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Robin Williams Dead at 63

Aired August 11, 2014 - 20:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much for joining us.

When someone can make a friend laugh, even though that friend has just learned he may never walk again, that someone is a person to be treasured.

And that's what Christopher Reeves said his friend Robin Williams did for him. And Christopher Reeves said at that very moment when Robin Williams made him laugh, that he knew life would be all right.

Tonight we've learned that Robin Williams, a treasure to millions, has died. Authorities in Marin County, north of San Francisco where Robin Williams had a home, say the talented actor and pioneer and comedian apparently took his own life. He was 63 years old.

A spokeswoman says he'd been fighting depression lately. His wife, Susan Schneider, released a statement.

"This morning I lost my husband and my best friend. While the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human being. I am utterly heartbroken." She goes on, "On behalf of Robin Williams' family, we are asking for privacy during our time of profound grief as he is remembered. It is our hope that the focus will not be on Robin's death but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions."

And tonight that will be our focus as well. Starting with our entertainment correspondent Nischelle Turner.

Nischelle, such shocking news. All of us, you know, we're literally shaken --


BLITZER: -- when we got word of this loss.

TURNER: Absolutely. Definitely, Wolf. And you know, it's one of the more shocking things. I've been covering the entertainment industry for a very long time and covered just about every story you could imagine. And when I looked down and saw this information tonight, I just sat for a second because I didn't know if I really believed it.

Sixty-three years old, you said, so young, but he did battle many demons for two decades. Robin Williams did, you know, battle addiction. He was very open about it. One of the few celebrities in Hollywood that talked open about some of his flaws, but he wanted other people to learn from him.

We did hear his wife say he was battling a severe depression. But she did also say that she wanted us not so much to focus on how he died, but the joy that he brought to all of our lives with his comedy, with his acting. You know, with his dramatic acting. And there are lots of celebrities that are reacting to this tonight. But Rachel Dratch from "Saturday Night Live," tweeted, and she tweeted that Robin Williams was the improviser, and that's what I remember about him so much.

Whenever you went to interview him, you just kind of put your seatbelt on and you held on for dear life because you never knew what you were going to get. He was always so funny. And when you came out, you felt like you went on a wild rollercoaster ride. But I want to take a look back and remember the life and the career of Robin Williams.


TURNER (voice-over): His high octane brand of comedy was his trademark public persona, but Robin Williams proved himself an Oscar winner with a strong philanthropic side. Born in 1951 it was in his 20s when Williams was unleashed first as an American TV star.

ROBIN WILLIAMS, ACTOR: Mindy, run for your life. The emotions are coming.

TURNER: As Mork from the Planet Ork in "Mork & Mindy," Williams became a household name. When the series ended after a four-year run in 1982 he showed he could do more than make people laugh.

WILLIAMS: My name is T.S. Garp.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's T.S. stand for?

WILLIAMS: Terribly sexy.

TURNER: The Julliard schooled actor unveiled his dramatic side for the first time in 1982's "The World According to Garp."

WILLIAMS: I was trained as an actor so it's not like they had to medicate me.

TURNER: That serious side earned him Oscar nominations for "The Fisher King."

WILLIAMS: Good morning Vietnam.

TURNER: "Good Morning, Vietnam" and "Dead Poet Society."

WILLIAMS: It's the golden dude.

TURNER: He finally won his only Oscar statue in 1998 for "Good Will Hunting."

WILLIAMS: This one, yes. The other ones were just foreplay. It's extraordinary. TURNER: But Williams never stopped being funny, even when the topic

seemed serious. He helped launch and co-hosted eight telethons over 20 years to help the homeless.

WILLIAMS: Men who sleep with chickens and the women who love them.

TURNER: Comic relief earned more than $50 million. And even when he talked about his battles with drugs and alcohol, he talked about it with humor.


WILLIAMS: Well, that's nice of you to say that.

TURNER: He took two trips to rehab, the most recent one in 2006, a process he talked about on "LARRY KING LIVE" in 2007.

WILLIAMS: What happens, people basically start the process of, you know, just saying no, and being among others, you know, and learning that you're not alone and working on giving up.

KING: Do you lose your sense of humor in it?

WILLIAMS: No, you find it. You're with people who have a great sense of humor.

KING: So you're funny there, too?

WILLIAMS: Oh, yes, you have to be.

