WTF Fun Fact 13082 – Robin Williams’ Lewy Body Dementia

After comedian Robin Williams took his life in 2014, his autopsy revealed that he had one of the most severe cases of Lewy body dementia doctors had ever seen. Nearly every brain cell examined contains abnormal deposits of a protein called alpha-synuclein (aka Lewy bodies), which can lead to problems with thinking, behavior, and mood.

Robin Williams’ struggle with Lewy Body Dementia

Most of the world learned of the comedian’s health struggle after his wife, Susan Schneider wrote an article (cited below) in the academic journal Neurology published in 2016.

She began…

“As you may know, my husband Robin Williams had the little-known but deadly Lewy body disease (LBD). He died from suicide in 2014 at the end of an intense, confusing, and relatively swift persecution at the hand of this disease’s symptoms and pathology. He was not alone in his traumatic experience with this neurologic disease. As you may know, almost 1.5 million nationwide are suffering similarly right now.”

She went on to explain that Robin Williams’ Lewy Body Dementia was an extreme case.

“Not until the coroner’s report, 3 months after his death, would I learn that it was diffuse LBD that took him. All 4 of the doctors I met with afterwards and who had reviewed his records indicated his was one of the worst pathologies they had seen. He had about 40% loss of dopamine neurons and almost no neurons were free of Lewy bodies throughout the entire brain and brainstem.”

The comedian’s struggle

Before his death, Williams had huge spikes in anxiety that led his wife to wonder if he might be a hypochondriac. But only later did she learn these were symptoms of the disease. “Not until after Robin left us would I discover that a sudden and prolonged spike in fear and anxiety can be an early indication of LBD,” she explained.

The winter before his death, he was suffering from other symptoms such as “paranoia, delusions and looping, insomnia, memory, and high cortisol levels.” None of the psychotherapy he received could ease his pain. Like many people with LBD, antianxiety medication and other psychiatric drugs may have made his symptoms worse.

After his suicide, Robin Williams’ wife got her answers.

“Once the coroner’s report was reviewed, a doctor was able to point out to me that there was a high concentration of Lewy bodies within the amygdala. This likely caused the acute paranoia and out-of-character emotional responses he was having. How I wish he could have known why he was struggling, that it was not a weakness in his heart, spirit, or character.”  WTF fun facts

Source: “The terrorist inside my husband’s brain” — Neurology

WTF Fun Fact 12452 – The 11 Fingers of Mel Brooks

Mel Brooks – what a gas! The comedian and director of Young Frankenstein decided to celebrate his memorialization at Hollywood’s Chinese Theatre by giving fans the finger. The 11th finger, that is.

It was back in 2014, but it’ll be with us (in cement, at least) forever.

It’s true; Mel Brooks had 11 fingers when he pressed his hands in the cement at the ceremony to celebrate the 40th anniversary of his film Young Frankenstein. But one was a prosthetic.

A mere 88 years young at the time, Brooks explained his shenanigans later that same day on Conan O’Brien’s Late Show:

“I wanted to do something just a little different, I didn’t know what,” he told O’Brien. “So I got another finger.”

At the time of the ceremony, he joked around with his son: “About time, huh,” Max Brooks reportedly said. “Comedians never get their fair share of recognition in Hollywood…”

At the time, Mel Brooks gave a heartfelt thanks to his fans, saying: “I want to thank you all for being here and being part of the wonderful charade. I really love it.”

The charade involved an extra finger, but it seems it was one of the polite ones.

Now age 95, we’re just happy Mel is around to keep us laughing. – WTF fun facts

Source: “Mel Brooks brings extra finger to Hollywood handprint ceremony” — CBS News

WTF Fun Fact 12422 – Robin Williams’ Good Deed

It’s no secret that the late comedian Robin Williams’ had a good heart. But fewer people know the stories that gave him that reputation – stories like Lisa Jakub’s.

In 1993, she was a young actress playing Williams’ daughter in the comedy Mrs. Doubtfire. As most of us know, child actors often get tutored on set since they miss a lot of school days. But Jakub was still enrolled in her Toronto-area school at the time. That is until she hit the absence threshold.

I was upset and Robin asked me about it,” Jakub told months after Williams’ untimely death in 2014. “The next day he showed up at my trailer with a letter he’d written to the principal asking him to reconsider and let me come back to high school. In an industry where people are only in it for themselves, Robin was not like that. Robin had my back and that will always be precious to me.”

The letter read, in part:

“I have spent the past three months working on ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ with Lisa Jakub. I found Lisa to be a bright, inquisitive and an eager to learn young lady. She is charming and a delight. … I respectfully request that you reconsider your policy and allow Lisa the opportunity to work and attend school. She is an asset to any classroom.”

Unfortunately, the letter impressed the school but did not change their decision. In fact, they framed the letter and hung it on the wall in their main office but did not allow Jakub back in.

The letter went viral on Reddit in 2015 and Jakub herself updated fans. Her message read:

Hi there – just wanted to say thanks for sharing this, and maybe answer a few questions I’m seeing. I was being tutored on set for the required three hours a day and mailing back work to my school. However, my absence required that my teachers put together special work for me and my school wasn’t willing to do that. I had told them in advance that I would be away (I had been an actor since I was four, so this wasn’t really news) but during the long shoot it became too much of an issue for them. I don’t really blame them – it was very unusual, especially in the Canadian suburbs, in the early 90s. As for the legality of it all, I really don’t know. I was embarrassed and didn’t want to be somewhere I wasn’t wanted – so we didn’t fight it. I ended up attending a private school after that, for a short time. They also struggled with accommodating my strange work schedule. I was told that wasn’t a good fit, either. So, I never graduated from high school. When I was in my twenties, after I left LA and retired from acting, I got my GED. When I was thirty-one, I graduated from the University of Virginia. I still live in VA, and I’m a writer now. (I tell this whole story in my book, if you’re interested – You Look Like That Girl ) So, it all turned out ok in the end! But of course the point of all of this is really that Robin was a spectacular individual, who took the time to fight for a kid going through a personal problem. And I’m just glad that people are hearing that story – because that’s who he truly was. That’s how I like to remember him.”

– WTF Fun Facts

Source: “‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ actress: Robin Williams was ‘spectacular’ when I needed help” — TODAY