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Who's Left to Make Fun of These Days?

It is now unfashionable, even illegal, to malign, demean, and otherwise make fun of people because of their race, religion, ethnic origin, age, physical disabilities if any, and even their appearance.

So how does one explain the bakery in Campbell, California, called Psycho Donuts, whose walls are decorated with tormented faces and whose exterior display includes a flashing sign that reads "Bates Motel"? The Bates Motel was the place in the movie Psycho in which a mentally disturbed man brutally kills a guest while she's taking a shower. To compound the Psycho theme, employees of the bakery wear laboratory coats and nurses' uniforms. They say each donut is put on medication and given a shock treatment. Two of the baked varieties are the Bipolar Donut and the Massive Head Trauma Donut.

Owner Jordan Zweigoron calls his place a lighthearted, humorous donut shop, where the first mistake anybody can make is "to take what we're doing in any serious way."

But that's exactly how relatives of those with severe mental illness have reacted to the six-month-old bake shop. Pete Early wrote in the USA Today newspaper that not long ago in America, persons were callously labeled as 'retards, gimps, and cripples.' Mental illness, he wrote, is no funnier than breast cancer or heart disease.

Mean words hurt everyone, Early pointed out.

He noted that Psycho Donuts is not the only offender. A company selling teddy bears offers one called a Crazy for You bear that comes tied in a straitjacket.

Since the outcry from many who read or saw TV reports about Psycho Donuts, bakery owner Zweigoron has made some changes. The staff still wears white coats, and there's still a padded door inside. But the biopolar item is now called the Mood Swing donut.

Read more of Ted's personal reflections and stories from the road on his blog, Ted Landphair's America.