TURNER: In 2009 Williams was rushed to the hospital with heart problems, forced to temporarily cancel his one-man show to undergo surgery. He talked about his recovery on the "Ellen" show.

WILLIAMS: You have heart surgery and literally they open you up, they crack the box, and you get really vulnerable. You'd be like, a kitten, oh, my. And you get very, very emotional about everything. But I think that's -- a wonderful thing. It really opens you up to everything.

TURNER: And with a new lease on life, Williams quickly sprang back into action. In 2011 he made his Broadway acting debut starring in "Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo." That same year he would marry his third wife, graphic designer Susan Schneider. In 2013 Williams would return to the small screen, starring in the CBS sitcom "The Crazy Ones" where he would reunite with his old friend Pam Dawber better known as Mindy.

PAM DAWBER, ACTRESS: Never met anybody who's screwy as you. You look an alien.

TURNER: From stand-up to sitcoms and beyond, Williams would delight audiences for decades with his whacky humor and joyful energy. He was the definition of full of life. And even now, this comic legend is destined to endure.


TURNER: And Robin Williams, we do know, actually to update some of that information, he did return to rehab in July of 2014. At that time his representatives told us that he was checking himself back in, in order to maintain his sobriety. That he, of course, had been battling his addictions for more than two decades and sometimes when you are a recovering addict, you go back in to make sure that everything is working and that you're still on the right road.

We don't know if he was struggling. We don't know right now because of his passing, and they're saying that he was battling depression, if something else was going on there. But at the time they said he was maintaining his sobriety.

We also know that Robin Williams left four movies behind, "Night at the Museum 2," that was slated to open in December, "Mary Friggin Christmas," that was going to open in November. He had recently signed back on to reprise his role, Wolf, in "Mrs. Doubtfire." one of his, you know, romantic comedies with Sally Field that we all loved, a feel-good movie. So he was going to reprise his role there. And he'd also signed on to do a couple of indy films.

We saw in 2013 his return to television, in a show called "The Crazy Ones" for CBS. That was much heralded because we fell in love with him when he played Mork on "Mork & Mindy." And when he came back to television, everyone thought, well, here he comes again. So it is just a shock tonight to be talking to you and reporting that Robin Williams is dead at 63.

BLITZER: So sad, indeed. I saw him perform standup and he was amazing.


BLITZER: On the big screen, the little screen, standup, whatever he did was simply, simply wonderful.

Nischelle, stay with us. In 30 seconds we're going to show Henry Winkler who shared the small screen with a then unknown Robin Williams on "Happy Days." But here's 30 seconds that electrified TV viewers.



WILLIAMS: Fonzie, remember me, Mork from Ork? You once called me the nuts-o from outer space.

WINKLER: I must be dreaming or something like that. I mean, of course I'm dreaming, that's why Mary never heard of me.

WILLIAMS: Sorry, real thing. I had to zap your mind to make you forget, didn't want you to go bozo city.


BLITZER: And joining us on the phone now is Henry Winkler.

Henry, I know this must be a huge shock to you. You knew Robin Williams, you worked with him, you had cross-over roles, "Happy Days," "Mork & Mindy." So give us your thoughts right now. What's going through your mind?

WINKLER: You know, it is -- first of all, good evening. It is unimaginable that this is the reality today, that this incredible human being, incredible, delicate, funny, dramatic human being is gone.

When he came to do "Happy Days," which I believe was his first role, we usually rehearse Monday to Friday, and he came in on Wednesday because they couldn't find anybody to play this alien from space that Gary Marshall had thought of. And we started rehearsing and I realized that I was in the presence of greatness. Hands down, this is not hyperbole, I just realized my only job is to keep a straight face.

And it was impossible. Because no matter what you said to him, no matter what line you gave to him, he took it in, processed it, and then it flew out of his mouth, never the same way twice. And it was incredibly funny every time. It was just -- it was amazing. You knew, oh, boy, we're -- you're witnessing the beginning of something unbelievably special.

BLITZER: So you knew, Henry, even then this was not only a genius comic, but a genius actor?

WINKLER: That is so true. And it's not a matter of being perceptive, it's a matter of, it was right there. You couldn't miss it, you know, you couldn't miss it, if -- you know, for anything in the world. He was electric. He was electrifying and he was like that no matter what he did, all the time. No matter what he did, he was -- he was that. It was just an amazing thing to witness it.

