Craig Schmell spent his youth crashing every major event he laid his eyes on — and now he’s telling his story.
From crashing the Grammy’s stage to smoking marijuana at the Kremlin and riding in President Ronald Reagan’s motorcade, the now-finance executive is telling all in his new book, The Uninvited: How I Crashed My Way into Finding Myself, cowritten with Ellis Henican and out Nov. 14 — and shares how he found redemption after years of troubling behavior.
“It’s the story of my life and how I had everything backwards and I didn’t know it,” Schmell, 55, tells PEOPLE.
Schmell spent his youth finding his way into things he wasn’t invited to and ending up in incredible situations, like drinking out of the Stanley Cup in the Rangers’ locker room, and swinging by an NBA All-Star Game and a Super Bowl parade — all with a simple secret to getting away with it.
“If you act like you belong, then you belong,” Schmell says of his strategy, in which he’d fool a bouncer or security staffer into thinking he had already been inside. “What I would do is I had asthma as a child, so I’d say I had to leave because my asthma was bothering me and I’d show them my inhaler. So it looked like I belonged.”
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Schmell used this particular excuse to get into Radio City Music Hall the night before the 30th Annual Grammy Awards in 1988 to see if he could find anything that would get him in the next night. After wandering around the iconic venue and collecting props that would help him — like a business card, a lanyard and even a note to Whitney Houston he found in her dressing room — Schmell was able to trick one of the production members into giving him an all-access pass.
Not wanting to leave his friends behind, Schmell made copies of the pass, and he and his friend showed up to the show and met celebrities like Christy Brinkley, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston. And when the show ended and all the performers were called on stage for one final song, Schmell joined them — and ended up singing in center stage as the credits rolled.
But Schmell realizes years later that these deceptive acts were not how he wanted to be remembered, and he turned his life around with the help of a therapist. Now 27 years sober and married with kids, Schmell says it is the actions you do for others that define character.
“The story of the book is really about, while I thought I was lifting myself up and getting accolades for being this sneak artist, I realized that all these things I was doing, I was defining myself as a liar and a cheat,” he admits.