How to Crash the Oscars

It's all social engineering:

If you want to crash the glitziest party of all, the Oscars, here's a tip from a professional: Show up at the theater, dressed as a chef carrying a live lobster, looking really concerned.

[...]

"The most important technique is confidence," he said. "Part of it is being dressed the part, looking the part, and acting the part and then lying to get in the door."

The biggest hole in the elaborate Oscars security plan, Mamlet said, is that while everyone from stagehands to reporters have to wear official credentials, the celebrities and movie executives attending the event do not.

"If you really act like a celebrity, the security guards will worry that they will get into trouble for not recognizing you," Mamlet said.

Posted on March 7, 2006 at 6:20 AM • 40 Comments

Comments

stacyMarch 7, 2006 8:31 AM

"Hundreds of security guards are on hand, and the areas are cordoned off from pedestrian traffic.

Arminio said such security was to be expected after the September 11, 2001 attacks."

Sigh. So is every gathering of 5 or more people a terrorist target that must be protected with "hundreds of security guards"?

Bruce SchneierMarch 7, 2006 8:53 AM

"Sigh. So is every gathering of 5 or more people a terrorist target that must be protected with 'hundreds of security guards'?"

Nationally televised events get more attention. That's not unreasonable.

GMMarch 7, 2006 9:07 AM

Not to mention that celebrities really do have stalkers, some of them quite dangerous.

ChrisMarch 7, 2006 9:28 AM

Who needs a lobster? I've always found that a clipboard with some papers on it works wonders.

I've also found that holding your finger to your ear and saying excuse me as you move briskly through a crowd works, too. Parted folks like the Red Sea when I got caught many years ago in a crowd where GHB (then V.P.) was giving a speech in Houston at the Galleria.

JakeSMarch 7, 2006 10:09 AM

Social engineering is the way to get into society...
I wonder how many crashers did make it, and how.

Nick LancasterMarch 7, 2006 10:43 AM

I would think that proper identification procedures would solve the problem - all service personnel must be credentialed for the event. Of course, that will always run smack into 'not wishing to offend' a celebrity or member of their entourage.

GaryMarch 7, 2006 11:10 AM

I'm imagining the celebs with an ID card on a lanyard. Quite the fashion statement. Maybe if it was diamond-encrusted ...

Ed T.March 7, 2006 11:11 AM

"...Show up at the theater, dressed as a chef carrying a live lobster, looking really concerned."

Oh great. Now the TSA will be adding live lobsters to the list of things you can't carry on board an aircraft.

-EdT.

Joe BuckMarch 7, 2006 11:48 AM

Re: GM's comment: the reason that the California DMV database is no longer publicly available is because a stalker used it to get the home address of a TV soap opera star he had a crush on, Rebecca Schaeffer, and then tracked her down and killed her. There's a very good reason for tight security at the Oscars.

royMarch 7, 2006 12:11 PM

I've seen this idiocy in a large expensive (and known worldwide) government complex, where the workerbees and security guards all have to have their photo-ID badge in plain sight above the waist, while the bigshots in the expensive suits, as well as the top security people in less expensive suits, never show badges, so that they can coast right through every security checkpoint -- as can anyone looking and acting like them.

Theo Van DinterMarch 7, 2006 12:47 PM

"Sigh. So is every gathering of 5 or more people a terrorist target that must be protected with 'hundreds of security guards'?"

Depending on how it goes, the gathering of so many security guards could be considered a terrorist target in and of itself. Who will guard them? ;)

stacyMarch 7, 2006 1:16 PM

I'm not saying that televised events don't need additional security, I'm objecting to the use of the '9/11' bugbear to justify the level of security.

Stalkers are not a terrorist threat related to 9/11.

If the Oscars is a real target for terrorist, I would think the best terror value would be had attacking the throng of people outside of the area covered by the security guards.

Bruce SchneierMarch 7, 2006 2:13 PM

"If the Oscars is a real target for terrorist, I would think the best terror value would be had attacking the throng of people outside of the area covered by the security guards."

Naaa. Remember, the goals of a terrorist is to create terror. The best way to do that is through the media. A far better bomb target would be inside, in the audience, where all the cameras are pointing. Plus, you get human-interest families-of-the-celebrity-dead stories for months.

Ari HeikkinenMarch 7, 2006 2:52 PM

Now that's a cool plot, terrorists attacking the oscars and killing your most popular actors and actresses! Wow.

Wonder when 24 will pick on that (although it's probably less cool than terrorists attacking the president of the US with a stolen stealth fighter or nuclear holocaust caused by power plants and such).

Michael BirkMarch 7, 2006 3:12 PM

@Ari:
"Now that's a cool plot, terrorists attacking the oscars and killing your most popular actors and actresses! Wow."

Wow, indeed. Given that we are a celebrity-obsessed culture, I think that would have a devastating effect on our national psyche -- if it happened for real.

