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SF names Golden Gate Park meadow after comedian Robin Williams

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Robin Williams Meadow, formerly known as Sharon Meadow, in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park Thursday, December 21, 2017. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco officially renamed Sharon Meadow in Golden Gate Park Thursday after Robin Williams to honor the comedian who died in 2014.

The Recreation and Parks Commission voted unanimously Thursday to officially change the name to Robin Williams Meadow, after announcing the proposal in September.

Sharon Meadow was proposed by those in the comedy world since Williams had supported the annual Comedy Day in Golden Gate Park, which dates back to 1980. Williams made regular appearances at the event, which began at Golden Gate Park’s Music Concourse and was subsequently relocated to the Polo Field and ultimately to Sharon Meadow, where the event has taken place for about the past 20 years.

Debi Durst, who produces the event, suggested renaming the meadow after Williams, a longtime Bay Area resident who got his start in San Francisco.

“He was at the very first Comedy Day, and loved coming year after year to hang out with his contemporaries and shower the stage with his genius whenever he could,” Durst said. “Laughter is the best medicine and this man brought huge doses of it.”

She continued, “I felt compelled to do something for this man who was such a part of Comedy Day and the city of San Francisco in a way that would honor his memory and his comic spirit for all time.”

She explained that Comedy Day came as San Francisco was in a “very dark time” following the assassination of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk in 1978, the same year as the Jonestown massacre.

“There was just a gray cloud,” Durst said.

Durst and her husband, comedian Will Durst, said that Williams kept the event going when they lacked funding for about six years. He donated anonymously and the secret was kept among the comedians by using a code word.

“[Williams] did it anonymously. So we couldn’t even mention amongst ourselves whether or not he had given money,” Will Durst said. “We always heard that we got the money because, ‘The eagle has landed.’ That was the code word.”

Debi Durst further explained, “He was known in the comedy community as the eagle. When we said, ‘The eagle has landed,’ that meant we had money to do our show.”

The naming drew broad support at City Hall. Mayor Ed Lee, who died Dec. 12, had supported the name change.

“Through his comedy, Robin Williams brought so much light into this world, which is why it is fitting that we are naming a beautiful outdoor meadow in his honor,” Lee said in a September statement. “Robin was one of San Francisco’s cherished sons, whose selfless acts of philanthropy benefited communities across our city. We will forever remember him fondly and the Robin Williams Meadow will be a lasting testament to his legacy.”

The vote Thursday is the latest honor for the beloved comedian Last year, the California Legislature renamed the Waldo Tunnel on U.S. Highway 101 in Marin County after Robin Williams, who died at his home in Tiburon in August 2014. He was 63.

The meadow once served as an emergency hospital following the 1906 earthquake and fire, according to a Recreation and Park Department memo.

During the 1960s, the counterculture flocked to the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood and hung out in the nearby meadow. A hill in the park overlooking the meadow is often referred to as Hippie Hill, and the area is also popular for an annual marijuana event.

The 38th annual Comedy Day, a free event, is Sept. 16, 2018 — at Robin Williams Meadow.

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