It’s easier than ever to hang out with celebrities. Kim Kardashian beams photos from her life to 46 million Instagrammers. Her husband, Kanye West, pops up on her reality TV show. YouTube is full of candid celebrity moments captured by the gawkers sitting at the next table. We seem finally to have reached the inner sanctum.
But why settle for virtual voyeurism when you can have the real thing? There are shockingly easy ways to infiltrate VIP events and schmooze with the rich and famous. I am an expert on this hobby.
True, there’s no reason to hang out with Brad Pitt or the president when you could spend Saturday night with your mother-in-law. But party crashing — or gate-crashing, as it is sometimes called — can be fulfilling beyond making interesting friends and living a glam lifestyle. It can lead to profitable business contacts and exclusive celebrity interviews. It can be a way to get famous folks signed on to nonprofit causes, and it can be instrumental when lobbying for legislation.
Although there are a number of ways to finagle into an event, here are some of my favorite methods.
The ‘Fake Out to Get In’
Much like a magician’s sleight of hand, this technique requires distraction. You must invent a believable excuse for the chap or chapette guarding the door, and then sashay up to this person with confidence and deliver an Oscar-worthy performance. In other words, you have to be Meryl Streep in order to meet Meryl Streep. You do not want the guard to think you care one iota about the event or the bucketful of celebrities in attendance. You must convey that you have more important matters to attend to, saying something like “I’m here to apply for a job” or “I am with Building and Safety and need to check the concrete footings.”
I embarked upon the “Fake Out to Get In” ploy in 2012 when I wanted to attend a fundraiser for President Obama at George Clooney’s Los Angeles estate. The entry fee was $40,000 per person, and as Billy Crystal once said, “Some of my friends don’t make that much in a day.” Gate-crashing was the only ticket I could afford.
Law enforcement had closed the streets surrounding Clooney’s estate, but they blundered when they temporarily removed a blockade. I shot up the road in my Nissan and was subsequently flagged down. A security guard spoke to me through my car window. “Ma’am, you must turn around and go back down the hill.” Assorted of excuses raced through my head, but then I noticed a Rite Aid bag on my passenger seat filled with recently purchased ponytail holders. “I have an emergency pharmaceutical delivery for . . .” — here I pretended to read a small piece of paper — “Mr. G. Clooney.” I exuded confidence, yet also deep concern, as if to say, “Do you really want poor George to die?”
The guard seemed confused and scanned the area for advice, but there was no one to consult. He looked at me. He scanned the area again. I hoped he would not search my bag to find the Ouchless No Crease Hair Ties; I knew my death-by-hairdo story wouldn’t fly. The guard finally relented. “Okay. I guess you can go up.”
The area around Clooney’s house was packed with catering trucks and service vehicles, so I parked in the only spot available: the actor’s driveway. I entered the event to find Robert Downey Jr., Barbra Streisand, Jack Black and others. The evening was a success.
The ‘Glitz Blitz’
If the straight-up bluff makes you quiver, you might be better suited for the “Glitz Blitz.” For this gate-crashing maneuver, you must transform into a human Christmas tree, a six-foot-tall diamond or a shiny space alien. In other words, you need to look outrageous, temporarily blinding security guards with your garish glitter as you waltz past them into the event. You must pretend to be famous — perhaps part of the evening’s entertainment — and manifest confidence, charisma and that indescribable attitude of “step aside, darling, and let me through the door.” If you want to rock and roll like a real pro, you can commission your friends to pose as fans, screaming for your autograph and snapping paparazzi shots.
I used the “Glitz Blitz” to outwit a security guard when I wanted to attend the 1985 Grammy Awards. The event was held at Los Angeles’s Shrine Auditorium, and I wore my “Cher special,” a sexy fishnet body stocking with loads of sequins and fake feathers. After leaving my creaky old car in a motel parking lot, I scampered down the sidewalk in stilettos until I came upon a long line of shiny limousines filled with celebrities and VIPs. The vehicles were inching toward their destination: a lavish red carpet, where the rich and famous would disembark, wave to screaming fans and strut into the festivities.