BLITZER: Yes, and he inspired so many of us just by watching him and enjoying what he was doing, it was -- simply amazing. That's why we're all right now in a state of shock, as we try to absorb this news. As you know, as well known as he had been, he had been in rehab. He had discussed it openly including recently, battled addiction problems often in his career. I spoke about it very, very publicly.

Was there any sense among the people who knew him that things were clearly getting so bad?

WINKLER: Do you know what, I never saw that. All I saw, when I was with him, when I watched him, when we crossed paths, when he was doing his show up the street on the Paramount lot, all I saw was boundless energy. He would work all day, he would go to the clubs at night and do standup, and work on his act. He always, always -- you met him, you met him and there was a wave of warmth that swept out of him that covered you like a blanket.

You know, when he would break for lunch and he was working with Jonathan Winters on his show "Mork & Mindy," they would walk down the street together and all of a sudden just stop and then they would start to kibitz and then they would start to improvise, and then they would do this routine. It was in minutes, almost the entire lot was standing there like an open air theater watching these two great minds go at it. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. But no matter what was happening, it was still better than anything that you were doing.

BLITZER: Yes. Yes, he was definitely a genius all around. It's impossible, Henry, I think to overstate how big of an icon Robin Williams was, whether it was television, standup comedy, movies. He did everything. And I remember Johnny Carson himself handpicked Robin Williams as one of his last two guests before signing off from "The Tonight Show," that talent, the speed of his comedy, it was incomparable. You remember that, don't you?

WINKLER: I do, and I want to tell you, irreplaceable. There is no one to now fill his shoes. Those shoes will remain right there empty forever. He just -- and no matter what he did, funny, dramatic, it was always with a depth that left you breathless.

BLITZER: You know, and he brought so much joy, laughter to people, millions of people in the United States, indeed all over the world. Yet inside he was -- he was tormented. He was going through hell, clearly. He had a lot, a lot of depression in him that I guess he could conceal, when he went on stage.

WINKLER: Yes, but you know what, I was not privy to that, I never saw that side of him. The only -- what I saw was this delight that would twinkle in those eyes. And it was -- I have no words. It's just -- it's just an amazing moment in time that this light is gone.

BLITZER: It's hard to believe, we're not going to have Robin Williams around live anymore, that he's gone. I mean, it's just shocking to a lot of us who have enjoyed all of his -- all of his career.

WINKLER: Yes. You know, somehow you -- when you think of Robin, you just think that he will go on and on and on. And thank God we have all of this -- all of his repertoire recorded. We have the comedy, the drama, the one-man show. Everything is there for us now to enjoy over and over again. Unfortunately, we will not see the newest creation.

BLITZER: Yes. And 63, you know, 63, he had many -- he should have had many, many years ahead of him.


BLITZER: Sixty-three, way, way too young to leave all of us.

WINKLER: Yes. It's true. It's true.

BLITZER: So soon.

WINKLER: I am -- I know I've said a lot, but I'm speechless that this great, great artist is no longer on the earth.

BLITZER: Do you remember the last time you spoke with him?

WINKLER: The last time I spoke with him was a while ago. But whenever I spoke to him, it always started with a hug. And his famous phrase was papa. Hi, papa. And he -- he called me pa, I'm sure he called everybody that he knew that was just his affectionate phrase. But it just warmed you as if you were in -- you know, a warm bath.

BLITZER: So sad.

Henry Winkler, thank you so much for sharing some thoughts about Robin Williams on this very, very sad night as we try to absorb this loss.


BLITZER: One quick note before we take a break, the last tweet that Robin Williams posted on Twitter was on July 31st to his daughter, he wrote this. "Happy birthday to Zelda Rae Williams. Quarter of a century old today but always my," and he linked this message to this Instagram photo of the two of them when both were a whole lot younger.


BLITZER: The breaking news tonight, as shocking as it is sad, the death of the actor, the comedian Robin Williams of a suspected suicide due to asphyxia. He was 63 years old.

Williams was open about his fight for sobriety. And according to his representative, had recently been battling severe depression.

Joining us now live, our entertainment commentator, the "Vanity Fair" senior West Coast editor Krista Smith and Dr. Drew Pinsky, the addiction medicine specialist, the host of HLN's "DR. DREW ON CALL."

