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Lynn Hummel: There will always be gate crashers

My uncles Jim and Bob, two of nine brothers and sisters who grew up in a poor family during the Great Depression, loved the circus. But there was only one way they could go — they had to crawl in under the tent. And that’s what they did. If they were grabbed on the way in, they had enough charm to talk their way into staying as guests. Later, as young adults, (but still poor) they had one driver’s license between them that they passed back and forth as needed — and they looked so much alike that they pulled it off.

There will always be gate crashers. When England’s Prince Harry had his 21st birthday a few years ago at the Windsor Castle, a guy by the name of Anthony Barschak showed up dressed as a prominent Muslim mullah, wearing a toga, a turban on his head, a fake beard and sunglasses. He was photographed kissing Prince Harry on both cheeks before he was removed by police.

Six years later, President Obama hosted a state dinner honoring Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. This was a spiffy affair and the guests were dressed to the teeth. Not on the guest list were Tareq and Michelle Salahi, a glamorous couple if there ever was one, but they showed up, dressed to the teeth, fooling everybody, and even had their picture taken with President Obama, all three with big smiles on their faces. White House security people admitted they obviously needed to tighten up their procedures. But the Salahis had already basked in their 15 minutes of fame.

In another incident at the White House, one would-be crasher wanted to hear the Jonas Brothers performing there. She claimed she was reporter Gwen Jfill, not knowing that Jfill is black while forgetting perhaps that she was white. Sorry — out.

Even the Vatican has gate crashers — all wearing the black robes, skull caps and crucifixes of some order or the other. One such imposter, posing as a bishop, looked suspicious to the Swiss Guards at the Vatican, but they couldn’t put their finger on what was out of place. Finally, they noticed his white sox and decided no bishop would wear white sox with an all black outfit and they ushered him out.

Another Vatican crasher named Ralph Napanski claimed to be “Basilius,” a bishop of the Italian Orthodox Church. His uniform of the day was a too-short cassock with a purple sash around his waist, a fedora rather than a skull cap and a cross around his neck. He proceeded so far as to have his photo taken with Cardinal Sabastiani. But the Swiss Guards thought something was unusual. When they realized there was no such thing as an Italian Orthodox Church, they removed him. It was a brave pilgrimage but he never got to meet the pope.

Our son, Buckwheat, once worked as an intern (for less than minimum wage — Congress carved its own exception to the law) for Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota. Senators are always being invited and sent tickets for Washington receptions. They skip most of them, but pass the tickets along to their staff people. Buckwheat went to a few for the fabulous food and famous faces. He wasn’t exactly a gate crasher, but not the prestigious guest the host wanted. He says he had a ticket to crash.

Gate crashing is also a subject for fiction. A recent movie, “The Wedding Crashers,” which I haven’t seen, is about two pals who made a hobby out of crashing wedding receptions for the great free food and drink and to pick up girls. They always went prepared with a phony cover story and a pack of lies. Before it was over, they were crashing funeral receptions.

Whenever you drive by a home with balloons on display during the graduation season, see a class reunion or a convention in a hotel lobby, you have come upon an opportunity for gate crashing — an occasion when those without tickets or invitations write their own tickets and invite themselves.

But it takes at least two things to be a successful crasher. The first is audacity (with minimal conscience) and the second is charm. Don’t try unless you have both. The audacity and charm of my uncles Jim and Bob did not pass along to me, so I am staying home and nibbling tiny peanut butter and jelly wedges.