A lot of 49ers fans were stunned by Robin Williams’ suicide, for obvious reasons. One of the team’s biggest boosters was laid lower than most, though.
Kitten and Harry Troutt, the royal couple of the North Bay Forty-Niner Faithful, rubbed elbows with Williams long before he made it big. The Troutts were renowned for taking unmarried young people under their wings; they called these strays their “kids.” There were dozens of them, and every one had a personalized cocktail glass perched at the Troutts’ home, waiting for that perpetual refill.
One of the Troutts’ kids was Todd Williams, who owned the Toad Manor bar on Chestnut Street in San Francisco’s Marina District and later co-founded Toad Hollow Vineyards in Healdsburg. (Todd was a true character, and everyone called him “The Toad.”) He and Robin Williams were half-brothers, and very close.
Robin never officially became one of the Troutts’ kids, but they were bound by their buoyant spirit – and their passion for the 49ers. They got to see a lot of the comic’s material before he took it to the stage.
“As Robin became famous, the less we saw him,” Kitten said. “We’d get invited to local appearances like Throckmorton’s in Mill Valley and those meetings became special. But like any good parent, when your child is thriving, you step back and let them shine.”
The last time the Troutts saw Williams was at Todd’s wake in Healdsburg. Todd died of complications after heart surgery in 2007, a loss that was said to have hit Robin hard.
“There was a huge memorial and Robin was there along with a large contingent of the ‘family,’ ” Kitten said. “Speakers had glowing things to say about Todd. Then Robin got up to speak and all hell broke loose with an hour of laughter.”
Harry Troutt passed away in July of 2013 after 51 years of marriage, but Kitten is going strong. On Tuesday she set up shop on her personal barstool at Willie Bird Restaurant on Santa Rosa Avenue – the stool, now 30 years old, with the honorific plaque and built-in seat belt – and passed around some photos of Robin.
“I heard of his passing within hours, and it just wouldn’t register,” Kitten said. “It just couldn’t happen to Robin – he was too filled with life and humor.”