It takes a certain kind of chutzpah to crash high profile events. Aspiring reality show stars Tareq and Michaele Salahi, who crashed a state dinner at the White House last week, are just the latest in a long line of publicity-starved trespassers.
David Hampton crashed his first gate in 1983 when he was denied entrance to the famously selective disco Studio 54. On the spur of the moment, he informed the bouncer that he was, in fact, David Poitier, son of Academy Award winning actor Sidney Poitier. He was not only immediately ushered inside the club, he was also given the full celebrity treatment. Once he got a taste of the high life, he used his new persona to nab free meals at five star restaurants and to borrow money from and couch-surf at the homes of such celebs as Melanie Griffith, Gary Sinise and Calvin Klein. Hampton was eventually arrested and served time in prison for fraud. His exploits were the inspiration for John Guare’s acclaimed play Six Degrees of Separation.
Barry Bremen, a marketing executive from West Bloomfield, Michigan, craves the limelight. He nearly made it to the stadium floor at the 1982 Super Bowl by dressing as the San Diego Chicken. He dressed as an umpire in 1980 and confabbed at home plate with Harry Wendelstedt and Don Denkinger at a World Series game before being discovered. He even once crash dieted 23 pounds off of his 6’4” frame, shaved his legs and spent $1,200 on a custom-made Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader costume. He infiltrated Texas Stadium and managed a “Go Cowboys!” yell before security handcuffed him.
Perhaps his most daring escapade came at the 1985 Emmy Awards. Dressed in a tuxedo, he purchased a single $300 ticket for the ceremony and found himself seated in Row Three. As the show progressed, he noted that many of the winners were seated further back in the auditorium and it took them a few minutes to reach the stage. When Betty Thomas’ name was announced for Outstanding Supporting Actress (Hill Street Blues), Bremen jumped out of his seat, loped to the stage and accepted the statue, explaining that Thomas was unable to attend. He was arrested backstage (with a confused Betty Thomas looking on) and spent an hour in jail before posting bail.
To tourists craning their necks at the front gate to see the changing of the guards, Buckingham Palace seems like an impenetrable fortress. But with a combination of determination and plain dumb luck, 31-year-old Michael Fagan bypassed all the security measures in place and ended up in the bedroom of Queen Elizabeth II.
Early in the morning of July 9, 1982, Fagan scaled the 14-foot wall (topped with barbed wire) on the southeast side of the Palace. He climbed inside an open window and then wandered along various corridors. He tripped a silent alarm twice, but both times Palace security simply turned it off, thinking it was an electrical malfunction. He eventually found the unlocked door of the Queen’s bedroom and entered. The footman who normally stood guard was outside walking her corgis at the time. Her Majesty awoke to find a strange man sitting on the foot of her bed. With praiseworthy aplomb, she engaged him in conversation and kept him calm; when he asked for a cigarette it gave her an excuse to summon a footman, and Fagan was summarily arrested.
Paul Goresh is the very rare exception to the gate-crashing rule; rather than being arrested, he eventually befriended his target. Goresh was a New Jersey college student, amateur photographer and Beatles fan who came up with a plan to meet his idol, John Lennon. Goresh boldly gained access to the exclusive Dakota apartment building one day in 1979 by dressing in an ersatz uniform and informing the security guard that he was there to repair the Lennon’s VCR. He was allowed upstairs, and to Paul’s amazement, John Lennon himself actually answered the door. Lennon was confused and upset that his secretary hadn’t alerted him that a repairman was expected (one wasn’t, of course; the whole thing was a farce). Surprisingly, John felt bad about his verbal outburst and apologized to Goresh and obliged him with an autograph.
In the following months, John and Yoko frequently saw Goresh hanging around outside the Dakota with his camera and John accused him of being a member of the press (this was during John’s reclusive “househusband” period). Goresh insisted that he was merely a fan and offered up his roll of undeveloped film as proof. John exposed the roll and Goresh’s only request that he didn’t break his camera, as it cost $350. Lennon and Goresh developed something of a casual friendship after that—John and Yoko would frequently pose or wave when they spotted him in front of the Dakota.
Little did Paul Goresh suspect that he would become a footnote in history when he snapped a photograph of John Lennon signing a copy of Double Fantasy for Mark David Chapman on the evening of December 8, 1980 (pictured).
The motives behind self-proclaimed “comedy terrorist” Aaron Barschak’s various antics (he’s successfully crashed several A-list London parties) seem to change depending upon his mood when he’s interviewed. He was either paying silent tribute to British comedian Spike Milligan, or he was afraid of dying without anyone knowing his name. Whatever his reasons, he became a household name in the UK after he crashed Prince William’s 21st birthday party in August 2003. Dressed as Osama bin Laden (albeit with a pink skirt), he scaled the wall of Windsor Castle, set off several alarms, was seen by security on closed-circuit television and still managed to get on stage while Will was giving a speech. He was apprehended but not charged; instead a serious investigation into royal security was launched.
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