Which scenario is more likely to lead us into WW IV (if we're not already there):

* Bomb goes off at the Oscars, killing 100s of our favorite celebrities.

* Bomb goes off at the Capitol, killing 100s of our "favorite" politicians.

Blair NilssonMarch 7, 2006 4:27 PM

@Michael Birk

The Politicians, since it will be the rest of the politicians that make the choice of war or not.

The Celebs going up would however lead to another round of useless security and general public fear. Which may in the long run do more damage then a war.

--- Blair

stacyMarch 7, 2006 4:40 PM

“Remember, the goals of a terrorist is to create terror. The best way to do that is through the media.��?

Hmm… that is an interesting question; is terror ‘value’ generated by continued media coverage?

For me, the terror value of 9/11 was not derived from the spectacular nature of the attack, nor was it derived from seeing the same images again and again on TV. It came from the fact that I could identify with the victims; these were people who did nothing wrong but go to work that day.

I would have a hard time identifying with a room full of celebrities. I am not likely to find myself invited to a nationally televised black tie event. I could conceivably be in the crowd outside (not really, but it is more likely than me being inside :-). I would feel far more terrorized by an attack on the crowd out side (that could have been me) than I would by an attack on the celebrities.

To be honest, I find a lot of the responses to the terrorists to be more terrorizing than the actual events. The shootings of Jean Charles de Menezes and Rigoberto Alpizar scare the hell out of me.

AdamMarch 7, 2006 5:47 PM

@Michael Birk
"Which scenario is more likely to lead us into WW IV"

Did WWIII happen when I wasn't paying attention?

AdamMarch 7, 2006 5:48 PM

@Michael Birk
"Which scenario is more likely to lead us into WW IV"

Did WWIII happen when I wasn't paying attention?

AnonymousMarch 7, 2006 6:38 PM

@Bruce

"Naaa. Remember, the goals of a terrorist is to create terror. The best way to do that is through the media. A far better bomb target would be inside, in the audience, where all the cameras are pointing. Plus, you get human-interest families-of-the-celebrity-dead stories for months."

There's plenty of media coverage of the (apparently very exciting) process of famous people getting out of limousines and walking twenty meters to the front door of the theatre. A bomb that took out just one or two rich people and a bunch of screaming fans, in front the cameras outside the theatre, would be plenty effective. It would combine a famous face we all recognize, with a bunch of regular slobs we can identify with.

Sure, blowing up the entire theatre full of rich people, ideally right before you find out which film won best picture, would of course be more effective, but it would also carry more risk of failure.

AnonymousMarch 7, 2006 6:56 PM

"Bomb goes off at the Capitol, killing 100s of our "favorite" politicians."

I believe that was "Executive Orders", by Tom Clancy.

As an aside one of the worst bits of news reporting on 9/11 was interviewing Clancy and asking if "He thought someone would ever do what he wrote?" His comment was: "I hope I didn't give anyone that idea." IMO, it was irresponsible reporting and totally uneccessary.

Michael

RogerMarch 7, 2006 9:44 PM

@MathFox?

> How far would a car bomb in a stretch limo get?

Well, I believe the first checkpoint for vehicles is several blocks away from the theatre itself.

Davi OttenheimerMarch 7, 2006 9:59 PM

"The Cold War is generally accepted to have been WWIII."

Wha? "Generally" accepted? I don't think so...

Most (if not all) historians (not politicians trying to curry favor) would say the Cold War is and was the only name necessary for to describe the ideological struggle that stopped short of actual full-scale war...think of it this way, if the two sides HAD gone to actual war during this time, and it was already called WWIII, what would you call the actual war, WW3.1?

another_bruceMarch 7, 2006 10:35 PM

some of these comments remind me of a satirical headline i saw once (the onion?).
"nuke goes off in l.a., brad pitt, 8 million others believed dead"

anonMarch 8, 2006 2:03 AM

@Adam:
"Did WWIII happen when I wasn't paying attention?"
LOL. Didn't you get the memo? "Clash of civilizations" and all that?

@stacy:
"I would have a hard time identifying with a room full of celebrities."
I'm with you. But believe me when I tell you, much (most?) of America is not.

"To be honest, I find a lot of the responses to the terrorists to be more terrorizing than the actual events. The shootings of Jean Charles de Menezes and Rigoberto Alpizar scare the hell out of me."
Yeah, that and the complete abandonment of our constitutional framework.

AnonymousMarch 8, 2006 3:26 AM

@Roger:
"Well, I believe the first checkpoint for vehicles is several blocks away from the theatre itself."

What is checked at the checkpoints? Just invitations or do they have dogs or other sniffers for explosives?
Or are current expenses for Oscar security allready too high for what needs protection?

Dimitris AndrakakisMarch 8, 2006 5:28 AM

@Davi Ottenheimer:

> what would you call the actual war, WW3.1 ?

