Warning: this writeup contains bad words. There is no avoiding this. If you think it's going to bother you, try a more family-oriented node.
Gerard Finneran was a banker, President of TCW Americas, and a specialist in the trading of Latin American debt instruments. Prior to taking his position with TCW, Finneran had served as an executive with Drexel Burnham Lambert and Citibank, where he had managed the U.S. Corporate Finance Division and Latin American and Canadian investment banking activities.
However, these years of hard work in finance do not make Mr. Finneran node-worthy. He earned that for himself one day in October 1995 when, on a flight back from Buenos Aires to New York, Mr. Finneran had a bit too much to drink.
He drank snowballs and other cocktails, starting before take-off and continuing until a flight attendant decided that it would not be appropriate to serve him any more. He assaulted her, then then started shouting "Fuck the President, fuck him in the ass" while serving himself from the trolley. (History does not record whether he meant the President of Argentina or the President of the United States.)
Moments later, Finneran made the decision that entered his name in the annals of history.
He dropped his pants, pulled off his underwear, and took a shit on a service cart. When he had finished his business, he used linen napkins as toilet paper and wiped his hands on various work surfaces in the galley, smearing faeces throughout the first class cabin.
At this point the captain suspended the food and beverage service, fearing that Finneran's shit in the kitchens and on the crew's fixtures would cause illness.
When they arrived in New York, Finneran was promptly arrested. In his trial five months later, he faced the possibility of a fine as high as $100,000 and as much as twenty years in jail.
Additional details came out at the trial. Apparently, when flight attendants tried to stop Finneran from raiding the beverage cart, Finneran demanded they serve him more drinks, and when one male attendant refused, Finneran threatened to "bust his ass". Then he harassed an attendant who was carrying a first aid kit into the main cabin, delaying him from helping a sick passenger. He pushed over another flight attendant who declined to sell him a drink.
Finneran's highly paid attorney mounted a lame defense -- that Finneran had suffered an attack of traveller's diarrhoea, but found his way to the first-class washroom blocked by aides to the President of Portugal, who was also on the flight. He apparently had no choice but to shit on the service cart.
Finneran was found guilty and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine, serve 300 hours of community service and two years' probation. He also had to take counselling on alcohol, refrain from "excessive alcohol" use and not drink on airplanes anymore. The court also ordered him to pay $49,029 in clean-up costs.
For a brief, shining moment in 1995, Gerard Finneran was the focus of every tabloid headline and the butt of every late night monologue joke. David Letterman's Top Ten on October 27, 1995 was titled "Top Ten Gerard Finneran Excuses". I think I can run a couple of items under fair use,
#10. Misread brochure about advantages of first class
#9. Confused when steward asked for headset deposit
You can download the entire list from Letterman's website.
Finneran's memorable example made the issue of Air Rage real for people, and led to significant changes in public attitude towards unruly airline passengers.
Despite his embarassment, Finneran apparently never gave up his membership in United's frequent flyer program.
An update! I spoke today (6/16/2003) with somebody at TCW who knew Finneran and who says that he remained an employee there until he retired in about 1998. He is apparently suffering now from an advanced case of Alzheimer's Disease. My contact at TCW commented that Finneran's team returned 15% to his investors every year for 15 years (stunning if true), and that it is a terrible shame that he and his family had to suffer such ignominy.
Various Associated Press articles, 1995-1996