Mission probably accomplished. Alec Baldwin finally got ahead of the American Airlines' public-relations nightmare last week that became ever more catastrophic with each misguided tweet or whiny blog post. He did what he does best -- perform.
On "Saturday Night Live" he had a surprise cameo, playing an American Airlines pilot accessorized with a Tom Selleck mustache and a Boss Hogg ("Dukes of Hazzard") accent who apologized to Alec Baldwin for tossing him off the flight at Los Angeles Airport. "We're bankrupt; how dare we speak ill of the great Alec Baldwin," said the faux captain on the "Weekend Update" segment.
Baldwin's spokesman Matthew Hiltzik said that Baldwin had nothing to do with the idea -- "SNL" head writer Seth Meyers approached him with it last week when Hiltzik and Baldwin wanted to move on from the public relations nightmare.
Said Hiltzik, "Seth Meyers came up with the concept, and it wasn't like we approached them. We were interested in moving on [but Seth] came up with the concept and Alec was willing to play along. He also knows [the "SNL" folk] so there's great familiarity and a trust factor. But if it hadn't been something he felt comfortable with, he wouldn't have done it."
Along with Steve Martin, Baldwin -- a longtime friend of "SNL" creator and producer Lorne Michaels -- has hosted "SNL" more than anyone, and has fronted some of the show's most memorable material. In the court of public opinion -- which is to say the Internet -- Baldwin started losing almost from the moment he got tossed off the flight for continuing to play a word game on his phone after being instructed to turn his device off. The crew was following federal rules that ban use of portable electronic devices because they can interfere with navigation and communication systems.
He railed against the airline on Twitter; abused (also on Twitter) the flight attendant who tossed him, comparing her to a prehistoric Catholic school gym teacher who was a cross between Nurse Ratched and Sue Sylvester; and then whined bitterly on a Huffington Post blog about his unfair treatment, while apologizing to other passengers who were delayed or witnessed his tantrum.
AA posted its own riposte -- "He slammed the lavatory door so hard, the cockpit crew heard it and became alarmed, even with the cockpit door closed and locked. They immediately contacted the cabin crew to check on the situation. The passenger was extremely rude to the crew, calling them inappropriate names and using offensive language. Given the facts above, the passenger was removed from the flight and denied boarding."
No comment yet on last night's piece.
Photo: Actor Alec Baldwin, left, and "Saturday Night Live" comic Seth Meyers in their American Airlines spoof. (Dec. 10, 2011)