Yeah, and the aftermath would be WW 3.1 for battlegroups :-)

DuncanMarch 8, 2006 6:13 AM

From the university I went to, one of the student halls was built in the era that if more than 4 people "coincidentally" met, then it was construed as a gathering to overthrow the parliament.

As a result, they built a winding network of labryinths that made sure this did not happen. The result of course, was students unable to get to lectures on time because they can't find the front entrance.

Just another example of ridiculous passive security measures, it doesn't matter if you can get past front desk security, the mind-boggling architecture will make sure that you get completely lost.

WalterMarch 8, 2006 8:54 AM

Excuse if off-topic, but I'd like to note that recently, while organising a conference, we strongly suspect having spotted some fake attendees that probably just want to get the desired entry-visa. Quite similar to the party crashers. Isn't it?

Filias CupioMarch 8, 2006 4:14 PM

Here in NZ, it was reported that the King Kong acadamy award winners (technical categories) got into the "best picture" post-award party without an invite by driving up and waving their Oscars at the security guards. I thought at the time that it surely can't be hard to find/make a fake Oscar.

RogerMarch 8, 2006 6:25 PM

@Anonymous:
"What is checked at the checkpoints? Just invitations or do they have dogs or other sniffers for explosives?"

I have no idea, sorry. I'd imagine that the limo drivers are pre-screened and trained to guard their cars, and the checkpoints just check they have an authorised driver and no-one in the back is coercing him. But that's just a guess.

"Or are current expenses for Oscar security allready too high for what needs protection?"

Very probably. Security precautions against stalkers, pickpockets, random thieves, journalists and obsessive fans all make sense to a greater or lesser degree, but counter-terrorism precautions don't make much sense unless you have a specific threat. The Oscars are just too culturally ambiguous to make a good terrorism target. Case in point, one of the nominees for Best Foreign Language Picture at this years' Oscars was a Palestinian propaganda piece with a suicide bomber as the hero, and long soliloquies condemning Jews and the US for all the region's troubles.

@Filias Cupio:

"Here in NZ, it was reported that the King Kong acadamy award winners (technical categories) got into the "best picture" post-award party without an invite by driving up and waving their Oscars at the security guards."

Yes, it's widely reported that anyone who wins any kind of Oscar can generally get into any party in town on the night.

"I thought at the time that it surely can't be hard to find/make a fake Oscar."

That's a good point. If party organisers are going to tell their security people to admit any Oscar winners, then they probably should make sure they watch the broadcast so they have a reasonable chance of recognising the real winners. On the other hand, does it really matter? The biggest thing a lunatic is going to have missing from his "disguise" is a retinue of doting admirers. Whereas a gatecrasher who manages to turn up with a hired limo, faked Oscar and half a dozen doting supporters and admirers would probably make for a fun guest even if he wasn't really invited.

That's the thing with Mamlet, too. Apparently he's been doing this for years and is notorious, and all the guards have his photo, yet he still manages to get in. One possible reason is that nobody actually minds. By all accounts he is erudite, charming, and a very smooth talker; he's probably a great guest, and would even get an invitation except that the "how did you get in this time" story is part of the fun.

Ari HeikkinenMarch 9, 2006 2:50 AM

stacy: I think you're right. There's much more police officers (who watch 24, the news and all that terrorists scare from your administration) than there's actual terrorists, thus it's much more likely for you to be shot by police when walking with a backpack and an ipod than being a victim of an actual terrorist attack.

Tobias WeisserthMarch 9, 2006 8:29 AM

"If you really act like a celebrity, the security guards will worry that they will get into trouble for not recognizing you," Mamlet said.

Easy, if you can speak English with some European accent, say a French or German accent. I doubt more than one out of a hundred US Americans will actually recognize real European celebrities from France or Germany let alone identify a false one.

vajrabelleMarch 12, 2006 2:51 AM

I work security at events such as these. If you are stupid enough to not ask for the required pass because you are afraid to offend someone, you're not going to get a job at the Oscars. Or at least one would hope. Jeez. Unfortunately those who would insist on not playing by the rules but are actually legit, those are a dime-a-dozen. They think the minimum-wage security person is going to "know who they are" even though the security team can't afford cable to 'know' with the industry. Puhlese. Honestly, anyone who fears the "you should know me" line better be working in marketing at a much better paying job.

jpMarch 15, 2006 11:07 AM

A good tripod works well too. I learned this in high school where I referred to it as my "hall pass." Helps that we had a video class. No camera is necessary.

MerrilyFebruary 24, 2011 7:29 PM

You are right, Bruce. Confidence works.

It was the 1966 awards that I crashed in April of '67. My date had assured me earlier that we were going to be 'legitimate' guests, since he had made friends with some stars at his previous 'crashes'. Well, he lied.

It's a long story about that momentous night in my life, (and I have often thought about writing the story,) but I will say here that, being an actress, I fainted. I got through the rest of the night backstage. I just acted as if I belonged there. It was lots of fun, and Fred Astair even offered me his seat!

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