From the pages of


Bluffing Into The Balls
by Martin Lewis
(First published January 14, 2001)

[WARNING! Only experienced gatecrashers should try these techniques. Wear protective clothing at all times. Kids - do not try these methods at home. Neither TIME.com nor the writer can accept responsibility if readers are wounded by Secret Service agents. Void where prohibited by law. All tips are microwave- and dishwasher-safe.]

Lots of people want to attend an inaugural ball. You may be a diehard Republican who has waited eight years to savor victory over a Democrat (and winning that Supreme Court majority certainly constitutes a victory). Or you may be a demoralized Democrat wishing to drown your sorrows as George W. Bush takes the job which you believe was stolen from Al Gore.

And if you live within spitballing distance of Washington D.C. and can afford to splash out $125 on a ball ticket (before the much-vaunted recession kicks in big-time) - what's to stop you? Well the fact that all the balls have sold out might be something of a deterrent. Unfair as it may seem - all the tickets are gone - mainly to big contributors. And ball organizers are reluctantly returning checks.

Well you can either take this as a fait accompli - a done deal in Texan - or you can invoke the spirit of noble Americans in the past who overcame massive disadvantages and used ingenuity to win the day. Take for example the much-maligned Ken Starr. He didn't give up merely because he discovered a total lack of evidence to indict Bill Clinton on Whitewater or the travel office or the FBI files. No siree! He simply found another way to get into the Oval Office! And if you're going to get into an inaugural ball - you have to be just as determined and inventive.

So here are some tips on how to get into one of those balls.

Do bear in mind that security will be heavy. There are a lot of people quite angry at George W. Bush at the moment. Folks such as Linda Chavez and Gov. Frank Keating for example. So the Secret Service will be doing its best to protect our new president from spurned cabinet appointees and others. However, that's when a touch of creativity comes in handy.

General Hints

First of all you must look the part. Gentlemen must be in tuxedos. Nothing too sharp or Armani. You need to achieve that humdrum-middle-America-assistant-bank- manager-at-the-bosses-third-wedding look. Don Rumsfeld dressed by Tuxes-R-Us. Accessorize with cowboy boots. If you can back it up with a passable Texan drawl - wear a Stetson. But nothing over 15 gallons. You don't want to look entirely stupid. Just mildly arrogant.

Ladies should remember one vital point. 99% of security guards are male. So dress accordingly. Your cleavage should plunge - almost as deeply as the NASDAQ. You might be cold. But let's face it - most women complain that they're freezing anytime the temperature dips below 85. You have to suffer to gatecrash. The upside is simple. That neckline and a seductive smile will get you past most security points.

Method #1 - The Tobacco Break

Thank heavens for the anti-tobacco lobby. Smokers have to exit buildings to light up. And no patriotic Republican can possibly go more than 10 minutes without smoking. So show up outside the building brandishing a cheapo champagne glass (half-filled with sparkling apple cider) and puffing on a cigarette. You then walk towards the door and make a show of irritation as you extinguish your cigarette under foot. Nod and smile slightly as you walk past the security guard. The smile conveying the subliminal message "Hello yet again! This is the third time you've seen me tonight as I keep coming in after a cigarette break." The half-empty glass in your hand attesting to your status as a returnee. Fortunately - to the average DC security guard - all Republicans look the same.

Method #2 - The Compassionate Entourage

In the 90's, the accessory of choice for wealthy adults attending tony parties were kids. Velcro a couple of over-dressed tykes to your arm and you could walk into any ritzy affair without having to produce documentation. Who can expect busy parents to mess about with invitations? If you're there with the kids - you had to be legit. Well the 90's are over. The new accessory for compassionate conservatives is a retinue of domesticated illegal aliens. Show up with a small entourage of tax-deductible pals (as Linda Chavez did for her withdrawal) and you are simply another caring conservative wearing your compassion on your sleeve. Nod to the security guards as you shepherd your foreign crew through with you. Your smile should say "Yes I care for them all and I bring them with me everywhere." No one will refuse admission to such a selfless angel. Once inside - discreetly slip your "pals" the agreed $25 per person. Be sure to get receipts - just in case you get offered a cabinet post in the future.

Method #3 - Friendly Media

Every inaugural ball wants positive media coverage and no one in politics wants to accidentally tick off people in the press, radio or TV. Outside every inaugural event will be a table labeled "Media Check-in." Now of course all legitimate media will have arranged their credentials long in advance - and simply go by the table to register and collect their passes. But this table is not an impregnable Maginot line. With some ingenuity one can exploit certain vulnerabilities. A) There are always mistakes made in any media dept. B) The senior media executives will probably be too busy inside the ball to adjudicate on "overlooked" names.

Your job is to politely but firmly convince the youngsters at the table that you ARE a legitimate member of the media. Moreover not one of those namby-pamby liberals who dominate the media - but one of the embattled "few" who are on the right side. If you look like you're under the age of 30 - it's just plausible that you're one of the young eager-beaver producers at the Fox News Channel. Perhaps you work with firebrand heroes such as Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity. No one could refuse entry to such a brave footsoldier! Maybe you're a researcher for a respected print journalist such as the Wall Street Journal's John Fund or George Will. Just back from yet another visit to Arkansas searching for reasons why Bill Clinton should be hung, drawn and quartered. That makes you a member of the club.

If you are thwarted don't make threats. Just pull out your cell phone and ostensibly call "your boss" to explain why you can't join him/her. At that point you then solicit the full name of the person who has denied you entry - as though in response to your boss's query. It will be a brave staffer who continues to deny you rightful entry. If all else fails blame Al Gore for refusing to concede the election. It shortened the preparation time for the inaugural - and thus caused this bureaucratic slip-up. Remember - it's never the publicist's fault. It's always those darn liberals!

If you have tried any or all of the above methods - but are still denied entry - don't despair. There are eight balls on inauguration night. Consult your Washington street map and head on to the next party. It's your inalienable right to gatecrash a party. This is your revolution. Be there!


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