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Oscar Night Presents Ultimate Challenge for Expert Gate-Crasher : On the one night when Hollywood's royalty portray themselves, Bill Hayer becomes the ultimate actor.

March 27, 1993|DENISE HAMILTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Come Monday, the 38-year-old Covina resident will slick back his hair, don his tuxedo and head off to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, where he hopes to slip past security to enjoy a night of champagne and schmoozing at the Academy Awards.

Hayer is the consummate gate-crasher, who over 18 years has perfected the art of gaining access to celebrity-studded bashes. At events such as the Oscars, the Emmys and the People's Choice Awards, the dapper ultra-fan--who exudes a certain je ne sais quoi that hasn't failed him yet--has shaken hands with Jack Nicholson, hovered over Barbra Streisand's table, joked with Tom Hanks about his tux and posed with Jane Fonda. And he's got the photos to prove it.

The trick lies in persuading security guards and celebrities that he is an Important Person--one they cannot quite place but should defer to anyway.

His secret: Look like you belong. Befriend the people who would turn you away. Exude geniality and complain about the riffraff who always try to sneak in.

"It's all in your attitude," said Hayer, standing before a table arrayed with autographed Academy Awards programs and photos of himself with famous people.

The Cal Poly Pomona student, who is four classes away from a bachelor's degree in telecommunications and hopes to work in the entertainment industry, retains a childlike glee about his ability to penetrate the inner sanctum of Hollywood.

He speaks with frenetic energy, often skipping the ends of his sentences as he jumps from one tale to another of his encounters with movie stars.

He refers to the stars by their courtesy titles, as in "Mr. Eastwood should win this year for 'Unforgiven,' he deserves it for all the wonderful movies he's brought us over the years."

In the early days, Hayer would borrow a tux from a friend and dye his brown shoes black to look presentable. Often, he scouted out the facility days ahead, noting little-used corridors and side doors.

At the Governor's Ball that follows the Oscars, he once gave the bouncer a fake name and was surprised when the man responded: "Yup, you're on the list."

Sometimes the best defense is a good offense, the student said.

"When you feel someone's about to come up to you and ask you what you're doing, you say real loud: 'Is everything going all right in this area? You haven't let anyone in, have you?' "

On one occasion at the Oscars, he was told by an ABC cameraman that it would take a gun or $1,000 to get inside. After he sneaked inside, Hayer visited the press room to greet the astounded cameraman.

Reached for comment, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences declined to discuss Hayer--or anything else involving its tightly guarded event. "All we will say is that security is adequate," said John Pavlik, the academy's director of communications.

Hayer sometimes wrestles with the morality of his actions. "I know it's wrong to go somewhere without a ticket," he muses. "I'd gladly give them $500 to get in, but you can't get in without a ticket.

"You have to write that I would never do any harm. I don't take anything. I'm no threat to anyone. It's the most wonderful evening of entertainment in the world. I just do my thing and I go home."

The Oscar junkie grew up on the fringes of Hollywood, where his father was a pension consultant for members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. As a boy, Hayer sneaked onto movie lots and pretended to be an extra. He spent weekends in Hollywood, seeing two and three movies at a time.

"I do live in a world of motion pictures," he said. "Everything I do, I can visualize it to some part of a motion picture. My friends say: 'Why don't you pursue acting?' "

But for now, Hayer prefers his vicarious pleasures. On weekends, he visits the West Covina Library to read Variety and learn who is on the A list and whose last movie flopped. He is a walking library of arcane movie trivia, which comes in handy when chatting with stars backstage who are flattered to learn that Hayer remembers some obscure role they played years ago.

Hayer will not reveal his methods for trying to crash the 65th Academy Awards because he fears it will ruin his chances. But he is confident of his ability to get in.

He thrives on the thrill of being in a forbidden place, the agony of being discovered and the chutzpah of trying again. "Now it's become a challenge to get in," Hayer said.

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