after suffering from Lewy Body Dementia, a type of brain disease that affected his thinking, memory and movement control. It’s the second-most common type of progressive dementia after Alzheimer’s disease. His cause of death was ruled a suicide by asphyxiation.
According to Itzkoff’s book, before his death, Williams had been incorrectly diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system that develops gradually, often with a small tremor or general stiffness and slowing of movement.
Robin goes on sale May 15.