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He crashed Oscar parties and stole Paul McCartney's seat. But he's leaving the scene

  • Adrian Maher, 60, is seen outside the Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills where he crashed a Night Before Oscar party a few years ago. Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles Times
Published: 2/15/2020 1:25:57 PM

LOS ANGELES — The maroon 1997 Caddy rumbles up to the Beverly Hills Hotel, a Grateful Dead sticker plastered onto its back window, a long crack defacing the windshield like a nasty scar.

Handing the keys to a valet, Adrian Maher wears corduroy pants and a blue suit jacket that looks ripped from a secondhand rack as he passes swanky sports cars and arching palms. He’s vaguely reminiscent of Hunter S. Thompson, a 60-year-old outlier with a receding hairline and a distinct whiff of recklessness.

Clearly, this man does not belong here.

Still, he makes his move to reenact a scene from one of his most outrageous escapades, trying to foil the formidable hotel security apparatus one more time.

With darting shoplifter eyes, he moves into the lobby. At 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, Maher has a comical loping gait, equal parts Bill Murray, “Seinfeld’s” Kramer and Borat. He slips past a velvet rope and heads down a circular stairway, journalists in tow.

“This way,” he says.

Moments later, hotel security chief Len Hollandsworth is in his face, saying a worker alerted him about some suspicious characters floating through the lobby.

“Copy that,” Hollandsworth says into his walkie-talkie. “I’m with them now. Code 4.”

Busted.

Not that long ago, Maher found it relatively easy to sneak into places like this. For 20 years, he embodied a particular breed of L.A. animal, a nocturnal creature who lurked on the fringes of the most-exclusive celebrity events, and who usually found his way inside locations with security befitting the Kremlin.

He ran with a pack of neurotic gate-crashers who infiltrated Hollywood’s elite soirees and awards after-events for the Golden Globes, Grammys and even Oscars. They were oddballs and loners with voracious appetites for subterfuge, who fed on the adrenaline required to waltz past thick-necked security guards to mingle with cosseted actors and directors, “wetting their beaks” with free booze, working the buffet like hungry hyenas in elaborate disguises.

Awards season once made Maher salivate, his stomach growl. There were sumptuous parties to frequent, such as the Elton John Oscars viewing and afterparty, which he infiltrated almost every year.

Not anymore.

He retired from the VIP circuit in 2018, after reckoning with a new Hollywood reality: The specter of terrorism has prompted increasingly zealous security — sometimes aided by such advances as facial-recognition technology — and that’s meant hard times for the people Maher calls rope-line ruffians.

“I’ve aged out of this,” he says. “This used to be a big game. But the game is over.”

Case in point: his quick detection at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where he had hoped to demonstrate his infiltration technique.

Maher recently published a tell-all memoir called “Uninvited: Confessions of a Hollywood Party Crasher” that plumbs a bizarre subculture of risk-takers who seem to hail from a Saturday-morning cartoon lineup. Like the Italian redhead known for “strip mining” a buffet table and Clement von Franckenstein (yes, his real name), who Maher described as an eccentric who “with the whiff of an aristocrat on hard times would attend the opening of an envelope.”

The book has put Maher at odds with the crasher culture, with former comrades complaining that he’s spoiled the party.

He describes how he and his cronies cased hotels for entry points — janitorial doors, garden pathways, underground garages, freight elevators. Crashers have climbed hedges, ducked into kitchens and donned uniforms to blend with the staff.

Maher has impersonated band roadies and FedEx deliverymen. At least to gain entry. Many nights, he peeled off a uniform to reveal an Armani or Hugo Boss suit or tuxedo.

Inside his getaway car, he kept party-crasher accouterments — ascots, badges, ink stamps for ultraviolet light and thousands of event lanyards. If he saw guests passing security while wearing, say, a light-blue lanyard, he’d check his collection to find an approximate color.

One favorite ruse involved pacing a checkpoint with a Champagne glass, turning to guards and asking, “Oh, I’m not supposed to drink this out here, am I?”

“No, you’ve got to come inside,” came the typical response. An interloper was only happy to comply.

Maher once observed a crasher use a technique he calls “the Crab,” in which the infiltrator hunches over and walks backward past a checkpoint, yelling into his cellphone in a shell of conversation, hopefully difficult to interrupt.




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