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Comic Famous After Crashing Royal Party

June 23, 2003

LONDON (AP) _ Aspiring standup comic Aaron Barschak wanted publicity. Now he’s got it _ by the bucket load.

The 36-year-old ``comedy terrorist″ was the most sought-after entertainer in the country Monday, after he climbed up a tree and over a terrace to slip into Windsor Castle _ sporting a salmon pink ball gown, turban and fake Osama bin Laden-style beard _ and made a surprise appearance at Prince William’s 21st birthday.

Comedy club owners said Barschak had a bright future and would benefit from the blanket media coverage. But his antics sparked calls for a probe into royal security and prompted Scotland Yard to apologize to the royal family.

``It clearly is a very serious lapse,″ Oliver Letwin, Conservative Party spokesman on home affairs, told the British Broadcasting Corp. ``We’re meant to be in a state of heightened alert because of the seriousness of the terrorist threat. You’d have thought the first place where the heightening would have gone on is in the royal palaces.″

Home Secretary David Blunkett said on Monday night that he was ``deeply concerned″ by the breach and that the royal family’s security must be tightened.

David Veness, assistant commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police said Barschak, who was unarmed, scaled a steep embankment and climbed a tree before jumping the wall at the medieval fortress Saturday night. Once inside, he was led to police officers by contractors organizing the party and convinced them he was one of the entertainers.

``He proffered what must have appeared to be a credible story and regrettably gained access to the area of the castle where the party was taking place,″ Veness said. He didn’t indicate how near Barschak got to the royal family, saying only that it was ``far too close.″

``We have tendered apologies and we have made it very clear that we intend to rigorously learn the lessons both for Windsor Castle and our broader security responsibilities throughout the United Kingdom, particularly with reference to royal protection,″ Veness said.

Reporters swarmed to the comedian’s shabby, terraced house in north London, but Barschak _ who was released soon after his arrest at the palace _ had gone into hiding.

``He wouldn’t have posed any risk to any of the royals at the castle. He hasn’t got it in him,″ said the comedian’s roommate, Ian Coult, who was clearly annoyed at the media siege.

``He is eccentric, but a very good actor,″ said local film producer Alfred Aarons, who said he met Barschak in the French resort of Cannes three years ago.

``He’s a nice guy, but absent-minded,″ added shopkeeper Mahesh Patel. ``This is huge publicity. Good luck to him, I hope he makes some money.″

Frank Barschak, 72, confessed that he worried about his son.

``He dresses up as Osama bin Laden but I have to stress he would not harm anyone,″ the elder Barschak said. ``He is a zany character with a zany sense of humor. But he is not a nutter.″

Martin Mullaney, who booked Barschak at the Cheeky Monkey club in Birmingham, central England, earlier this year, said he was ``notorious on the comedy circuit for gatecrashing comedy gigs.″

He said the comic was due to stage a show called ``Osama Likes it Hot″ at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland in August and had a bright future.

``I spoke to him ... and I said `you have got amazing potential and if you stick with me, I will make you world famous.′ It is quite clear that he did not need me after all,″ Mullaney said.

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