I was recently voted one of the 15 most notorious party crashers in the world, a title I don’t take lightly. I am proud to report that I came in at No. 4, beating Tareq and Michaele Salahi (#15), Queen Elizabeth (#14) and Bill Murray (#6). Lady Gaga and Serena Williams were handed honorable mentions, but did not actually make the esteemed list. Better luck next time, ladies!
My party crashing habit began in my teens. It was my hobby, and I might add, not an easy one when you live in Georgia. The state is not exactly the celebrity capital of the world. At seventeen, I sneaked into an audition to land my first movie role, and I asked Burt Reynolds to my prom (he didn’t say yes, but it was cool talking with him on the phone). A year later, my prince charming—pop idol and sex symbol, Tom Jones—became my first boyfriend. I had literally turned into Cinderella, and I was not even 19!
My gate-crashing adventures multiplied accordingly when I moved to Las Vegas and then to Los Angeles. On multiple occasions, I finagled my way into the Grammys, Emmys, Oscars, and virtually every elite award show in Hollywood. There were fringe benefits associated with “crashing.” I got to ask highly successful people penetrating questions, such as “What is the key to success?” Famous men asked me on dates, famous women asked me to lunch, and VIPs offered me intriguing jobs.
I suppose I secretly hoped some of their fairy dust would rub off on me. All in all, I made some downright cool connections. My college and high school friends were hanging out at bars or at the bowling alley, while I lived the lifestyle of the rich and famous… even though I was actually poor and obscure.
This brings me to the Secret Service. I made my way past them four times, although I want to stress that I was always checked for weapons. I could not have sneaked past this stoic team of defenders with a knife or a gun. So, in my estimation, they did their job and should not be faulted.
My first two Secret Service adventures happened in the 1980s and involved gaining access to President Reagan. The first situation involved a great deal of tears. I literally cried my way past the Secret Service and ended up in a VIP area chatting with the president, mostly about the weather. I had not intentionally gate-crashed. I was feeling claustrophobic because the main party room was intolerably crowded. I felt like I was trapped in a gumball machine, and the only escape lay beyond red velvet ropes in a sparsely-filled VIP section. Secret Service agents recognized a damsel in distress, took pity on me and voluntarily opened the ropes.
My second Secret Service gate-crash was not so different from the impressive technique used by the notorious Salahis when they gained access to President Obama’s state dinner. I wanted to snag an interview and photo with Reagan, but when I called the White House to make the request, a receptionist told me to buzz off. Actually, those weren’t her exact words. She explained that Reagan was on a six-week hiatus from reporters, and then she blasted me, “Everyone in the country can’t get their picture taken with the president!” But I was not deterred by that minor setback.
I shifted into perseverance mode and headed to the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles, where I knew the president’s staff was staying. Two men were setting up cameras outside the hotel lobby, and I correctly assumed they were with the White House. I also guessed they would be attending Walter Annenberg’s annual New Year’s Eve party in Palm Springs with none other than the Gipper himself.
I introduced myself to these fine gents and boldly asked, “Do either of you happen to need a date for New Year’s Eve?”
One of the men happened to be the White House chief photographer. He laughed and said, “Sure. I could use a date. But, we’re going to a party in Palm Springs. Do you want to drive all the way down there?”
“No problem,” I shot back, figuring I had just landed an invitation to the premier social event of the year. “Will the president be there?”
“Of course,” he said and took my social security number for a background check.
I arrived in Palm Springs for the special occasion, but my name was not on the guest list. My date whispered with Secret Service agents, and ten minutes later, I was in. President Reagan—obviously unaware of the “reporter hiatus”—answered my laundry list of questions. I asked him if he was ever nervous about meeting any particular person, and he said he anticipated meeting the pope. We also talked about the animal welfare and the holidays.
The third Secret Service gate-crash occurred at a John Kerry fundraiser in 2004. The Senator was a candidate for president, and the $25,000 per person entry fee was slightly beyond my $3 price point. Party crashing was the only ticket I could afford. After being checked for weapons, I jumped into the colorful collage of party dresses worn by bona fide guests and finagled myself past the door. A Secret Service agent realized I had dodged him and shouted, “Wait. I didn’t see your ticket. Come back here.” I pretended I was deaf.
I made my way into a celebrity-filled room where I hobnobbed with the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, John Kerry, Neil Diamond, Ben Affleck, Jamie Foxx, Ben Stiller, and Robert De Niro, among others.
My final Secret Service coup happened at George Clooney’s Los Angeles estate in 2012. It was a fundraiser for President Obama and the entry fee was slightly more than the equity in my home. This “party crash” was actually a “car crash,” but not in the usual sense. Secret Service and police officers had blocked the street which led to George’s estate in order to keeps peasants like me away. But they erred when they temporarily removed a barricade in the road. I seized the opportunity for rebelliousness and possibly jail time. I barreled up the hill in my Nissan, but was subsequently flagged down.
“Ma’am, you must turn around and go back down the hill,” a security guard said after I slammed on the brakes and rolled down my window.
My brain shifted into creativity mode. On my passenger seat was a Rite Aid bag filled with recently purchased pony tail holders.
“I have an emergency pharmaceutical delivery for (I pretended to read a small piece of paper)… Mr. G. Clooney.”
The man seemed confused and scanned the area for advice. I tried to act confident. I hoped he would not look inside my sack because I don’t think there is such thing as an “emergency scrunchie.”
He paused for a few seconds, and then said, “Okay. I guess you can go up.”
The street around George’s house was jammed with catering trucks and service vehicles, so I parked in the only spot available: the actor’s driveway. I entered the event. Barbra Streisand walked past me, and I drummed up conversations with Jack Black, Billy Crystal, and Rob Reiner.
Gate-crashing is a form of life-crashing. It’s the perfect hobby for folks who want to live in the bold zone. The bold zone is that area just beyond the comfort zone where fierceness resides. It requires showing up, going at life with gusto and becoming a fearless and relentless force of nature.
A person can enter the bold zone without becoming a party crasher. But, hey, why miss all the fun?
Published in Gawker on May 13, 2015