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John Belushi’s death got Williams’ attention


John Belushi’s drug-related death scared Robin Williams into changing his hard-partying habits, according to a former director of “Mork &Mindy.”

When Belushi died in March 1982, “Robin admitted to being there in the (Chateau Marmont in Hollywood) having a party,” said Las Vegas resident Don Lewis Barnhart, who directed “Mork &Mindy” in the final year (1982) of its five-year run.

“When Robin came to work the next morning, it was a hush-hush situation, and he was instructed not to say a word,” Barnhart said.

“Needless to say it was a very disturbing situation and (his) rehearsal time was not very good. I think it was an eye-opener for Robin.”

Barnhart added, “I was told he went off the booze and drugs, cold turkey, but then after 20 or so years, things reversed themselves.”

Another Las Vegas resident, Jason Kennedy, emailed his memory of the 63-year-old comic genius who died last Monday at his home.

Kennedy said he was working at a Scottsdale, Ariz., resort about 10 years ago, and Williams was there at the same time as Lance Armstrong and Sheryl Crow while the U.S. Postal cycling team trained.

“Every morning, Mr. Williams would call the bell desk for a (golf cart) ride in his best ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ voice. It was a highlight I will never forget,” Kennedy wrote.

I experienced Williams’ fiery side during a media event 10 years ago at Andre Agassi’s Grand Slam for Children.

After the headliners for the evening filed into the media room to take questions before the gala, I asked Agassi to address a hot-topic issue.

Some attendees were grumbling about political commentary and nasty language at an event that included a considerable number of children.

One year earlier, Elton John made headlines when he lashed out at comedian Dennis Miller and chided the crowd after Miller lambasted liberals.

I asked Agassi whether he had considered asking the performers to tone down the political rhetoric and blue material.

“One of the sort of byproducts of the controversy,” Agassi said, “was the worldwide exposure the event got.”

Williams jumped in, clearly unhappy with the question.

“Oh (expletive) off!” he flared. “Read the top line, man. With the good eye, look up here. Oh, back off, right. They let pirates in? Back off, right.”

The top line he was referring to on the event banner behind the dais read: “The Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation.”

I’m not certain, but I believe he was making two points: the performers were helping raise money for charity. The second point was clear. Crystal clear. Comedians don’t “back off.”

SIGHTINGS

At Al Pacino’s “One Night Only” show on Saturday at The Mirage: Jerry Lewis, Nicolas Cage, Paul Pierce, Jerome Bettis and Dot Marie Jones. ... Joe Jonas, celebrating his 25th birthday at XS (Encore) with cake and champagne on Saturday with a group of 30 that included brother, Nick, and his girlfriend, former Miss USA Olivia Culpo. ... At the debut of “Big Knockout Boxing” at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on Saturday: Maria Menounos, Adrian Grenier, Nick Jonas, Nina Agdal, Alex Pettyfer, Ashley Benson, Laura Croft, Matt Lauria, Cole Hauser and Jonathan Tucker. ... Joe Jonas, being pulled on stage by David Copperfield during his show at the MGM Grand on Saturday before the party moved to Beacher’s Madhouse. The group included Joe, Nick, Culpo, Pettyfer and his model girlfriend, Marloes Horst. ... Backstage after Olivia Newton-John’s show on Saturday at the Flamingo: singer Sara Bareilles, “Dancing with the Stars” pro Kym Johnson and Carson Kressley of the reality show, “Queer Eye.” ... Grenier, at Joe’s Stone Crab (Forum Shops at Caesars) on Saturday. ... Agassi and Steffi Graf, at the Jabbawockeez show at Luxor on Thursday, accompanied by her cousins and friends from Germany. ... John Schneider of “The Dukes of Hazard,” meeting cast members of “Absinthe” after Friday’s show at Caesars.

THE PUNCH LINE

“Since January, Colorado has made nearly $30 million in taxes from marijuana sales. That’s in addition to the $40 million they made taxing Doritos. It goes hand-in-hand.” — Conan O’Brien

Norm Clarke’s column appears Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached at 702-383-0244 or email him at norm@reviewjournal.com. Find more online at www.normclarke.com. Follow Norm on Twitter @Norm_Clarke. “Norm Clarke’s Vegas,” airs Thursdays on the “Morning Blend” on KTNV-TV, Channel 13.