Driving in President Reagan’s motorcade and talking with Bono about Irish football — these are some of the crazy things that Craig Schmell got to experience during the peak of his celebrity event crashing days.
Schmell famously spent his 20s scheming his way into some of the biggest celebrity events of the time. In his new book, The Uninvited, he details some of his best crashes and how he ended up turning his cheating ways around.
During his heyday, Schmell got into some serious hijinks, like getting high inside of the Kremlin, but the book dives deeper past the scheming and details how he eventually “crashed his way into finding himself.”
Here are three of Schmell’s most unbelievable and crazy stories from the book.
Opening Show of Phantom of the Opera
An ordinary January day in 1988 turned into one of Schmell’s biggest crashing nights. It all started when he was reading a copy of The New York Post where the paper talked about a highly anticipated Broadway show that was premiering that same night.
It was a musical from Andrew Lloyd Webber, one of the brains behind the Broadway titan Cats, and it was a story that was inspired by historic events at the Paris Opera – the musical was none other than The Phantom of the Opera. Schmell and his “partner in crime” and best friend Barry Zuckerman (referred to by his nickname “BZ” in the book) showed up to the Majestic Theater in New York City dressed in jackets and ties but no tickets in hand.
The pair ended up “floating in with the pretty people” and snagged a couple of seats in the orchestra section of the theater. In a miraculous coincidence, the true owners of the seats never showed up and Schmell and BZ got to sit and watch the opening show of the historic musical.
Talking to Bono at the 1985 Live Aid
In a similar fashion to Schmell’s idea to crash the opening night of The Phantom of the Opera, his idea to work his way into the Live Aid concert on July 13, 1985 came when he was brushing up on the news. Schmell turned on the TV that Saturday morning to find out that there was going to be two huge concerts that day, one in London and one in Philadelphia, to raise money for the famine in Ethiopia.
Driven more by his desire to see famous artists such as Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and Madonna, than his passion for helping those in Ethiopia, Schmell knew he needed to be at the concert in Philadelphia. He called BZ, who agreed with no questions asked and the pair was off to John F. Kennedy Stadium. They arrived at the event with no other plan besides their “wing it” philosophy that had worked so well for them before.
An absence of ticket takers at the gate allowed them to stroll right in. An impersonation of a hot dog stand employee, a quick white lie to a guard, and a swipe of an all-access pass — and then they were conversing with some of the world’s greatest musicians like Tom Petty, Bette Midler and Phil Collins backstage for the rest of the night.
Crashing the Grammys Stage
Schmell’s biggest and grandest crashing came in early March 1988 when he worked his way into the 30th Annual Grammy Awards.
This came three years after his stint at the Live Aid concert and just five weeks after his opening night viewing of The Phantom of the Opera. The night before the ceremony, Schmell’s biggest focus was on the putting game he was playing until a news story about the rehearsals for the Grammys popped up on his TV.
He quickly decided he couldn’t miss the show and went to Radio City Music Hall to get a piece of paraphernalia that looked legit enough that it could get him into the actual ceremony. He ended up finagling his way into a VIP pass, made a copy for BZ and the two strolled into the show the following night.
Once inside, they acted as seat-fillers for the live broadcast and instead of being satisfied with the fact that he had made his way into music’s biggest night, Schmell took it a step further. At the end of the broadcast, Billy Crystal asked for all of the stars to join him onstage for a tribute to Dion and the Belmonts and, knowing that no one would question him, Schmell left his position as a seat-filler and worked his way to the front of the stage where he was handed a microphone and was shoulder to shoulder with the backup singers, singing on national television.
The Uninvited: How I Crashed My Way Into Finding Myself is out now.