Bertie Ahern's recent difficulties are just the latest in a long line of public blunders. KIM BIELENBERG reports on a new book that documents the embarrassing banana skin moments of the rich and famous
It seems that hardly a day goes by without another public figure slipping on a giant banana skin.
Bertie Ahern took a tumble when he accepted a dig-out from his business pals. It was one of the greatest blunders in Irish political history.
Donough O'Brien rounds up the most stupendous slips of all time in his new book, Banana Skins.
According to O'Brien, son of Toby O'Brien, PR guru to Winston Churchill, history is filled with stories of the famous crashing to earth, whether through an ill-judged statement, an overweening arrogance, a lust for power or money, or simply a stroke of bad luck.
* Boris Becker's five-minute fling with model Angela Ermakova in a London restaurant called Nobu is believed to have cost him up to ?22.5 million.
When Ms Ermakova subsequently had a baby, Becker was forced to pay up to ?6.8 million in a paternity suit, and the collapse of his marriage cost him a cool ?15.7m.
* "Queen of Mean" Leona Helmsley took charge of the Helmsley Palace hotel in New York after marrying her wealthy husband, Harry.
She was a notorious boss who fired people, screamed obscenities and reduced grown men to jelly.
She famously said: "We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes."
But she was later sentenced to 18 months imprisonment - for tax evasion.
* Britney Spears became a short-lived role model for young people all over the world when she announced that she would remain a virgin until she married.
But Justin Timberlake dispelled the 'virgin' tale when he said: "She lost her virginity a while ago - and I should know."
And Spears is as well known for her gaffes as her songs. She once said, "I've never really wanted to go to Japan simply because I don't like eating fish and I know that's very popular out there in Africa."
* US President Richard Nixon needlessly destroyed his career when he covered up a burglary of his political rivals' party headquarters in the Watergate complex in Washington.
The intruders who were caught were paying a return visit there to "improve the sound quality" of bugs successfully planted there days earlier. It was part of a campaign of harassment and subterfuge by Nixon's cronies, aimed at thwarting opponents.
"We're going to get those sons-of-bitches, those cock-suckers, those rich Jews."
In the end it was Nixon who was forced to quit.
* Gerald Ratner went from famous to infamous after a slip of the tongue which cost him his entire fortune and business empire.
In 1991 he was addressing the British Institute of Directors, and made his fateful gaffe by joking that his chain of jewellery stores "sold a pair of earrings for under a pound, which is cheaper than a prawn sandwich from Marks & Spencer but probably wouldn't last as long". He went on to describe his sherry decanters as "crap".
Unbeknownst to Ratner, a reporter from the Daily Mirror was present and prompted a media frenzy which saw his reputation and company fall in tatters.
* In 1914 Charlie Chaplin predicted that cinema would be little more than a passing fad.
"It's a canned drama. What audiences really want is to see flesh and blood on the stage."
When the talkies arrived, Harry Warner said: "Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?"
* The blunders of former US Vice President Dan Quayle have almost been forgotten since the arrival on the scene of George W Bush. Here are some of his howlers:
On economic policy: "The President is going to lead us out of this recovery."
On Aids: "My friends, no matter how rough the road, we can and will never, never surrender to what is right."
On the environment: "It isn't pollution that's harming our environment. It's the impurities in our air and water."
When visiting a US school he corrected a pupil, telling him to spell "potato" as "potatoe".
* After his first audition, Fred Astaire's interviewer said in his notes: "Can't act, can't sing, slightly bald. Can dance a little."
Film mogul Louis B Meyer turned down the idea for a new cartoon, Mickey Mouse, because "every woman is frightened by a mouse."
* The Listener magazine could not have got it more wrong when it predicted in 1936: "Television won't matter in your lifetime or mine."
* Soccer pundit Ron Atkinson was cast out into the broadcasting wilderness after making a remark when he thought he was off-air. He said of Marcel Desailly, a Chelsea player: "He is what is known in some schools as a f***ing lazy, thick nigger."
Unfortunately, he was still on air in the Middle East and was fired.
He was already famous for his howlers:
"I'm going to make a prediction - it could go either way."
"I never comment on referees and I'm not going to make an exception for that prat."
* Managers at the Grand Ole Opry country music venue in Nashville rejected Elvis Presley: "You ain't goin' nowhere, son. You ought to go back to driving a truck."
* In December 1941, American fighter pilot Kermit Tyler received a call from soldiers operating a radar set near Pearl Harbour. They detected a huge, unusual blip, denoting at least 50 planes coming in from the north.
The planes turned out to be the bombers that attacked the harbour, and ultimately brought America into World War II.
But Tyler told the operators to switch off and get some breakfast, adding, "Well, don't worry about it!"
Donough O'Brien's 'Little Book of Banana Skins' is published by Liberties Press, ?14.99