December 6, 2009 at 4:32 pm

Neal Rubin

Barry Bremen, king of the crash, had fun as his motive

Barry Bremen is the former Metro Detroiter who once dressed as a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader and joined the conga line on the sideline of a football game ... for a moment or two, until security guards caught him, bounced him around and tossed him out on the street. )

The Great Impostor knew I wasn't calling for a weather report, though it was, in fact, 66 degrees and sunny the other night in suburban Phoenix.

"You want to come to the Barry Bremen Boot Camp too, like those people in Washington?" said Barry Bremen. "What event do you want to go to?"

Then he laughed, because while most of us are outraged or at least annoyed by the fatuous couple who crashed a state dinner in D.C., America's premiere uninvited guest is mostly amused.

Bremen, 62, is the former Metro Detroiter who once dressed as a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader and joined the conga line on the sideline of a football game ... for a moment or two, until security guards caught him, bounced him around and tossed him out on the street.

He's also the guy who sang with Harry Chapin at Pine Knob, shagged fly balls with the American Leaguers before a baseball all-star game in Seattle, and accepted an Emmy award for an actress who wasn't quite quick enough to the stage.

He'll tell you his motives were different from those of Tareq and Michaele Salahi, the social moths who worked themselves into photos with high government officials and into some potentially whomping problems with the legal system.

Bremen was curious about experiences and looking for a good time. The Salahis are looking for fame and fortune -- not looking to earn it, as a byproduct of ability and effort, but rather to have it dumped on them like a bucket of Gatorade after a football game.

They're the newest poster children for the age of reality television, when attention is the object and achievement is almost detrimental because it takes too much time. Bremen doesn't much pay attention to reality shows, once you get past "Dancing with the Stars" and "American Idol," but he's still as sympathetic a voice as the Salahis are likely to hear.

"The cable news networks all want to fry these people," he said. "What's the crime? Yeah, they could have been carrying biological weapons, but they weren't."

In basketball terms, the man who slipped into a Kansas City Kings warm-up suit and joined the lay-up line at the 1979 NBA all-star game in Pontiac summed it up this way:

"No harm, no foul."

Curiosity started stunts

Back then, he was a tall, athletic manufacturer's rep from West Bloomfield with a strong sense of wonder and an even stronger sense of mischief. "I wanted to know, 'What's it like to be a basketball player?' " said Bremen, who moved to Arizona a few years ago. " 'What's it like to be out there on the court?' "

In the long-ago era before replica jerseys and fantasy camps, he found out. Then he pondered what it might be like to sing for a crowd, so he snuck backstage before a show and met one of Chapin's brothers, who told him to go sit on the piano bench and see what happened. He wound up joining in on "Circle."

Before long, he was in People and Parade and he was chatting with Johnny Carson. The stunts kept coming -- too many of them, probably -- and you had a sense that the notoriety was nudging aside curiosity as his primary motive.

Aside from Betty Thomas, though -- she's the actress from "Hill Street Blues" who watched him carry away her Emmy, and would probably still enjoy clobbering him with it -- he never hurt anyone. And he was never looking for a check.

Salahis looking for money

The Salahis are bucking for roles on one of the "Real Housewives" spin-offs, the ultimate no-work job. It's a fitting goal for a pair who seem more pathetic and pathological with every revelation.

Reality TV star is one of those job descriptions that would have been unfathomable a decade or two ago, sort of like "celebrity blogger." Then came "Survivor: Borneo" in 2000.

The ratings were huge, so reality shows began coming out of the TV woodwork like carpenter ants. And instead of disappearing like contestants on "Wheel of Fortune" or "The Price is Right," even the minor players on "Survivor" became famous.

Now you can become a first-name-only reference in gossip magazines without amassing single worthwhile credit, a distinction that used to only be available to the shiftless children of rich people from New York or Los Angeles. A New York Times estimate puts the number of reality show contestants around 1,000 -- Jon & Kate plus 998.

Few of them could match the checkered pedigree of the Salahis, who among other things:

  • Claimed they were invited to the White House, but clearly weren't, and solicited advice from the director of a TV show about gate-crashing.

  • Were summarily bounced in September from a Congressional Black Caucus dinner ... which they crashed.

  • Founded a charity called Journey for the Cure that spent more money on office supplies last year than it did on donations to legitimate nonprofits.

  • Organized a polo competition called the Land Rover America's Polo Cup which was not, in fact, sponsored in any way by Land Rover or multiple other companies they claimed were supporting the event. They also said the event has been "patroned every year by the President of the United States," which it hasn't, whatever "patroning" means in the first place.

    Michaele Salahi told the producers of "Real Housewives of D.C." that she used to be a Washington Redskins cheerleader. It's another lie.

    She's spent less time on the sidelines than Barry Bremen, but if she lands a spot on the show, she's looking at an estimated $30,000 or more per episode.

    Rah.

    nrubin@detnews.com">nrubin@detnews.com (313) 222-1874

  • Barry Bremen is the former Metro Detroiter who once dressed as a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader and joined the conga line on the sideline of a football game ... for a moment or two, until security guards caught him, bounced him around and tossed him out on the street. )
    Tareq and Michaele Salahi (Mandel Ngan /AFP /Getty Images)