Dr. Drew, Robin Williams had been public over the years with his addiction issues, his experiences with rehab. The statement from his spokesman indicates he was indeed battling depression.

Do addiction and depression often go together?

DR. DREW PINSKY, HOST, HLN'S "DR. DREW ON CALL": I would dare to say essentially always. And especially in a circumstance where somebody like Robin Williams who'd had a couple of decades of successful recovery, suddenly struggling with their sobriety, sometimes depression is the reason and even when it's not the reason it contributes to the struggle and makes them feel awful.

He had at least three reasons to have severe recalcitrant depression. One probably depression. Probably genetic. He appears to be genetically predisposed to it. He struggled for a long time with depression. Two is addiction, like you just mentioned, and three is, he'd had a recent heart surgery, and in that little piece that Nischelle gave us, he was speaking to Ellen and talked about how vulnerable and emotional he felt after his cardiac surgery. And that is a very common phenomenon. People can develop severe depressions just from that surgery. BLITZER: So if you have -- if you have already an element of

depression, you go through heart surgery, what you're saying is that can exacerbate the depression?

PINSKY: It can exacerbate, it can actually cause depressions, as can the medication we use for heart disease. And listen, sometimes just prior to even having a heart attack, the only presenting symptom is a depressive episode. So depression and cardiac disease, especially cardiac surgery are very tightly linked. And then again he had at least other -- a couple of other reasons that might been contributing.

I mean, this is really somebody -- we try to make sense of this. And try to understand how somebody who brought such a joy could possibly had been suffering so much. But it's a brain disorder. It's a disorder of brain chemistry and brain biology. And as such, it's something outside of their control.

And even when somebody has suicidal ideology, again, a reminder, this is a fatal condition, depression, and addiction. Both two, potentially fatal conditions. But when somebody has suicidal impulses and you can get your hands on them and hold them and sit on them, and watch them, it often passes. It's just so tragic when somebody doesn't have that opportunity.

BLITZER: It certainly is.

Krista, I think it's also important for people to remember that this was not someone who just starred in some funny movies or was a funny sitcom comic, a genius if you will. But this was someone who also had a tremendous range. He played some very serious roles and he won an Oscar for "Good Will Hunting." Obviously a dramatic role as well.

KRISTA SMITH, CNN ENTERTAINMENT COMMENTATOR: Well, the amazing thing about Robin Williams is his legacy. It's so tragic to speak about him in those terms, but he's been working for four decades. I mean, you know, "Mork & Mindy," that huge television show, I grew up in Colorado, that was the first show I remember watching because, you know, he played the alien that lived in Boulder, Colorado. And from that he went into "Moscow on the Hudson."

He had a huge -- and that basically launched him into film. And like you said, winning the Oscar for "Good Will Hunting" and what he created with "Mrs. Doubtfire." And I had heard rumblings here in Hollywood that they were about ready to reboot and have another "Mrs. Doubtfire." It's just really, really tragic.

And I agree, his range was amazing and he was able to kind of flip between the outrageous comedy and this real person and affect you emotionally. You know, you think of "Good Morning, Vietnam," I mean the roles are -- he's got a very, very long resume.

BLITZER: There aren't very many talented people out there, Krista, who have that range from very serious dramatic roles to standup comic, right?

SMITH: Well, there -- you know, there aren't many people that have that, actually. You know, it is a special thing and he really had that. Especially someone that started out as larger than life, character motor mouth, this comedy, he was all over the place, doing 16 different voices at one time but holding the true line of the joke and the story.

And then to see him, you know, grow in his career, and he's still working at stuff. He did in "Night of the Museum." And he was still very prolific. He just had a television show on CBS last year.

BLITZER: Yes, he did.

Dr. Drew, Robin Williams certainly wasn't the only person in the United States who had some mental health issues, certainly wasn't the only person to think about taking his or her own life. So what should people in that same position who may be watching us right now, what should they be doing to reach out for help?

PINSKY: Well, the one thing I would just point out to people is that we all love this man, and here we've all been robbed by -- not his cardiac condition which was serious, but by mental health issues. How often on CNN and HLN do we report dead -- celebrities dead prematurely? It's nearly always related to mental health phenomenon, whether suppression, or substance, or a combination, bipolar disorder.

