COURTNEY'S MELTDOWN

Published on: February 17, 2003

Shortly before Courtney Love was busted by cops for an air-rage outburst, the rude rocker tore through a Hollywood newsstand and wreaked havoc, charges the irate owner.

"When Courtney came in, it was like a hurricane suddenly hit my newsstand," a still fuming Jason Swing told The ENQUIRER in an exclusive interview.

Swing runs the Swing News on the hip Sunset Strip across from the trendy Chateau Marmont hotel in West Hollywood. He sees many celebrities every day -- but none like Kurt Cobain's hot-tempered widow.

"She started picking up magazines and putting them back in the wrong place, weaving around and dropping stuff out of her purse everywhere," divulged Jason, 30.

"Courtney appeared completely stoned! She actually stumbled and fell into my cash register. Her purse spilled out as she fell to the ground. Her makeup, glasses and keys, among many other things, were all over the place -- and I had to help pick up her and her stuff.

"There was a wad of $20 bills on the ground, which she scooped up and placed next to the cash register. Then she started grabbing a bunch of magazines from all over the store.

"She also asked for four or five different brands of cigarettes. I couldn't figure it out.

"Then in the middle of all of this, Courtney grabbed my phone and started making calls! She was asking for directions to some hotel or other on her way to the airport.

"I said, 'Excuse me, what do you think you're doing?'

"She looked at me with this blank stare, like she didn't even comprehend what I was saying -- and she just kept on making calls.

"Then she said nonchalantly, 'Oh, just put the calls on my bill.'

"Which I did.

"She was chain-smoking the whole time.

"When it came time to pay, I told her the total was $42 -- and she hands me four $20 bills.

"Then, she says, 'Is that enough?'

"I said, 'Actually, it's too much.'

"She looked at it and said, 'Uh, O.K.'

"Then she jumped into her Jaguar and her driver sped away."

Just hours later, the entertainer was detained by police after arriving at London's Heathrow airport. The 37-year-old singer had been "verbally abusive" to the cabin crew "and disruptive" during the flight, said an airline spokesman.

There was no love lost between Love and the crew when a friend of hers, who was flying economy, was barred from entering the first-class section.

The grunge queen -- who called one of the attendants "a bitch" -- ended up personally apologizing to the airline's owner, Virgin Atlantic chief Richard Branson.

Concluded Swing: "Later, when I heard about what happened on the plane, I thought that made perfect sense. Because she acted whacked out when she stopped at my newsstand on her way to the airport!"