I needed fancy wheels. A real celebrity does not hobble up to the theater loading dock, rap on the metal door and mumble, “Do you think I could . . . maybe . . . come inside?” Hitchhiking was my plan. So I ventured from limo to limo, smiling at the reflective glass and wondering if Michael Jackson or Madonna was inside sipping champagne and laughing at my dopey grin. Eventually, a man rolled down his window. “Are you going to the door?” I asked. “I’m so tired of walking.” I feigned exhaustion. “Could you give me a ride?” He graciously invited me to join him.
This man (who was traveling solo, apart from his driver) confessed that he would not be exiting the vehicle. He didn’t say why, and I still don’t know who he was. When the anticipated moment came, I stepped onto the red carpet alone, which made me seem super-important. I floated toward the entrance, waving at the crowd, sending air kisses, signing autographs and posing for paparazzi. However, the entire time I was acutely aware of the security guard in the distance, watching my every move. My “Glitz Blitz” performance was solely for him.
When I reached the door, this guard asked me for my invitation, and I feigned surprise. “Oh, no. My agent has it. I’m so sorry. What should I do?” He sighed. My transportation was gone, and he did not have the heart to send me back down the red carpet in my ostentatious outfit, past the huge throng and into the dark and possibly dangerous street. I attended the Grammys.
The ‘Celebrity Snuggle Up’
This maneuver requires you to become chummy with a star just before he or she enters an event, thereby making it seem like you are part of the famous person’s entourage. Your demeanor must communicate the sassiness of “I’m this celebrity’s BFF,” combined with the aloofness of being a “tag along.” As you and your chosen celebrity approach security, you should stare into the distance, count the tiles on the ceiling or study the scuff marks on your shoes. In other words, under no circumstances should you make eye contact with the guard. You must pretend he or she is as invisible as your invitation to the affair.
You might sweat or convulse slightly as you stand there, wondering if you will be tossed out of the building or sent to jail, but try to be brave. Hide your crushing terror. When the guard gives the signal that clearance has been granted — and this is what usually happens, by the way — you must waltz into the event alongside your star with a business-as-usual attitude. Once safely inside, you should duck into the restroom to regroup or throw up, as you see fit.
What happens if you are game for the “Snuggle Up” but can’t think of a darn thing to say to your designated star in the first place? This happened to me in 1981, when I wanted to attend an exclusive party hosted by Frank Sinatra at the Madison Hotel in Washington.
I noticed Charley Pride ascending a staircase toward the all-important festivities. There was a fortress of security guards in the distance, and I figured this was my opportunity to finagle into the event as Charley’s sidekick. I jumped next to him but quickly realized I had nothing to say. Panic set in because the guards were studying our interaction.
Charley looked at me, and I looked at him. It was awkward. Since the guards were so far away, I decided to pretend to speak. No sound came out. I moved my hands in an overly dramatic way and let out exaggerated belly laughs as if I was on good terms with the star. Charley stared at me like I was a nutcase, but the security guards seemed convinced of our deep and important connection.
When we got to the top of the stairway, Charley gave his name to a woman at a desk, while I stared straight ahead, hoping no one would question my presence. Thankfully, we were permitted to enter, and I was able to mingle with Johnny Carson, Henry Kissinger and Sinatra, among others.
Gate-crashing is a form of life-crashing. It is about living in the bold zone, taking calculated chances and pursuing your dreams.
And if you see me sashaying down the red carpet or schmoozing on the other side of the velvet rope, don’t forget the rules of party crashing. First rule: You don’t talk about party crashing. Second rule: Maybe you “crashed,” but I was invited. I am always invited. Last rule: If you get caught, I’m not your one phone call, and you’ve never heard of me.
Published in the Washington Post on September 18, 2015