Amid the crowds that have descended on Washington are an elite crew of celebrities, political bigwigs, mediumwigs, socialites, and hangers-on, all of whom will be treated to some of the best parties ever seen in the nation’s capital.
For the rest of us – the uninvited masses – there are ways to get in.
And for advice on how, we turn to Fred Karger, former 2012 Republican presidential candidate and self-proclaimed party-crasher extraordinaire.
Karger, a Republican strategist hailing from California at the time, became the first openly gay Republican presidential candidate and the first of the 2012 GOP bunch to air a TV ad in Iowa. He attracted a pro-gay-rights following at college-campus events in New Hampshire, but never made the desired splash in the GOP race.
But that’s not why his advice is valuable now. Karger says he has crashed an inauguration party before, plus the Oscars and Fashion Week. He has fooled rope-line workers, he says, and even the Secret Service.
He twice found himself onstage at the Oscars, he says, once singing the final number alongside Liza Minnelli.
“I did it two years in a row, in 1972 and 1973,” Karger said in a recent phone interview. “I just kind of blended in. … There was a dancer between Liza and me, and one of us were on each arm and we ended up at the front of the stage.”
Karger had credentials to be in the building, but he definitely was not supposed to be onstage, nor was he supposed to be in the photo that ran in the Los Angeles Times.
With layers of security, the official inaugural balls are mostly impenetrable. But for the host of side-parties, some of them glitzier than the official events, here is his best advice:
- Identify the Party. “The first thing is: identify the event, which is not so easy, finding out where the party is you want to attend,” Karger told ABC.
- Dress the Part. It’s necessary, Karger says, although it may not be sufficient: “The number-one rule is just dressing the part,” Karger said. “You absolutely have to look like you belong there. It’s very difficult if it’s black tie and you’re not in black tie.”
- Call Ahead, Pretending to Be Someone Else. “There are ways to do it ahead of time to try to get on the list, like the Huffington Post [inauguration] party four years ago, which was the hot draw. I ended up going to the museum early and found a list of all the people working on the event, and called one of them and said I was working for Sheryl Crow, who was performing there, and said she needed to add a few more names to the list, and was very apologetic about that. This was about an hour before,” Karger said. “She added the names.”
- Blend In With an Entourage. Pretending to be part of an entourage can work, Karger said. “If you can find a celebrity, glom on,” he said. “I got into the ABC party with [California Gov. Jerry Brown] at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. I just followed him in.” (We’ll tentatively forgive him.) “If you’re close enough, and if the person you’re walking by who’s got the list assumes you’re part of the group” you can get in,” Karger said. At the aforementioned HuffPost party, he did the same, not even needing the pre-party legwork he’d done. “I didn’t actually use that because when I got there, I wasn’t sure the names had made the list. Larry David was there with his small group of people, so I just became part of that group,” he said. His friend did make it in, proving that the pre-call strategy had worked, Karger said.
- Read Upside Down. “A lot of places still have the list typed out, and if you’re good at reading upside down, just get one of those names that have been highlighted or crossed off, just read it off that list and use that name,” Karger said. “Sometimes, you get behind them and do it that way.”
- Say Your Name Is ‘Miller.’ “A friend of mine actually gave me a tip: His last name is ‘Miller,’ and he said just use ‘Miller.’ There are always Millers, everywhere you go, and it’s not like ‘Jones’ or ‘Smith’ or something,” Karger said.
- Pretend to Have Been Smoking a Cigarette. “I did that one time even with Secret Service. It was the Al Gore, Joe Lieberman huge event after they had accepted their nomination in L.A. They had a fundraiser with Barbra Streisand and held a concert,” Karger said. “I pretended I walked out for a cigarette, and the Secret Service asked me if I had my ticket, and I just said, ‘Oh, I went out for a cigarette.”
- Don’t Look Back. Just pretend you belong. “It’s looking the part, looking like you have that air of authority and never looking back. It’s the people that hesitate and don’t look like they belong that get nabbed,” Karger said. “If someone says, ‘Excuse me, excuse me,’ don’t look around.”
- Play It Dumb. Then again, pretended invincibility has its limits, mostly legal. “If you are stopped, you have to kind of assess the situation, but generally the innocent, play-it-dumb routine is the best,” Karger said. “Don’t get angry, because you are in the wrong, so you’ve got to be polite or apologetic.”