Bill crashes thrill-seekers’ party

California would outlaw uninvited guests

After a streaker trotted across the Oscar stage on April 2, 1974 — earning himself a lifelong claim to fame and giving the ceremony an unforgettable moment of infamy — he wasn’t hauled off to jail. He was herded into the press area, where, like all the winners that night, he told his story to the world’s media.

The reaction to his form of “gate- crashing,” nakedly audacious as it was, is a quaint relic of another era, a contrast to today’s proliferation of fame-seekers and heightened security consciousness. That’s very apparent in Sacramento’s response to “gate-crashers”: Solons are mulling a law that would leave little doubt that their act is a crime.

A bill authored by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Canada Flintridge) defines a new form of trespassing by making it a misdemeanor when a person, without authorization, knowingly enters or remains at an event that is closed to the public and where a reasonable notice of restricted access has been posted. The punishment for a first offense is a fine of up to $1,000, a maximum of six months in county jail or both.

With the barricades, bomb-sniffing dogs, metal detectors and a host of other precautions, award shows are about as inviting as airports, particularly after 9/11. Getting an ovation for a rare appearance at the Oscars in 2002, Woody Allen quipped, “That makes up for the strip search.” So it is a surprise that anyone is getting through at all.

But they are, and laws have not have deterred the thrill- and fame-seekers who’ve successfully eluded the guards at recent fetes.

When Screen Actors Guild security personnel caught several event-crashers at their awards ceremony this year, they made a “citizens arrest” and held them until the Los Angeles Police Dept. arrived. But the Los Angeles city attorney was not able to prosecute them, because the state law didn’t really address gate-crashing. Existing law makes it a violation only when the unwanted visitors refuse a request to leave.

Portantino, who previously worked as art director in the entertainment business, says they are making refinements to the legislation to make sure that there are no “unintended consequences.” “I don’t want to do anything that infringes on the right to free speech, or the right to protest,” he said.

As much as the response to gate- crashing has changed, what hasn’t is the image of those slipping through the awards ceremony checkpoints.

Champions of the law say it is a public safety issue, but that’s a tough message to get through when a certain Bravo reality show, “Real Housewives of D.C.,” features Michaele Salahi and her husband, Tareq, who were accused of crashing a White House state dinner last November. The couple denied that they were not invited guests.

SAG calls such antics a “real and viable danger to the public” as it is “impossible to tell if an offender is a misguided thrill-seeker or poses a violent threat.”

According to the general counsel of the Screen Actors Guild, Laura Ritchie, crashers have been coming in ever-increasing numbers, inspired by the reach that Internet and reality TV can give to their exploits.

One of the most notorious is Scott Weiss, who not only made a side profession out of it but a whole movie out of his efforts, called “Crasher.” He has even taken to branding the pending legislation “Scott’s Law,” which undoubtedly helps him sell “Stop Scott’s Law” bumper stickers for sale on his website.

Save for a few, there’s not much opposition to the bill. There is no gate-crashing lobby. Although Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has not weighed in, “You would think he would understand the issue,” Portantino said. Yet the jaded among us, those who’ve sat through many a marathon ceremony, wonder, why all the fuss? Don’t forget: The 1974 Oscar ceremony was panned as dull, except for those few fleeting moments of flesh.

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