Robin Williams Charms an Ape

(CNN) -- Sure, Robin Williams made us smile, but what made him smile? Tickling an ape. It was an encounter he called mind altering. Holding hands with a gorilla named Ko Ko, famous for understanding sign language, taught by her surrogate mom, Dr. Penny Patterson.

Profiled by PBS, a cover girl on National Geographic. Then in 2001, Robin Williams asked to to pay a visit. "She was very drawn to him," Patterson said. She took his glasses and ended up wearing them. She picked his pocket and investigated his wallet. But mostly she asked for him to tickle her. Patterson says he was quiet, respectful and present.

Though this was their one and only face to face meeting, Ko ko was familiar with Robin Williams. She had recently watched a documentary he did on dolphins, and she'd watched "Awakenings" over and over.

Ko ko is known for having a bit of an obsession with a certain body part. "She did this and her translator said she wants you to lift your shirt...and I lifted my shirt. She reached out and grabbed both my nipples and I went 'I like you,'" Williams said in an interview. "All of a sudden she grabs my hand and tries to take me in the back and I see her translator go 'Ko Ko no. Mr. Williams does not want to play bump bump,'" he said.

Back in 2001, Ko Ko was 30 years old and sad about the death of her companion ape named Michael. She hadn't smiled in 6 months, until this funnyman tickled her fancy. Penny patterson says Ko Ko knew something was amiss from listening to phone calls on Monday. "I just said Ko Ko we've lost a dear friend, you remember Robin?"

How could she, or we, forget him.

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