On Monday night, just minutes after the news of the sudden and tragic death of actor Robin Williams, Augie Nieto was among the first of millions of people around the world who expressed their shock and sadness.
"Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Robin Williams," Nieto posted on Twitter and Facebook. "He donated his time and incredible talent to our inaugural BASH event and we are so grateful for his support of Augie's Quest when we first started. He was a true talent and a generous man."
Earlier today, Shannon Shryne reflected back on happier times—Williams's participation in the 2006 Bash for Augie's Quest. Shryne, the vice president of business development at Augie’s Quest and the ALS Therapy Development Institute, flew up to Vancouver, British Columbia, in July 2005 to meet Williams, who was shooting a movie there. Williams entered the room alone—with no entourage or publicist, Shryne says.
Williams was only supposed to do one take for a video to be used at the first Bash. Instead, he spent an hour with the Augie's Quest team. (Above is an excerpt of a much longer video that was played at the Bash.)
"He was so gracious, funny, and incredibly intelligent," Shryne recalls. "What amazed me the most is that we had a list of things we wanted him to say (i.e. Augie’s Quest, Augie Nieto, Cure ALS), and he looked at the page I printed for him for about three seconds and every take, with every accent, he was spot on. He was able to glance at it, then nail it perfectly."
In fact, a few people in the room at the taping were told to leave—because they were laughing so hard during the takes, Shryne says.
Hoping to make a splash with the industry at the first Bash, the Augie's Quest team wanted Williams as its first choice. Shryne says celebrity trainer Dan Isaacson reached out to Williams, one of Isaacson's clients who also had a friend who was battling ALS. Williams couldn't make the event in person, so he agreed to shoot the video in advance. The entire process, from the request to the taping, took less than a week to complete, Shryne says.
Another of Williams's friends in the industry was Mark Mastrov, who also helped recruit Lance Armstrong to be part of that first Bash. Mastrov summed up feelings about his friend that many share today.
"This is a tough loss for us all," he said.