STIPE STICKS UP FOR REM BANDMATE IN COURT

The star describes his friend to the court as a "southern gentlemen" and "like a brother"...

REM

frontman MICHAEL STIPE today took to the stand at ISLEWORTH CROWN COURT to give evidence for PETER BUCK, in the guitarist’s alleged air-rage trial.

The 42 year-old told the jury that when he first met Buck, he was “my only friend” and “like my big brother” and said his bandmate was a “southern gentleman”.

Stipe described Buck, who is alleged to have assaulted two BA cabin crew during drunken rampage on a flight from Seattle to London last April, as a quiet man who did not enjoy being in the limelight.

R.E.M

bassist Mike Mills, band manager Bertis Downs and Buck’s wife Stephanie also addressed the jury as character witnesses.

Stipe, wearing a grey suit, white shirt and striped tie, appeared nervous as he gave a glowing testimony to his friend of over 20 years.

He said: “We met in 1979 when I was a teenager. He was my only friend at that time. He treated me like a big brother when I was 19. He was the only person I knew as I had just moved there [Athens in Georgia] with my family. He was the only person that would talk to me.

“He was interested in music as I was. He went out of his way to make me feel comfortable.”

Interrupting his evidence Stipe then said: “I’m sorry, I am feeling very

nervous. I think it’s because I’m kind of shy.”

He then continued: “He was a great friend to me. I never had a big brother so he was like my brother.”

Asked by Trevor Burke, QC for Buck, if he was close to Buck, Stipe replied: “We have had the band for much longer than most people have bands. Yes, we are very close. I’m very proud of that fact.”

Stipe also said that, as lead singer, he had been the centre of press attention but Buck had not complained, preferring to remain in the shadows.

“There is a lot of press attention on the singer which is what I am. Peter always said it was because he was taller. He always wanted to stand behind in all of our pictures. He had always been incredibly supportive of the media attention that I get and never wanted the attention for himself.”

When asked if he had ever seen Buck be aggressive or rude, he replied: “Not once, never.”

He went on: “In America there is what is called a southern gentleman. Peter is my definition of such. He is someone who is considerate of all people, genteel and polite. Someone that follows the golden rule, you treat them as you would want to be treated no matter who they are. That is why this whole thing to me is absurd.”

Stipe said Buck “has had some drink before, we all have. He is not an alcoholic by American standards.”

Referring to how Buck changed after marriage, Stipe said: “He kind of banked off and spent most of his time at home.

“During the last tour that we went on, after the show was over your adrenaline is very high, he would go back to his room to read, rather than go to the bar with Mike and me and the others.

“Since he has become a father he is much more responsible in that way.”

He also backed Buck’s claim of some sort of strange reaction to a sleeping pill, as the guitarist attested earlier in the trial.

“He was more upset than I have ever seen him before,” Stipe said explaining how the guitarist was after his arrest. “He said he had taken the pill and blacked out. I take this very seriously. It just seems so bizarre to me. I thought carefully about what I wanted to say as a character witness.”

Concluding his evidence Stipe said; “He is a tall man and has got a long nose.”

Stipe then looked at his friend and said “sorry Peter.”

He continued: “He can sometimes come across as stand-offish, looking down his nose. But he is the antithesis of that. He is a gentle, kind, incredible person and doesn’t look down on anyone.”

Buck denies being drunk on board an aircraft, assaulting cabin staff and damaging property.

The trial was adjourned until after the Easter holiday.