We all know the story of how Robin hit a homerun with his big break, turning one brief guest shot as an alien on Happy Days into a spinoff Mork and Mindy. What isn’t known is that Robin nearly didn’t get that chance to shine.
In an interview about Robin’s death, Henry Winkler discussed first meeting Robin, mentioning that unlike other guest stars who started working with the cast of Happy Days on Mondays, Robin didn’t start working until Wednesday. What Henry didn’t remember, or didn’t say, is the reason behind that. Robin wasn’t supposed to be on Happy Days at all.
Here’s what really happened. At the time, my husband Howard was an agent who represented comedy giants including Mel Brooks and Dom de Luise. He also represented an actor named Richard Dimitri.
Richard was in the cast of Mel Brooks’ series When Things Were Rotten” in 1975 which lasted half a season. 3 years later, he hadn’t found much work. It’s often hard for an offbeat type who is not a typical leading man. So Howard was thrilled when he got Richard a big break on the hit series Happy Days. It was a guest starring role playing an alien, an enormous opportunity for Richard to showcase his comedy talent.
Richard started work Monday on the set of Happy Days. I remember Howard talking to him that night, when Richard reported back on the day. Howard was upset; it hadn’t gone well.
The next day on Happy Days wasn’t a happy day for Richard; he was fired. Howard didn’t represent him after that incident and I have no idea what happened to Richard Dimitri ( although I did come up with this picture.)
Meanwhile back in 1978, Howard called the producers and found out that Richard was immediately replaced as the alien on Happy Days….by another unknown with comedic talent, named Robin Williams.
Moral of the story: Undoubtedly Robin’s talent would have emerged anyhow, and we’re all fortunate that he left such an incredible body of work. The world won’t be the same without him.