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Michael Stipe Defends 'Southern Gentleman' Buck

R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck is a “southern gentleman” who has never been rude to anyone, the band’s lead singer Michael Stipe told a London court today (March 27). Stipe appeared as a character witness at the “air-rage” trial of Buck, who is accused of going on a drunken rampage aboard a trans-Atlantic British Airways flight last April. The R.E.M. singer said Buck was “like a big brother” and said the allegations against his friend of 23 years did not make sense.

“He’s just not a person who is rude to anyone,” Stipe told Isleworth Crown Court in west London. “Something that people don’t often know about the American South, there is what is called a southern gentleman, and Peter is my definition of such. He is someone who is considerate of all people, gentle, and polite. That is why this whole thing to me is absurd.”

Buck, 45, denies charges of being drunk on an aircraft, assault, and damaging British Airways crockery. Last week, he testified that he took a powerful sleeping pill at the start of the Seattle to London flight and cannot remember his alleged behavior.

Stipe said the guitarist preferred to retire to his hotel room with a good book rather than join his fellow band members in the bar after a performance. Buck’s wife Stephanie described her husband as a “very gentle man.” “He is shy, he is very self effacing. If he doesn’t eat all his food on a plate in a restaurant he apologizes to the waiter,” she told the court.

Prosecutors say Buck acted like a “drunken lout” after consuming 15 glasses of wine on the flight. They say he overturned a breakfast trolley, mistook a hostess trolley for a CD player, claimed a stranger sitting on the plane was his wife, and tussled with crew members, covering them with yogurt. Crew members have also testified they pulled Buck away from an exit door after he announced he was “going home” mid-flight.

The trial continues next week.

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