They shared a connect that he described as "extraordinary."
There are very few people who can enter a room and brighten even the dullest of souls. Their charm, ability to bring a smile even on strangers' faces, and their compassion can transform whoever crosses their path. One such enigma that touched many lives but was gone too soon is Robin Williams. Friends, family, fans, and strangers from all around have spoken about how his charisma and genuine concern for others changed their lives. But it wasn't just humans that were moved by his magical ability to connect instantly.
Koko, a friend of Williams, could feel his soulful love when the two interacted back in 2001. Koko is a gorilla born in San Franciso zoo, who lived most of her life in the Santa Cruz mountains. She was brought up and cared for by humans in The Gorilla Foundation in Woodside, California.
She was not just cheerful but also an extremely intelligent ape who was well-versed with about 1000 words in the Gorilla Sign Language, which is based on the ASL (American Sign Language), used by the hearing compared to communicate. She also understood close to 2000 words in English and is said to have had the intelligence of a three-year-old human child. She communicates not just her needs but also her emotions through sign language. Koko was hit by a heartbreaking tragedy when her playmate from childhood and her best friend, a 27-year-old gorilla named Michael, died. She has been mourning him for months and was still very much in the grieving process that she didn't smile for almost six months.
That's when entered the man who entertained us all onscreen and teased wholesome laughter out of us with his incredible comic sense and prowess as an actor and the two beautiful souls connected instantly.
The video released by the Gorilla Foundation shows Williams sitting on a chair waiting for Koko to enter the room. Koko studies him for a couple of seconds and immediately pulls him to the floor to sit closer. What happened in the next couple of minutes is nothing short of a miracle. The Alladin actor played real-life Genie as he brought out a side of Koko that her caregiver had not seen in months. The two sat close to each other as Williams looks deep into Koko's eyes and Koko takes his hand to her nose and takes in his smell. And that's it. The trust was formed and from then on they played around and broke into chuckles like buddies who have known each other forever.
Speaking of the incredible moment, Koko's caregiver, Francine Patterson, told Today, “Notice that Robin made Koko smile — something she hadn’t done for over six months, ever since her childhood gorilla companion, Michael, passed away at the age of 27."
Koko gets so comfortable with Williams that she takes his glasses and wears the rather small frame on her adorable face. She then walks around with a swag that equals the six-time Golden Globes Awards winner. There is a moment she looks out the window and tests out if the specs work well. That she is intelligent is no doubt to her fan base across the globe. She has graced the National Geographic Magazine twice, and she has more publicity without any help from Hollywood PR agents.
The Patch Adams actor, who played a doctor who believed in treating patients holistically, sure knew how to mend a broken heart. He sat patiently as she rubbed her furry hand on his face and requested him to tickle her. They both break into laughter as they tickle each other. After a couple of minutes, Koko's naughty side comes out as she slyly picks Williams' pocket and takes out his wallet. She checked out his ID perhaps to make sure he really is who he claims to be, leading the entire room to break into a chuckle.
“Robin’s ability to just ‘hang out’ with Koko, a gorilla, and in minutes become one of her closest friends, was extraordinary and unforgettable,” Patterson wrote. “But not only did Robin cheer up Koko, the effect was mutual, and Robin seemed transformed.” Koko, who has been melting hearts since she was a little baby, had found yet another soul-friend.
That's probably because they had more in common than their ability to make others break into giggles. She had the ability to feel empathy for other animals in the zoo, loved to engage in banters and threw around a couple of curses now and then, and didn't shy away from banters and arguments, according to National Geographic. "Through mastery of sign language—the familiar hand speech of the deaf—Koko has made us, her human companions, aware not only that her breed is bright, but also that it shares sensitivities commonly held to be the prerogative of people," Patterson told Today.
The clip starts with Williams talking about his interaction with the gorilla. "I recently had a mind-altering experience communicating with a gorilla. Her name is Koko."
"We shared something extraordinary - laughter. Koko understands spoken English and uses over a 1,000 to share her feelings and thoughts about daily events, life, love, even death," he had said in the video.
Koko showed many similarities to her close relatives — humans. Not only is she chatty, kind, and loves playtime, she also adopted a pet cat and cared for it like many humans find themselves doing. In the 80s, she took in a little grey kitten and took care of her. She didn't just cuddle with her, but also made sure she spent at least an hour playing with her every day. Being the cheeky girl she is, who loved to rhyme words, she named him All-Ball. “The cat was a Manx and looked like a ball,” said Ron Cohn, a biologist with the foundation as quoted by CheetSheet. “Koko likes to rhyme words in sign language.” But Koko isn't all sweet and boring; her mischievous side comes out often much to the delight of others. While she did cuddle with her pet cat, she also used poor All-Ball to get out of trouble. "Koko also used the kitten as a scapegoat when she was being bad; one time, Koko ripped a steel sink from a wall, pointed at All Ball, and signed 'cat did it,'” reports Popular Science.
According to Today, when her caregivers told Koko of Williams' death, she mourned for her special friend with whom she shared a special connection. Towards the end of their only meeting, Koko had kissed Williams' hand gently and pulled him closer to her for a big warm hug. Perhaps she remembered that when she was told the news, which made her immediately sign "cry." Koko passed away in 2018 in her sleep after living a full life of 47 years. We hope the two gentle souls having a grand time up in heaven.