These are -- the thing to remember is that these are medical conditions, they are potentially fatal. And when somebody goes into a crisis it is a medical emergency. Treat it as such. Do not try to gloss it, do not -- I don't like the fact that we have such stigma around this condition, so much so that poor Robin Williams who went back, it seems, into a hospital this last summer, in July, that he had to say it was for rehab, it sounds like it was probably for depression.

He probably went into a psychiatric hospital because the depression was threatening his recovery. We can't even say that, we can't even talk about it. We have to be able to talk about it just the way we talk about any other medical condition and deal with it matter of factually and deal with it directly as though it were any other medical emergency when somebody begins contemplating hurting themselves.

BLITZER: And there is -- there is medication, right, Dr. Drew?

PINSKY: There's many different treatments. A lot of people are very uncomfortable with medication. But sometimes it is just putting somebody in a safe environment for a period of time. Sometimes it's long walks and classical music, there's many treatments. But it's got to be done in the context of a skilled professional. It's not something you can treat as just sort of a bad mood that passes, or just some sort of struggle, you know, some sort of anxiety that just is something that is likely to be any of life's stressors.

These are medical conditions and you have got to be -- you would not -- a physician would not treat his own hypertension. Would not treat his or her own heart disease. Any more than we treat our own depressions. And the public needs to deal with it accordingly as it pertains to substances, as it -- as it pertains to mood disorders. They are potentially dangerous and real professionals, highly trained professionals need to be on top of this and make the choices with the patients and with their family on exactly how to approach it, lest something awful and tragic like this happens again.

BLITZER: A lot of times, as you know, Dr. Dew, there's the stigma, people are afraid to acknowledge it, they're afraid to talk about it, they're afraid of the ramifications, and so they sort of try to conceal it, and that makes it even worse.

PINSKY: Makes it worse, it makes them feel more guilty, more shameful, more worthless, and the fact is, it's a -- you didn't see -- don't see people feeling shameful for having cardiac disease, why a brain disease? Why when someone has a brain disease they have to feel shameful? And here's a gentleman that suffered both a cardiac and a brain condition. And the brain condition is what unfortunately and tragically took him.

We need to learn from this. We can't continue to lose important people in our lives because of something that is treatable and will pass.

BLITZER: Krista Smith, give me a thought right now, as we try to absorb the shocking news that Robin Williams is dead.

SMITH: Well, I, Wolf, was listening to this conversation, what struck me is that there are no socioeconomic boundaries with depression. It is just catastrophic. It can happen to someone like you said, Robin Williams who entertains us, who has an Oscar, who has so many successes, who has three children, and seemingly so much to live for, and he had other films in the works and he was in post production on several other projects and he just -- it's so serious, depression can be -- it's very, very serious business.

And even if you are capable of getting that help or you have the resources to go to a facility, you know, there's a real problem with not talking about it and I agree, you have this stigma attached to it.

BLITZER: It's a huge stigma. Give me your final thought, Drew, people watching right now. What do they need to know?

PINSKY: Well, here's the final thought, that we need to talk about this. I or you should not be stigmatized for discussing it, and we should not allow the fact that he had a brain condition stigmatize his life. I agree with the family we should remember him for his life. Each of us need to think about our own lives and stop the stigma.

BLITZER: And one final thought because you raised it earlier, somebody who has heart surgery has to be aware that that could in fact cause serious depression problems in the years that follow, is that right?

PINSKY: Particularly immediately following, but anyone with cardiac disease is at risk and especially at risk after an acute event. Sometimes it's a presenting feature of cardiac disease. I can't tell you how many times I had a funny feeling, put someone up on a treadmill, found a heart condition, and we treated that effectively, magically the depression improved. It doesn't always work like that, but it's an important thing to think to ourselves, that medical conditions and psychiatric problems relate to one another very, very often.

BLITZER: Robin Williams had heart surgery five years ago in March of 2009. Dr. Drew, thanks very much for joining us. Krysta Smith, thanks to you as well.

Robin Williams, the creative genius, he was legendary, his legacy is vast. Coming up, we're going to take you to Hollywood Boulevard's Walk of Fame. Here's what it looks like right now as fans gather around his star to remember a stellar talent.


BLITZER: Just a few moments ago, Henry Winkler paid Robin Williams the ultimate tribute. He said you thought he would go on forever. Many people around the world wish that were true.

