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A wily writer shares his daring schemes for doing Spoleto on the cheap.
As everyone knows, Spoleto arrives each year like clockwork. And although my chosen “art” is writing, I’m certainly no arts connoisseur. This was made painfully clear to me by several ushers and a member of the Charleston police force when, at the conclusion of an orchestral performance, I held my lighter aloft and screamed, “Freeeee Bird!” So, having been banned from Spoleto events for life, I’ve made a hobby of sneaking into them.
The most reliable scam is to arrive at the front door of a venue carrying a ladder and wearing jeans and a T-shirt with a mustard stain on it. You can use additional props, like a Swisher Sweet cigar and a tool bag, but it’s the dialogue that seals the deal: “Somebody call about a safety issue with the backstage scaffolding?” If you act aloof and ready to leave, safety-panic will ensue, and you’ll be backstage with the ballerinas in two minutes. And I gotta tell you: sitting around with beautiful women while they do their pre-performance stretching exercises is quite fun.
Another good one is to arrive in a tux, and in a hushed English accent explain you are the personal assistant to the Earl of Sandwich, the Duchess of Bologna, and the Royal Army’s Colonel Mustard. Demand to be shown to the rear exit, “where their limo is waiting.” When you get there, of course, there is no limo, and you shriek, “Sandwich and the Royal Condiments have been kidnapped! Do something, man! Notify the constable! I’ll begin the search!” Bolt up the aisle, double back, and—well, choose your seat.
If these methods are sounding a little daring for your blood pressure, worry not. Here’s one even a beginner can do: You are in line, waiting to get in, and begin doing the I-can’t-breathe thing. Add drama by dropping into a Tebow. Your accomplice is strategically standing in line in front of you and sounds off: “Stay calm, everyone! Stay calm! I’m a physician!” After a brief exam, the good doctor declares, “It’s going to be okay—it’s heat exhaustion. Someone help me get this poor, helpless person inside to a water fountain.” Now seriously, after Marcus Welby, MD, saves the day, is anyone going to come up to them and ask, “Tickets, please?”
If you want to graduate to real hyper-ventilation level, crash a South-of-Broad patrons’ party. There are many methods that work, but my favorite is to arrive and state to the doorman, “Hello, my name is Maybank Vanderhorst Huger Legare Hagood Rivers St. Cecilia the 27th. I’m afraid I lost my invitation yesterday when I was at a regatta and drank 74 gin and tonics. Please let the master of the house know I’ve arrived.” The doorman will let you in every time.
Here’s where it gets really scary: You bee-line to the owner, hug him, and declare, “Hey, Bo! Bunn too long! Is dat local oystah on dah half-shell??!! You ain’t bad for a fella who ain’t growed up here. Where’s dah bar?” This has worked for me three out of four times, with the one failure resulting in a beating by a Blackwater-operative-turned-bodyguard whose name I cannot recall. Will it work for you? Who knows…depends on how much you like oysters that someone else shucked.
So my friends, go forth. Use your imagination. Slither your way into whatever event you choose. If you’re good, I’ll see you at a performance. If you’re really good, I’ll see you backstage with the ballerinas.