Club queen Regine in mid-air death threat fracas

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The Independent Online
When the French singer and nightclub owner, Regine, makes news it is usually because she has been rubbing shoulders with a few stars. Since the Sixties her clubs have been coveted by the international jetset, from Frank Sinatra and Maria Callas to the Kennedys and Onassis, but now the "queen of the Parisian night" is making headlines for her involvement in alleged murder threats.

Last week her son, Lionel Rotcage, was accused in a Boston court of "assault and intimidation against the members of the crew and passengers" on an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami on 17 April. Regine, 66, was travelling with her son, husband and seven-year-old granddaughter, Daphne.

The trouble began when Mr Rotcage, a music journalist and producer, lit up in the aisles. Although it was a smoking flight, it is strictly forbidden to smoke while standing up. After being ordered to put out his cigarette by a steward, Rotcage allegedly said: "I don't give a damn about the law. I'm going to stay here and smoke even if you don't like it." When the steward threatened to report him to the flight commander he is said to have replied: "If you do that I'll shoot you."

When Regine joined the fray she was accused of shouting obscenities at the flight commander, telling him that: "The last time anyone spoke to me in that kind of voice was when the Germans occupied Paris."

Four hours later they were in FBI handcuffs after the pilot had made an emergency landing in Boston because he felt their threats to the crew were endangering flight security.

"We had to undergo a body search, fingerprinting and were attached to a radiator with handcuffs," said Mr Rotcage, 47, yesterday at a press conference at the Ledoyen restaurant on the Champs-Elysees. "It was like something out of a film."

Regine owned Ledoyen until 1991 and opened her first club in Paris in 1960. She once had 19 clubs around the world and claims to have taught the Rothschild family how to do the twist and the Duke of Windsor how to surf. She has also enjoyed a career as a popular singer.

She accuses the airline of blowing the affair out of proportion and yesterday said that both she and her granddaughter will be taking legal action against the airline for ill treatment as well as moral and commercial damages. She also accuses the crew of anti-Semitic remarks. Although all charges against Regine were dropped Mr Rotcage still risks a four- month suspended sentence and a $250 (pounds 166) fine. He has pleaded not guilty.

"We were made out to be hijackers" said a nervy-looking Regine. "Reports said that all four of us had threatened the life of the flight commander. That must mean that my granddaughter did so with a crayon, my husband with his crosswords, me with my toothpick and my son with a pen."

Whatever the outcome,Regine is certain about one thing: "I won't be travelling on American Airlines in the future."