John Castle, 76-Year-Old Palm Beach Plutocrat, Breaks Insolent Waiter's Finger

It's an age-old and vexing question: How much is it fair to shave off the tip at a high-end restaurant to signal dissatisfaction with the waitstaff? Two percent? Five percent? Should you stiff them? For leveraged buyout king John Castle the other night, the answer was easy: Just crack the little fucker's finger.

Castle, 76, is the chairman and CEO of Castle Harlan, a private equity firm. Before that, he was CEO of the investment banking firm Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette. His is a positively Romney-esque tale of the value of raiding companies to extract value—his business acumen has subsidized a lifestyle that included purchasing the Kennedy family's Palm Beach, Fla., compound in in 1995 and hosting magnificently lavish weddings there for his children, complete with Trader Vic's catering and Mar-a-Lago luncheons.

And on Saturday night, according to a complaint filed with the Palm Beach Police Department, he reacted to subpar service by calling his waiter a "schmuck" and breaking his finger. Castle and his wife Marianne, the complaint says, were having dinner at Club Colette, an elite Palm Beach private dining club (restaurants are for poors), when their waiter Paul Kucik made the unforgivable error of bringing them the check. Which is vulgar, I guess? From the report, which was first reported by the Palm Beach Daily News:

Kucik stated that Mrs. Castle requested that Kucik bring her their dinner bill. Kucik stated that when he returned to the Castles' dinner table, Mrs. Castle instructed him to give the bill to her husband, John Castle who was seated across the dinner table from her.

Kucik stated that he attempted to hand Mr. Castle the bill and Mr. Castle became irate with him and yelled, "You schmuck, why did you bring the bill to the table?" Kucik stated that he replied, "because your lady asked for it." Kucik stated while he stood on the left side of Mr. Castle, he (Kucik) attempted to hand Mr. Castle an ink pen. Mr. Castle began ranting and grabbed Kucik's left hand and began squeezing and twisting his fingers. Kucik stated that Mr. Castle had a very tight grip of his left hand and Kucik had to pull his left hand out of Mr. Castle`s grasp. Kucik stated he was not certain which hand Mr. Castle grabbed his left hand with, but he believed Mr. Castle used his right hand.

Kucik stated that he immediately notified his employer of the incident, but no action was taken. Kucik stated he began experiencing pains in his fingers as a result of Mr. Castle's actions. Kucik stated that on January 8, 2012 at 9:00 a.m., he went to the M.D. Walk-In Clinic located on Lantana Road. Kucik stated an X-Ray of his fingers indicated that his left ring finger was broken.

I did observe that Kucik's left ring finger and pinkie finger were wrapped in blue medical tape.

Kucik called the police the next day but declined to immediately press charges against Castle, asking for time to consult an attorney first. The investigating detective took down the story as a "police information report" but has closed the case after failing to contact Kucik to follow up.

Neither Castle nor Club Colette immediately returned phone calls. We couldn't find a number for Kucik. Read the full report here.

We're sort of puzzled as to why Castle would (allegedly!) become so irate over being shown the bill. Maybe patrons of private dining clubs are paying for the privilege of being able to come and go without worrying about such things? Or maybe his wife was just demanding that they leave and Castle wanted to stay. Let us know if there's a rich-people etiquette nuance that we're missing.

[Photo via Castle Harlan]