Rest in Peace, Andrew Koenig

Blogger Kathy Riordan wrote an excellent piece about the tragic suicide of Andrew Koenig. Every suicide is tragic, of course, but this particular death was especially heartbreaking for me because I fondly remember his performances in the sitcom Growing Pains and even as the Joker in the fan-made mini-movie Batman: Dead End by Sandy Collora (which I mentioned in my past entry about user-generated content).  The son of actor/director/writer Walter Koenig from Star Trek and Babylon 5, Andrew left a mark on every life he touched and he will be dearly missed.

His role as Richard "Boner" Stabone on Growing Pains was a lot of fun to watch.  He was the goofy best friend of Mike Seaver (played by Kirk Cameron) and brought lots of chuckles and guffaws with every appearance.  But it was his final appearance on the show, the episode titled "Semper Fidelis," that really impressed me.  "Boner" drops out of college to join the Marines, and Koenig brought wonderful gravitas to what had until then been only a comic relief role.  It reminded me of the episode in Happy Days when Richie Cunningham returned after a stint in the military -- he had finally grown up with a darker edge and in many ways had almost become cooler than the Fonz (if that were ever possible). "Boner" always played second fiddle to Mike, always in his shadow, but for the first time we could see how important Richard Stabone was in Mike Seaver's life.  For the first time, we could see that "Boner" was a multi-faceted human being, not just a two-dimensional guy good for a few laughs.

His performance as the Joker in Batman: Dead End, while very brief, was also incredibly memorable.  While Caesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, Mark Hamill, and, of course, Heath Ledger all brought unique interpretations to the the character of the Dark Knight's insane adversary, Andrew Koenig's portrayal was arguably the closest to the comic book's vision.  Yes, the makeup may have been a bit too much, (especially the eyebrows), and the voice wasn't exactly how I imagined the Joker to sound, but the laugh, the mannerisms, and the facial expressions were terrific.  Catch Batman: Dead End on YouTube and see for yourself.  For a low-budget, unauthorized, little tribute film, it was pretty entertaining and Koenig's role in it was a big part of its guerilla cinema charm.

Who knows what demons Andrew Koenig was battling during his final days? Having faced depression myself and knowing friends who continue to battle depression's dark grip, I wish he could have found some help before his pain overtook him, but I understand how it can take you to the abyss. 

May he rest in peace.

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