Adrian Maher’s account of his audacious, quasilegal, real-life adventures sneaking into Hollywood’s biggest parties, award shows, and charity events in the first decades of the 21st century is revealed in colorful detail in Uninvited: Confessions of a Hollywood Party Crasher. Maher, a former Los Angeles Times reporter, began his move to the dark side shortly after he was laid off, his girlfriend left him, and his mother died. He went on to a career in documentary filmmaking, even as he was thrust into a subterranean rogues’ gallery of fellow adrenaline junkies in the years before high-tech security made subterfuge tougher (and less fun). With awards season upon us, we asked the now retired crasher to share a few tricks of the trade.
What events are the hardest to sneak into?
The toughest are the Globes and the Oscars, of course. But nothing is impossible. The first time I crashed the Globes, in 2003, it was only 16 months after 9/11, and security was intense. There were snipers on the roof of the Beverly Hilton, plus tons of FBI agents, police, and Homeland Security. I finally got in with help from a Texas man who was a dead ringer for Steven Seagal. Me and my friends followed him with cameras, pretending to shoot him for a documentary. As you know, nothing opens doors more quickly than being famous. We took fake Seagal around town before the party and got him a free tux and a Maserati for his arrival. When we got there, he just glided in.
He glided in, but you and your crew were shown the door.
Thankfully we had some other crashers posted inside. They shuttled some room keys in and out, which allowed us inside the hotel.
Where did the room keys come from?
From a guy I call Barton Whitaker, who is a kind of legendary crasher. He rented a room in the Beverly Hilton each year, and he’d sell access to the other crashers for about $60 per person. He used the two key cards he got from the hotel to shuttle in about two dozen people one at a time. Barton was very entrepreneurial. He put out a daily Crasher’s Guide that listed events all over L.A., complete with PR contacts, addresses, times, everything. People paid $30 a month for it.
Where did he get that information?
He gathered it from lots of different sources. He’d get tips from caterers, other party crashers, public relations agents. A lot of his information came from security guards who aren’t paid very much.
“The defining characteristic of a party crasher is a willingness to risk abject embarrassment.”
At one time, there were two dozen top crashers on the L.A. party scene, all of whom regularly braved ejection or arrest. What kind of person risks all that to crash a party?
The defining personality characteristic of a party crasher is a willingness to risk abject embarrassment. That’s why so few people do it. Most people are terrified of getting into a place they don’t belong and getting a tap on the shoulder and being publicly perp walked out of the event. But others are driven to go out every night and try. I call them the “crash junkies.”
Why do they do it?
Some of them are thrill seekers—junkies who need that daily jolt of excitement. Others are outsiders who want to be inside. It’s a nerve-racking experience, but there’s a big kind of rush when you make it inside a place where people don’t want you to be.
You note that the more elite crashers travel around with all kinds of tools and disguises to help them evade attention.
One crasher I knew kept a huge trunk filled with thousands of multicolored wristbands, an ultraviolet-light ink stamp, clipboards, earpieces, Velcro mustaches, baseball hats, food inspector badges, wine glasses, and different hand stamps. It’s unbelievable.
What are some of the most inventive tricks you’ve seen?
I’ve seen people at an award show dressed in a tux, carrying a glass of champagne as they walk back and forth in front. They quickly turn to security and say, “Oh, I’m not supposed to drink this out here, am I?” And security goes, “No, you’ve got to come in immediately.” I’ve seen crashers in tuxes pushed into events in a wheelchair. I saw one guy climb onto a tree limb and drop onto the other side of a hill, tumble down the hill, pop up in the backyard, and just gallop right into the party.
One night you literally galloped into Clint Eastwood.
(Laughs) It was at the big Night Before party on Oscar weekend—always one of the hardest parties to pierce. My partner Avi Fisher and I got in through a side entrance at the Beverly Hills Hotel. We rode freight elevators up and down until one of them finally popped out into the ballroom. … I saw an elderly gentleman leaning over the sushi table. I thought it was a former boss of mine. I went up behind him and put both hands on him and slapped him on the back. “How are you, big guy?” When I flipped him around, I realized it was Clint Eastwood. He was really alarmed, so then I tried to put him at ease. I gave his bicep a tight squeeze and said, “Good to see you again, Clint.” He said, “Thanks, fella.”
What put an end to your crashing career?
Those big celebrity events just become so anxiety-inducing to me. Now there is this overwhelming, high-tech security everywhere you look. Also, those big galas have gotten to be terribly dull. I find that the more formal the event, and the more celebrities it attracts, the more boring it usually is. I still love socializing, but the armies of security, the hovering helicopters, the rhino-necked guards…well, it’s just a drag. Most nights I’d rather stay home and watch TV, to be perfectly honest.
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