Ted Rowlands is on Hollywood Boulevard's Walk of Fame. Robin Williams has a star there. Ted Rowlands is joining us now. It must be a sad moment around that star.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, you can imagine, people are very emotional. This is a guy that, if you didn't know him, you felt like you did, as a viewer, if you watched his movies and watched him on television, there's a -- some flowers here, and one of those Oscar statuettes you can buy at the souvenir store here on Hollywood Boulevard.

And a note saying, we will miss you Robin RIP. People have been filing through here. The access is limited because there's a movie premiere here tonight at the Chinese theater. This would normally be more here tonight. This is a newlywed couple here on their honeymoon. This is someone who touched you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, his movies, I -- if you're having a bad day or down for any reason, watching any of his movies could lift you up. It could be a healing experience, and it's so sad that someone who has that much talent and the ability to help.

And give so much joy to so many people was suffering internally and it just -- my heart goes out and I pray for him and his family. Anyone out there that's suffering, if you haven't gotten help, you need to get help. This should be what pushes you to do that. This is a tragedy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Julie, the shock factor. This is a man, in his early 60s, you feel like he's going to keep entertaining and keep making a difference in all of our lives, to have him gone before his time, it's hard to deal with. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a tragedy, I mean, I grew up with his

movies "Mrs. Doubtfire," "Patch Adams." he had a real talent of bringing out joy and laughter in somebody. His picture is pasted all over the funny bone in St. Louis, where we're from.

I grew up with him in St. Louis, my dad always mimics him. He's impacted a lot of people. And so, he's going to be missed. He's definitely going to be missed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is an actress that put down these flowers. When you put them down you were crying, why?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's an enormous loss to the entertainment community and every moviegoer out there. He was the Jeannie, and an incredible talent and person to boot. It's a very sad day.

ROWLANDS: You said he inspired you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely. I remember vividly watching Mrs. Doubtfire when I was 12 years old and hearing his bits and - my name is -- he's just amazing energy. And for me, this is my hero, that's passed and it's a really devastating time. Thoughts and prayers go out to his family.


ROWLANDS: Wolf, a lot of emotion as you can imagine here on Hollywood boulevard. The sudden passing of Robin Williams has shocked people and it's bringing people down here to pay their respects.

BLITZER: It's only just beginning, people are just beginning to absorb the enormity of this loss. Ted Rowlands, thank you so much for joining us from Hollywood. We'll be back with more on the suspected suicide of Robin Williams. His life, comedic and dramatic legacy and more reaction from his former co-stars when 360 continues.


BLITZER: President Obama just reacted to the passing of Robin Williams. Quite a statement from the president, "Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang peter pan, and everything in between. He arrived in our lives as an alien, but ended up touching every element of the human spirit.

He made us laugh, cry, he gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who need it most. From our troops stationed abroad, to the marginalized on our own streets. The president wraps up his statement by saying, the Obama family offers our condolences to Robin's family, friends and everyone who found their voice and verse thanks to Robin Williams.

Let's get back to Nischelle Turner. As his family says, they want him to be remembered for his talent, for his laughs, the laughs he brought so many millions of people, I think it's important to pay contribute you to his skill, pioneering. What was it about Robin Williams that made him standout?

You never really had to ask a question, Wolf. Robin Williams, when you walked into the room, he just started going, he just started talking, he made you laugh, sometimes he made you think, you never knew what you were going to get, but it was always such a good time.

You would walk out of there, and sometimes you'd shake your head and say, that was Robin absolutely, but you always felt good when you left the room. I think most people are feeling that way tonight. They always felt good after an encounter with him.

Pam Dawber said I am completely and totally devastated, what more can be said? That is very true. There is something I would like to say, earlier tonight when I was giving you a report, I did say that Robin Williams was battling his demons. I've been getting a lot of feedback from the mental health community in using that word.

A lot of times when we're doing live coverage we say things and we're talking and we don't realize what we're saying. They're absolutely correct. That it is a disease, and we've been hearing Dr. Drew talk about it, so I apologize for using the word demons, because Robin Williams by so many people's account was a bright light, a bright light in Hollywood, a bright light in his life that was battling a disease.

BLITZER: He was certainly battling a major disease. That disease being depression, and it's a very serious disease that Dr. Drew pointed out. When it comes to how actors and performers are remembered in the media, Robin Williams wasn't just a star, he was an icon.

