Twice, actually. Admittedly for about seven minutes in total. But it still counts as the first intrusion in 15 years. Here's how I assumed various guises, bypassed half a dozen checkpoints, and ended up making chitchat with Rupert Murdoch.
To shamelessly self-promote for a moment, the Vanity Fair party has only been gatecrashed once, at least according to ex-VF staffer Toby Young: In 1996, a reporter for Star magazine brought a pig on a leash and claimed it was the same animal that had played Babe. But that was 15 years ago, and security measures have been stepped up since then. This year it was rumored that, in addition to the scores of regular security guards and bomb-sniffing dogs, there were undercover ex-CIA agents on hand to keep the A-listers safe and the riffraff out. (It's possible. The security people scared the crap out of me.)
Sadly, I didn't get to experience much of it. I spent about seven minutes inside the party over the course of a nine-hour ordeal.
To prepare for what's often described as the most exclusive party on the planet, the police closed down a lane of Sunset Boulevard. Only those with official passes were allowed to drive up to the Sunset Tower Hotel (which is where the party was held). The initial three or four checkpoints were manned by cops. I counted four or five different Vanity Fair checkpoints on top of that, as guests wended their way across the red carpet. The cops blocked off all the surrounding streets, too: the rented Gawkermobile was towed when we parked nearby. Inside the hotel—and all around it—were at least 50 plainclothes guards, each with an earpiece and wrist radio. They were stationed at every vulnerable point and tracked every person who walked in the building.
But. The security is only put in place at around 5pm. Which is why, at 3pm, I walked up to the door and told the one guard that I was there to meet someone in the lobby. I then stole a Vanity Fair-branded umbrella and told the concierge that I had to deliver it immediately to someone in the party area. He believed me, against all odds.
Inside a translucent marquee stretched out over acres of cream suede couches. "VANITY FAIR" was spelled out in 15 foot letters on a hedge that towered overhead. But the place was empty. I just had to find somewhere to hide.
Then a hand landed on my shoulder. The guard was muscled, moved like a soldier, and displayed the menacing courtesy of someone who knows he can kill you with a spoon. Luckily, he got distracted by messages on his earpiece for a moment and he let me go.
I walked into another party room, which was laid out for dinner. This picture, below, sucks because I was immediately kicked out again by another guard who had apparently seen me move from room to room.
What followed were endless hours hiding in the hotel's stairwells. That garnered these pictures of the red carpet and the marquee. Because there was nothing else to do except count the tiles and text people.
At around 10pm I decided to venture out and check the staff area for opportunities. I found two passes lying abandoned on a table—one expired red pass for now-departed construction workers, and the other that belonged to some dude. (These pictures were taken in the staff bathroom, by the way.)
My dilemma was that I looked nothing whatsoever like Johnny Darakdjian, the man who was unfortunate enough to leave his credentials lying around. So I decided to use the expired red pass and pretend I was checking in on something. I stepped out of the elevator around 11:30pm and noticed Anjelica Huston sprawled on a couch talking to a younger man. "Reeeaaaly?" she intoned coyly to her companion as I sailed past her and she turned to look at me, arching an eyebrow.
Later, Rupert Murdoch told me he liked the hamburgers Graydon served up (not personally), from In-N-Out burger. When he asked who I was working for and I told him Gawker, he immediately explained that he didn't talk to the likes of us. Captain Chesley Sullenberger was more hospitable. He, too, was a fan of the burgers, and he also said that all the stars were "so nice."
But I really didn't get to experience much of it. Crash number two didn't last long.
"Excuse me sir, can I help you?" a smart, polite and very large man inquired.
"I was asked to go and check something inside."
"But this pass is no longer valid."
"Ah. Well, my other one is upstairs. I'll just go grab it."
I actually went downstairs to try and steal another pass with a more plausible picture on it. This time they were waiting for me.
"You," said a short, efficient-looking man in his 30s with a fresh buzzcut. "Show me that pass." He examined it, and turned to a colleague. "You're done. Follow me." They escorted me from the building, onto the street. I was walking away when buzzcut came after me again, wielding the pass.
"Where did you get this?"
"I found it."
"Did you pay for it?"
"Did someone give it to you?"
"Are you lying to me?"
"Right. Get the out of here. Now."
He turned to his right and caught sight of a man, who I realized as I walked away was the very Johnny Darakdjian whose pass I'd stolen.
"You!" buzzcut shouted.
"You're done. Get the hell out of here. You're done. You sell this?" He held up the pass.
"No! I didn't! I didn't!"
"Get out of my sight."
Johnny continued to protest as I broke into a run around the corner. Coincidentally, I ended up bumping into Kevin, the homeless guy who's been around Hollywood trying to turn Oscar weekend into cash. I asked him how it was going.
"Shitty. All these millionaires and I got nothing." I tried to walk up the street but the LA Sheriff's department had apparently been told about me. "You're not going anywhere. But have a nice fucking day."