Robin Williams left us more than two weeks ago, and thankfully we will always have a trove of his tremendous work in Good Will Hunting, Good Morning Vietnam, The World According to Garp and other films.
But one bit of performance art by Williams, his appearance in the 1994 World Cup draw in Las Vegas with Sepp Blatter, who’s now the FIFA president, appeared lost to the mists of time. It isn't anywhere on YouTube, and FIFA itself said it doesn’t have a video copy of the event available.
Happily, one of my Twitter followers, Michael Gallo, did find a copy and mailed it to me. It’s a little piece of magic: At a time when Blatter was unknown to the U.S. public — he was FIFA’s then-general secretary — Williams recognized instantly that this uptight, vaguely creepy Swiss man acting as the draw’s master of ceremonies deserved to be made fun of.
Williams’s primary tactic after being introduced: acting as if Blatter’s name was a bodily organ.
WILLIAMS: (offering Blatter a two-handed handshake) Mr. BLADDER, so nice to meet you after feeling you for so many years!
BLATTER: Thank you very much!
WILLIAMS: You are full, I guess? Good! … Oh, look (pointing to the draw screen)! The world’s largest Keno board! (pregnant pause) Now it is time to pull the blue balls?
BLATTER (looking slightly confused): Yes, that’s it. Stop, stop! Not yet!
WILLIAMS: OK, we just have to get ready! (theatrically puts on a plastic surgical glove)
BLATTER: Ladies and gentlemen, we are at the end of the draw, but it’s very important … (turns to Williams) we are happy to have you, Robin, it’s wonderful … or shall we say, Mrs. Doubtfire! (attempted joke falls flat with the audience)
WILLIAMS: Thank you, Mr. BLADDER (exaggerating the pronunciation)! Funny, I met you in the men’s room just a moment ago! Here we go!
BLATTER (starting to act visibly annoyed): Can we go?
WILLIAMS: Are we ready?
BLATTER: I’m ready, but not yet. We have in this pot four … (turns to Williams) you must give me one small chance. Thank you. He gives me a chance!
(Williams starts doing faux sign-language interpretation as Blatter speaks)
BLATTER: Korea Republic, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Greece, Norway and Switzerland are in pot number four. And we have to take into consideration the principle that we must have two European teams in each group and we must have in one group three Europeans. So we can start with the draw please? (turns to Williams). Take one out.
WILLIAMS (sticking surgically gloved hand into the pot and turning to Blatter): If you’ll turn your head to the side and cough…
And so it went. The most entertaining three minutes in the history of World Cup draws was over soon, but not before Williams left the stage with a sign-off for the future FIFA president:
“It’s been a pleasure meeting you, Mr. BLADDER!”