And I think in addition to a lot of the realtime reaction online his passing will have a long lasting impact. He will go down in entertainment history. Comedians, actors will remember him. This is a huge loss.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": One way we see that reflected tonight, so many generations have different memories of him. This is a man who was born in 1951. Came to fame. To a certain generation, it's Mork and Mindy, good morning Vietnam. I'm a millennial, for me, it's films like "Jumanji" in the 1990s or my personal favorite role he's ever played is just his voice in the film, "Aladdin."

He played the genie. And almost all of what he did was improvise. Robin would go into the room, he would just let it loose. I'm going to quote him here, he was so hilarious, we were rolling on the floor in the control room, and we had to boil it down to the funniest stuff.

He would get to the point of a character and zing around to something else. It was that improvisational spirit that is so unique, it's what Nischelle was referring to, when you would interview him, you didn't have to ask a question, he would just get going.

And then in the 2000s as well. Night at the museum, where he played Theodore Roosevelt. Happy Feet, in 2006, there are so many generations that have different but complimentary memories of this man.

BLITZER: He was so talented. Every 40 years he was doing this, a lot of us remember all aspects of that career. Nischelle, nowadays with all the Twitter and Facebook and everything else. People are going to have an opportunity to almost immediately convey their feelings and thoughts.

TURNER: And they have been. And I've been going over -- Hollywood is reacting, I've been going over a lot of the reaction tonight that we've been seeing. A couple things that stood out to me, Bob Saget tweeted his genius was as big as his heart. And I think that sums up a lot of what people are feeling.

Quincy Jones tweeted tonight, they were very close. RIP to my dear brother and friend, the world will miss the decades of laughter that you gave all of us. Steve Martin tweeted as well. I could not be more stunned by the loss of Robin Williams. Great talent, acting partner, genuine soul.

Once again, this kind of per have as what we've been saying, Wolf, that whoever he came into contact with in Hollywood, grew to love him, Chris rock also tweeted tonight, just a couple words, so sad, so funny. That's kind of summed up what he thought about Robin Williams this evening.

You mentioned it, you called him an icon, he is legendary his star shrines so bright. We will be seeing him on the screen this next year. He had four movies that were completed and slated to be released this year and into next year.

"Night at the Museum 2" was going to be released, Merry Friggin Ghristmas, he had signed on for "Mrs. Doubtfire 2." He signed on to do an independent film. He was definitely working. It will be sad when we see him once again performing.

BLITZER: We have all those films, all those TV series we'll be able to remember.

STELTER: And nowadays, they're on Netflix. That's one of the things I notice people sharing. One of the trending topics on Twitter tonight isn't the names of his movie, it's a famous quote from "dead poet's society" captain my captain. People sharing that line to remember him.

BLITZER: We will always, always remember him. Brian, Nischelle, guys, thanks very much for remembering him right now.

Just ahead, fans and friends of Robin Williams are lighting up the Twittersphere sharing their memories and grief, much more after this.


BLITZER: As we've been discussing, Robin Williams is dead at 63. He battled addiction for decades. He spoke about rehab a few years back with Larry King.


LARRY KING: You went through --


KING: What were you addicted.

WILLIAMS: I had a little problem with alcohol. It wasn't really a problem, everybody had it.

KING: You were a drunk?

WILLIAMS: That's nice of you to say that. You wake up with a road flair nicely placed. What's your name?

KING: What happens in rehab?

WILLIAMS: You dry out. What happens people start the process of saying no, and being among others and learning that you're not alone and working on giving up, you know, giving up that you could do it yourself, because everyone's saying, I got this under control.

KING: How do you, though, keep --

WILLIAMS: You keep going because there's a secret organization that you go to --

KING: Yes, alcoholics anonymous.

WILLIAMS: Don't say that. It's unanimous. You go to those, and you find other people that have done things that make you look Amish, and you come out the other side, I almost have a year now without that. So it's good.

KING: Do you lose your sense of humor in it? No, you find it.

WILLIAMS: You have to be -- one guy, his name shall remain nameless. The idea that he tried to commit suicide, and he put a tube in his car to pump the fumes in, but only had a quarter tank of gas. It's a bit of a humor.


BLITZER: So sad, our coverage of the death of Robin Williams continues at the top of the hour, we'll have much more on the details we're now learning. The outpouring of grief and shock of the news. Robin Williams dead at 63.