The Day the Laughter Died

Polly and her sister Annie Nichol

Polly and her sister Annie Nichol

It’s a common refrain for people in my situation. Your child is kidnapped. Time passes and answers are not forthcoming. You sink into despair as you contemplate why God has forsaken your family, yourself, and most importantly your child. What are you to do if you are thrashing about in total darkness without a flashlight to guide you to the path of hope?


Robin Williams was not a friend of mine. However, we lived in the same general community in Northern California. He was known to pop up unexpectedly and without an entourage at local comedy clubs, restaurants, county fairs, and other places that normal people would frequent. At any rate our paths had never crossed until the dark days after Polly’s abduction on October 1, 1993.


mrs-doubtfireMr. Williams was but one of many who assisted with the Polly search. I learned that he had reached out to Polly’s half-sister Annie (not my daughter) and the girls who were with Polly on the night that she was kidnapped. He spent time with them. He gave them autographed copies of the Mrs. Doubtfire script, and ultimately reintroduced laughter into the broken hearts of suffering children.


When he showed up during a fundraising event in Santa Rosa he brought light into the darkness. When he took over auctioneer duties the trickle of support became a river of sustenance. An autographed Willie Mays baseball bat which had been languishing at around $100 quickly sold for more than $2,000 and the man who purchased it couldn’t have been happier. And so it went throughout the evening as the manic styling of the comic with the sad eyes stole hearts and induced much needed laughter.


The last time I saw him was at Piatti Restaurant in Mill Valley. He was seated alone at a table for four, facing away from the panoramic view of Mt. Tamalpais and the Marin Headlands. When Violet and I were seated I nodded to him. He smiled in response. Violet encouraged me to approach Mr. Williams to thank him for the unsolicited $10,000 donation that he had made some years later and his overall kindness, but I declined. I wish I could take that moment back, because I don’t think I ever formally thanked him for his benevolence and caring. Now it is too late, because although my season in Hell is long past, his did not end until last Monday: the day the laughter died.

7 thoughts on “The Day the Laughter Died

  1. Hello Marc. I read this story with interest via the FB page dedicated to Morgan Harrington (of central VA) and justice and/or prevention for all victims and/or potential victims. I recognized the name Polly Klaas from long ago, around the same time I became passionately concerned about the case of Sara Ann Wood of central NY. At one point, I bought a bouquet of flowers, travelled miles from the Albany/Schenectady area to further out west (NY) and left the flowers near the door of a place that was apparently a temporary or permanent office that was focusing on finding Sara. That case was one of the most riveting for me emotionally and I remember the wanted posters were in tons of places in Schenectady and other nearby places. Some people were less caring – I put one such poster in the window where I used to work, and a younger co-worker tore it down soon after, to my dismay. I remember Polly Klaas’ case as well, and I remember how Winona Ryder became concerned and offered her kind heart to help with justice. Upon reading your write-up, I never knew that Robin Williams (who was always one of my favorite comedians) cared so much about Polly that he also offered his love and concerned support. It’s just such a shame that he has passed on now recently, as did so many girls, adult women (as well as young boys and adult men, in many cases) since the beginning of mankind. It hurts my soul when beautiful people are taken from our world. God bless you Marc, Polly, all your friends and family, the well-meaning search crews and law enforcement officials, and of course Robin Williams. May their spirits live on – if not among us, then surely in the most beautiful afterlife that such innocence deserves. Continued prayers that everyone will find peace despite these difficulties.

  2. Mark, I am sure a thoughtful nod and smile meant more to Robin at a contemplative time than you can know. This is a wonderful testament to the kindness of a man most people know as a comic or an actor only.

  3. Mark this is a brief reminder. ..say what needs to be said…we just don’t know when or if we’ll ever meet again. ..thanks for sharing. .
    as always Cecelia Ponzini…

  4. Mark, That was beautiful! The important part of that story is to always take the opportunity to thank those who give so much and silently sit back. You are a wonderful man and I am very lucky to have met you many years ago. You helped my family thru a very difficult time and for that I will always be grateful.

  5. When I heard of his death I thought of the Don McClean Song “American Pie” about the day the music died. I thought the same thing you did, …The day the laughter died…

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