Old theory: Steven Slater’s a Beale-esque everyman striking a blow for dignity in a stressed-out, recession-plagued world. New theory: Steven Slater’s a D-bag who needs to lay off the sauce.

First Obama, now this. Must all of America’s new gods fail, my friends?

Then there’s passenger Kati Doebler. She said that Slater’s story about getting the cut on his head when a passenger dropped a piece of luggage on him from the overhead compartment at the end of the flight — the incident that triggered the cursing on the PA system, and the escape on the chute — may not be true.

In fact, Slater’s legal aide attorney, Howard Turman, told the media on Thursday Slater actually suffered the injury in Pittsburgh, before Flight 1052 even took off.

Before any of that happened, Doebler said, passengers saw the bleeding cut as soon as they boarded, and she said Slater never bandaged it. And, she said, there was that drink he always seemed to be carrying.

“One of the times he passed by me he was carrying what could either have been a drink for himself, and that was a little bit of the impression I got, as he was kind of waving it about like it was his own cocktail,” Doebler said.

Investigators are looking into claims by several passengers that Slater seemed to be irritable and unsteady, as if drinking, even throwing the mask and life jacket to the ground, some said, during the demonstration.

A CBS radio producer onboard the flight claims Slater hit the back of his seat and demanded that he return it to the upright position, even though it, er, already was in the upright position. As for the mysterious cut on his head, we were initially told that that happened at the end of the flight when a passenger dropped a bag on him, thus supposedly spurring his deploying of the emergency chute in a fit of righteous rage. Not so much, as it turns out. In fact, the Journal’s hearing that if there was an altercation with a passenger, Slater might have started it:

Marjorie Briskin, a 53-year-old schoolteacher from Pittsburgh, said she was deplaning in John F. Kennedy International Airport around noon Monday when Mr. Slater and a woman walking in front of her got into a heated conversation over the woman’s luggage. She said the passenger, who appeared to be in her 20s, asked Mr. Slater where her bag was stowed.

Ms. Briskin said the seemingly normal conversation turned unexpectedly nasty when Mr. Slater blurted out an expletive to the passenger…

Lauren Dominijanni, 25, who was flying to New York on business, said Mr. Slater was rude to her the moment she got on the plane.

She said someone had spilled coffee on her seat and when she asked for a sanitary wipe to clean it up, Mr. Slater “rolled his eyes at me and said, ‘What?’ in a real rude manner.”

Ms. Dominijanni, of Pittsburgh, said that when she pointed to the spilled coffee, Mr. Slater barked, “No! Maybe when we get in the air! I need to take care of myself first, honey!” She said he was pointing to the gash on his head.

There are even more reports of strange behavior, but that’s all I can safely quote. Follow the links up top. As if all this isn’t bad enough, Jet Blue sent around a memo to employees earlier today reminding them that deploying the chute is no laughing matter since it springs open “with enough force to kill a person.” If Slater was soused and/or woozy from that knock on the head, he’s lucky there was no one on the tarmac in the wrong place at the wrong time. Silver-lining exit question: Should we be grateful that he didn’t try to parachute out mid-flight a la D.B. Cooper?