The uninvited nuisances who are the nightmare of any party host
First published in October 2011 on a blog written by Matthew Steeples, we revisit the story of the leading gatecrashers who boldly go where no others would dare.
Gatecrashers are people who get into parties without invitations. Central London seems to be awash with them and though they lack the gaul of Washington’s Michaele and Tareq Salahi (who crashed President Obama’s White House state dinner for the Indian Prime Minister), they are truly a menace wherever they go.
Last night I hosted a small and totally private drinks party in a restaurant. The guests were specifically invited on the basis that they were known to me and were the kind of people that frankly it is always a pleasure to see. In total, at this small gathering, there were around 30 individuals. One or two came with a friend but all were welcomed in the spirit that they had been invited.
The conversation, wine and canapés flowed and the atmosphere was superb. The only blot was the arrival of not just one but a whole throng of London’s leading gatecrashers. These individuals are well known on the party circuit and barred from most places and by most PRs but somehow they manage to skulk in a rat-like fashion into all kind of gatherings.
The first was a plump man in bright red cords. Accompanied by an equally large Persian friend, this individual told the staff he knew the hosts and helped himself to a glass of wine before asking someone else: “Has the wine tasting finished?” Plainly he didn’t know what the event was even in aid of.
Shortly afterwards, this merry pair, by now plonked in a corner with their looted drinks, were joined by a frumpish grey-haired woman who had told the staff at the entrance firstly she was attending in her capacity as a journalist from Condé Nast before changing tack and declaring herself to be an estate agent. Her story did not convince a soul. As she sauntered towards the duo she was joining, I quickly instructed the staff not to serve her a drop. Minutes later, this most gruesome trio were gone and that, I thought, would be that.
Within seconds a fourth person who plainly was not connected to anyone in the room descended the staircase into the party. This bald headed chap looked around in a somewhat bemused fashion before plainly realising his gaggle had moved on and he too departed.
The party continued but not without further incident. Ten minutes before the end, three more uninvited people appeared. Plainly the jungle drums of London’s leading crashers had been beating. Their leader, who looks very much like Julian Assange, asked the waiter for a drink and was told the party was over. He mumbled something about it being outrageous that he and his friends had made the effort to come and were thus entitled to a drink but gathering nothing would be forthcoming, they somewhat hastily beat a retreat.
The Assange lookalike is a particularly irksome person to my mind as he has crashed three of my parties now. Firstly he appeared at a photography event I organised. I knew for a fact that he wasn’t invited but as there were 300 people present, I let it go. Later in the year he turned up at a book launch I helped arrange in Bond Street. I made sure he didn’t stay long. Yesterday, however, he crossed the line. This especially annoying individual should be stopped in his tracks and perhaps ought to learn the perils of his “profession” by reading up on the case of another of his type named Alan MacDonald.
MacDonald may have been someone I’ve seen at events but he truly only came to my attention after his death. I don’t know what he looked like but the account of how he met his end would be comical if it hadn’t ended in tragedy. The story goes that Mr MacDonald, who the Daily Mail describe as a “Savile Row suited gatecrasher,” somehow got into a party at The Dorchester, hosted by the Kuwaiti ambassador, to celebrate his country’s national day and choked on a canapé. Within minutes he was dead.
MacDonald and the Assange lookalike are sadly not unique in their pursuit of free beverages, canapés and gift bags. There is, in fact, an entire gang of them and they were exposed some years ago by Guardian journalist Victoria Coren after, led by a convicted fraudster named Terence Jolley, they attempted to gatecrash the memorial service of her well known father Alan. In the weeks before the service, Coren received an email warning her about Jolley and his merry band and realising he’d already stated his intention to attend she decided to do some digging. A simple Google search revealed that this crasher was a former magistrate with a personality disorder who had defrauded London Underground of £5,000. Though she didn’t manage to stop them attending and munching on the sandwiches, she invented another fake memorial and invited the lot of them. They all fell for the plot and from that she got their many aliases. Revenge was then served through their naming and shaming in two Guardian pieces.
Though I’ve never, to my knowledge, met Jolley, I have encountered many others of his ilk. First there’s one who looks like Iain Duncan-Smith. He hails from somewhere in Hertfordshire and gets himself into everything from receptions at Sotheby’s and Christie’s to a small party hosted by Bloom Gin. Another, who is about 50, lives in Cricklewood with his mum and claims to be a descendant of a very well known banking family. He isn’t.
The most notorious and best known, however, is a bow tie wearing character who tells all and sundry he owns Harvey Nick’s. A friend who works for the company tells a tale of him blagging his way into a party at the store only to be carried out by the security. He plainly has a following as on Twitter there is now a group devoted to his crashing named @wheresthepun that has 313 followers.
On one occasion, I asked one of the more charming crashers what he was doing at a small event in The Ritz. His answer was blatantly simple: “It’s a public hotel so of course I came in”. Some, such as the writer William Cash, even believe these freeloaders add to a party. In a 2006 piece for the Evening Standard, he states: “I would almost go so far as to say no A-list party is complete until they show up”.
Journalists themselves are well known as crashers. One Daily Mail hack got her biggest scoop by sneaking into a party hosted by Kate Moss and uncovered wild scenes of debauchery. Toby Young, equally, in the years before becoming a married father of four, made it his aim to get past the security and into the likes of the Vanity Fair Oscar’s bash. He was pretty successful at it. Though inexcusable in the eyes of any host, these crashers, unlike Assange and his cohorts, are at least doing it as part of an effort to earn a living.
Julian Assange himself may be holed up in a country mansion and not allowed out. His lookalike though shall suffer quite the opposite fate. The door to my parties, Mr Lookalike, is now firmly closed and you won’t be getting back in.
Read Victoria Coren’s account of the death of Alan MacDonald: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/mar/21/victoria-coren-jolley-gang
Read Victoria Coren’s account of the gatecrashing of her father’s memorial service at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2008/dec/21/celebrity-victoria-coren
Read Toby Young’s account of the showbusiness crashers at: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/tobyyoung/100050803/californias-proposed-law-against-gatecrashing-will-just-add-to-its-allure