• Dork from Ork

I’ve been a confirmed Robin Williams fan since he first came to national attention. Witty, clever, lightning-fast, frequently over the top but with a childlike edge that made it difficult to take offense from his antics.

I’ve been less impressed by his recent motion pictures, particularly the current “Old Dogs” with John Travolta that has, essentially, no reason for being foisted off on a ticket-buying public. So, it was with renewed hope I heard he was back on the standup comedy circuit and was going to talk about it on the “Charlie Rose” interview show on public television.

The “interview,” if one can consider the mutual admiration society hour of insider-comments, oneupsmanship wisecracks and non-stop celebrity fawning by Rose — punctuated by video clips of old Williams appearances on Rose’s show — was a disaster. But, hope springing eternal as it tends to do, I nevertheless made a mental note to watch the upcoming HBO special that Williams recently taped in Washington, DC.

I did. Well, the first 12 minutes, anyway.

After hearing more permutations of the word “fuck” in such a brief time than I thought possible —

fuck, fucking (verb), fucking (adjective), fucker, motherfucker, fucked, fuck you, what the fuck, fuck me, get the fuck out (off, up, away, etc.), unfuckingbelievable, fuck off —

accompanied by no wit, no humor, no insight and virtually no funny lines, it dawned on me: Robin Williams is finished.

We’ve seen it happen to others with a special comedic quality — Chevy Chase during a brief star arc (“Saturday Night Live” and the “National Lampoon Vacation” flicks) before he became a pathetic caricature of himself comes quickly to mind — and it’s always a bit sad to think about. Nearly as sad as performers who don’t know when to bow gracefully off the stage — perhaps to work in another niche, perhaps to avoid tarnishing an iconic career.

Robin Williams, as we know, never has known when to rein himself in. Pity.


• Luckily, she wasn’t in Scotland

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From the Associated Press

Susan Atkins, a follower of cult leader Charles Manson whose remorseless witness stand confession to killing pregnant actress Sharon Tate in 1969 shocked the world, has died. She was 61 and had been suffering from brain cancer.

Atkins’ death comes less than a month after a parole board turned down the terminally ill woman’s last chance at freedom on Sept. 2. She was brought to the hearing on a gurney and slept through most of it.

California Department of Corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton said that Atkins died late Thursday night. She had been diagnosed with brain cancer in 2008, had a leg amputated and was given only a few months to live. She underwent brain surgery, and in her last months was paralyzed and had difficulty speaking.

• The Queen and the coin


News Item: Government ministers and Queen Elizabeth II’s most senior officials have been heavily criticized by a committee of Members of Parliament for allowing historic buildings on the Royal estate to fall into disrepair.

The Queen will be urged to open Buckingham Palace to the public more often in return for millions more pounds from the government to to pay for a backlog of repairs. It now is open only about 60 days a year.

Some of the grandest state rooms at Buckingham Palace have not been redecorated since the Queen came to the throne in 1952. The palace wiring, which should have been replaced 10 years ago, was installed in 1949. The Royal Mausoleum at Frogmore, near Windsor Castle, which houses the tomb of Queen Victoria, has been designated by English Heritage as “at risk” after part of the ceiling fell in. A large stretch of roof at Windsor Castle and at Buckingham Palace also needs replacing.

Royal Tidbits: The queen has an estimated fortune of $571.033 million, according to Forbes magazine. That is her personal wealth and does not include properties held in trust for the nation, such as Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, the Crown Jewels, and the Royal Art Collection are excluded. Also not included in the estimate are her privately-owned properties such as Sandringham House, Balmoral Castle, and the Castle of Mey. The worth of Balmoral alone is estimated at $261.8 million. The Crown Estate Lands also are not included in that estimate. They are said to be worth more than $12 billion.

The Queen’s annual income is about $20.45 million from the Duchy of Lancaster, and the income generated from the Crown Estate land, that had belonged to the royal family since 1066, that generated about $180 million a year, out of which about $65.5 million is paid back to the British government to cover the monarchy’s costs. Thus, she makes at minumum $135 million a year.

• Thumbs down for bank

bankNews item: Employees of a Bank of America branch in downtown Tampa, FL, refused to cash a check for an armless man because he could not provide a thumbprint for ID. He was trying to cash a check drawn on his wife’s account at the bank, and showed the bankers two photo IDs. He was told the only way he could cash the check was if he brought his wife with him or opened a new account with the bank in his own name.

I often observe, or am caught up by, idiotic behavior and inappropriate actions of those in the business world, but in the final analysis usually am able to find some sort of sense at the end of the tunnel. This one, however, baffles me.

A rigid corporate policy is one thing, but an obviously impossible rule to follow should have at least elicited a call from someone at the bank branch to a higher-up to find out what to do in such a situation. That, of course, supposes at least one person in the branch had an operating brain cell.

• A 2nd Lockerbie tragedy


I have been to Scotland. I liked it. I especially enjoyed the hospitality of the people I met along the way, polite and friendly to a man, and woman. I also enjoyed its history, its tales of fighting for justice and equality against bad government and oppressive rulers.

Because of that, I am not foolish enough to condemn an entire population because of the actions of their government officials. If everyone in the world held our own government against us, no one ever would visit our shores. However, it will be a long time before I visit Scotland again.

The reason: One of the worst mass-murder terrorists on record was freed this week despite being sentenced to life in prison for his role in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, the commercial airliner that exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, butchering 270 innocent souls, a large number of them Americans.

And, why was Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, 57, set free? For what Scottish officials termed “humanitarian reasons.” The former Libyan intelligence operative has prostate cancer. By contrast, 259 Pan Am passengers and 11 people on the ground where the wreckage hit them still are dead.

Their lives were tossed on a metaphorical scrap heap as stark and chilling as the one show above, that mountain of debris that was Flight 103 but since that time has been nothing but a pile of refuse.

In a typical and sickening outpouring of adulation for any Arab who has slain any non-Arab, a crowd of thousands turned out to greet al-Megrahi when he landed in Tripoli, the capital of his homeland. They danced, sang and chanted. Some wore T-shirts with his face printed on them. Some waved posters bearing his image.

After all, he murdered “infidels” and only had to serve 10 or 11 days per victim. What a hero.

• More signs of the Apocalypse


Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, the Manson murder cult follower who pointed a pistol at President Gerald R. Ford in 1975 and later escaped from prison, will be set free on Sunday.

The now-60-year-old nutjob escaped from a female prison in Alderson, WV, in 1987, was recaptured about two days later, and got an additional 15 months in prison for the escape. Otherwise, she might have been released last year for good behavior.

She said she escaped so she could be closer to Manson, who is serving a life term in California for the 1969 murders of actress Sharon Tate and eight others.

• Clowning for PETA


Note to PETA:

If you want to make what you claim is a legitimate point against McDonald’s, don’t use a drug-addled nincompoop as one of your attention-getting frontmen.

Andy Dick, comic actor and frequent participant in drug binges and idiotic public behavior, dressed up as a parody of Ronald McDonald to be part of a PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) protest against the chain for the methods it uses to slaughter chickens.

Make up your own minds about the latest PETA vs. McDonald’s flap. And, if you want to see Dick’s sterling contribution to the dialogue, watch the video.