The Associated Press
Barry Bremen, a Detroit-area businessman whose fun-loving, gate-crashing stunts led him to shoot layups before NBA All-Star games, accept an Emmy Award for best supporting actress and flee from Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, died of cancer at age 64.
Sometimes called the “Great Impostor,” Bremen became known to millions during the 1980s for sneaking onto professional courts and fields donning chicken suits as well as player and umpire uniforms — capers that required such accomplices as George Brett and Jack Nicklaus.
He died June 30 in Scottsdale, Ariz., where he lived with his wife, Margo. A memorial service was held for family and friends Tuesday in Southfield, following a funeral and burial in Phoenix.
Some of his more famous exploits included being chased off the field by Lasorda during 1986 during All-Star game warm-ups and slipping onto the stage to accept an Emmy award in 1985 for Betty Thomas of “Hill Street Blues” before she could make her way to the microphone.
“More than a man, he’s a force,” said Rabbi Tamara Kolton, who officiated the Michigan memorial service that was videotaped and posted on the Ira Kaufman Chapel’s website. “He’s a force to remember the part of us that yearns to do something a little different, a little extraordinary, a lot of fun. … What the world needs is more forces like Barry.”
Bremen was a father of three and an enthusiastic amateur athlete who ran a successful merchandising business in the Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills. Friends say he began his career as the Great Impostor in 1978 while attending a Detroit Pistons game. He casually made his way toward the visiting Kansas City Kings bench and grabbed the warm-up suit of a Kings benchwarmer, getting some floor time in the final minutes of his team’s rout of the lowly Pistons.
The get-up reappeared a few months later — on Bremen’s 6-foot-3-inch frame — in the NBA All-Star game. After an air ball and a couple clunkers, players started feeding him the ball. His hard work, love of the game and charm endeared himself to many professional players.
“They always have a good time pulling something off against the establishment,” Bremen told The Associated Press in 1997. “That’s why it’s been so successful.”
Bremen’s list of stunts included shagging flies in a New York Yankees uniform before the 1979 All-Star game in Seattle; showing up at home plate dressed as an umpire before a 1980 World Series game in Philadelphia between the Phillies and Royals; and playing a practice round with Fred Couples and Curtis Strange at the 1985 U.S. Open at Oakland Hills, Mich.
He found his way — by invitation — onto the late night sets of Johnny Carson and David Letterman and became a subject of a “Jeopardy” question.
Bremen told the AP he “retired” from gate-crashing in because he didn’t want to be mistaken for the real nuts, who run onto sports fields for attention or worse. The knife attack on tennis star Monica Seles in Germany in 1993 was a game-changer for security breaches.
Family and friends say the gate-crashing was just an outward display of Bremen’s insatiable love for life. Kolton called him both a “peacemaker” and a “prankster.”
Sports reporter and author Jeremy Schaap said at the memorial service that he admired Bremen’s “absolute refusal to take no for an answer” and his ability to see padlocks and velvet ropes not as obstructions but as “provocations.”
“His stunts made him famous, but his heart made him special,” Schaap said. “Ultimately, ironically, the Great Impostor was the most genuine of men, and we will all miss him.