Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Party Crashing or Gate-Crashing

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!

Charlotte Laws and President Ronald Reagan
Charlotte Laws & President Reagan
My party crashing habit began in my teens. It was my hobby; and I might I 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 pretty cool to talk to 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.

Ben Affleck, Charlotte Laws and Ben Stiller
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 three-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 holidays.

Charlotte Laws, Michael Jackson, Brooke Shields
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.

Charlotte Laws and John Kerry
Charlotte Laws and John Kerry
“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?

This article first appeared in Gawker 

Article Two about Party Crashing by Dr. Laws

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.

Owen Wilson and Charlotte Laws
Owen Wilson and Charlotte Laws
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.

Jay Leno and Charlotte Laws
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.

Charlotte Laws and Bob Hope
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.

Charlotte Laws and Martin Sheen

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.

Charlotte Laws and Bill Cosby
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.

This article was originally published in the Washington Post.