June 30, 1947
|Died||June 30, 2011
|Occupation||insurance salesman/marketing executive/novelty goods salesman|
|Known for||prolific sports impersonations|
|Height||6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)|
|Title||The Great Imposter|
Barry Bremen (June 30, 1947 – June 30, 2011) was a West Bloomfield, Michigan, insurance and novelty goods salesman and marketing executive known in the sports world as The Great Imposter. From the period 1979 to 1986, the 6'4", "lean" Bremen posed as a Major League Baseball umpire in the World Series, a player in a Major League Baseball All-Star Game, a player in a National Basketball Association All-Star Game, a referee in the National Football League, a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, and a professional golfer. He also posed as an Emmy Award accepter.
Bremen was a self-proclaimed jock who regularly played touch football, basketball and softball. His wife Margo, in a 1980 People magazine profile of the imposter, said Bremen was "fulfilling a grand fantasy to be in the limelight. He feels if you have no guts you have no glory in your life." His advice to other impostors: "Don't do it. It's against the law. Stay away. This is my act."
The stunt that started it all was on February 4, 1979, when Bremen donned a Kansas City Kings uniform and got onto the floor during pre-game warmups for the NBA All-Star Game at the Pontiac Silverdome. (He was outed by genuine All-Star Otis Birdsong, who really did play for Kansas City: "You're on my team, and I don't even know who you is.")
Bremen repeated that act in a Houston Rockets uniform at the 1981 All-Star Game at the Richfield Coliseum. Later that season, he donned an officials' jacket and stood with the real officials, Earl Strom, Paul Mihalak and alternate Joe Gushue, during the national anthem prior to Game 5 of the World Championship Series at the Boston Garden.
On July 17, 1979, with the help of telecaster Dick Schaap and Kansas City Royals third basemen George Brett, Bremen snuck onto the field dressed in a New York Yankees uniform at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, held at the Seattle Kingdome. Bremen shagged flies in the outfield for a half-hour and attempted to pose for a group picture with future Hall of Famers Brett, Reggie Jackson, Joe Morgan, Mike Schmidt, Gaylord Perry, Dave Winfield, Steve Carlton, Nolan Ryan, Carl Yastrzemski, Lou Brock, and Tommy Lasorda. Bremen was finally spotted and ushered off the field. He tried again, hiding out in the Mariners clubhouse whirlpool bath, until Seattle Mariners (and AL) trainer Gary Nicholson had him ejected from the premises.
Bremen dressed as an umpire at a 1980 World Series game and he walked out to home plate with actual umpires Harry Wendelstedt (NL), Don Denkinger (AL), Paul Pryor (NL), Bill Kunkel (AL), Dutch Rennert (NL), and Nick Bremigan before he was discovered.
In 1986, wearing a New York Mets uniform, Bremen again shagged flies in the outfield during the All-Star pre-game at the Houston Astrodome, when he was discovered and berated by NL All Star coach, then LA Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda. After, Bremen was quoted as saying he was treated so poorly in jail that the all-star game stunt would be his last, and it was.
On December 16, 1979, Bremen posed as a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader at a Cowboys-Redskins game held at Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas. In preparation, Bremen lost twenty-three pounds, practiced drag routines with his wife, had a replica Dallas Cowboys cheerleader uniform custom-made, shaved his legs and bankrolled the project with $1,200 of his own money. During the game, Bremen burst onto the sidelines in boots, hot pants, falsies and a blond wig. He got out only one cheer — "Go Dallas!" — before Cowboy security had him hogtied and handcuffed. The Cowboys hit Bremen with a $5,000 lawsuit for trespassing and creating a nuisance, and petitioned to have him banned from Cowboy games for life.
At the 1979 U.S. Open, Bremen (who had a 7 handicap) snuck on to Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio, and played a practice round with Wayne Levi and Jerry Pate. He returned for an encore at the 1980 U.S. Open at the Baltusrol Golf Club, where he played so poorly in a practice round that a spectator asked the United States Golf Association's P.J. Boatwright, Jr. how such a lousy golfer had made it through qualifying.
In 1985, Bremen played a practice round with Fred Couples, Jay Haas, and Curtis Strange at the U.S. Open at the Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Scouting the course early in the week, Bremen was introduced to Couples, then an up-and-coming pro. "I had a great chuckle with him," Couples said. "[Bremen] said, 'Obviously, I can't tee off with you, but I'll find you out there.'" A friend of Bremen's — an Oakland Hills member — smuggled Bremen's clubs and caddie into the club. Bremen, wearing a disguise and claiming to be a qualifier named Mark Diamond, went in search of Couples, who was playing a practice round with Haas.
He comes out of the shrubs on the second hole and hits this tee shot that buzzes the spectators.... He had this big wig on and a visor and looked a little out of place, but we didn't care. He just did his deal and had a great time. It didn't take long for people to scream out, 'Who is that guy?' I mean the cat was out of the bag after a couple holes, but we didn't get in trouble and no one came out to get him.
At the 10th hole, Strange and Bob Eastwood joined the group. "We played as a fivesome. That's when I got a little nervous," Bremen said. "All they said was, 'We don't mind you playing as long as you keep the ball in play." Bremen claimed to have shot a 77. Bremen said that out of all of his stunts, he was proudest of his golf antics. "I was out there for the longest time," he said proudly, "and I was never caught."
At the 1985 Emmy Awards in Pasadena, Bremen suddenly arose from a front-row seat and accepted from a confused Peter Graves a Best Supporting Actress award for Hill Street Blues actress Betty Thomas. Bremen was arrested and fined $175 for his stunt. He later apologized to Thomas, telling her he had really thought she wasn't there to accept her award.
Fame and Notoriety
Due to his Great Imposter successes, Bremen became a celebrity in his own right in the '80's and made a number of TV appearances, including The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Late Night with David Letterman, and was anointed Sportsman Of The Week, twice, by Dick Schaap on The Today Show. He was interviewed in People Magazine, Parade Magazine, and by George Plimpton, among others.
In November 2013, director Matt Dilmore's short documentary entitled "The Great Imposter" debuted as part of ESPN Films' 30-for-30 shorts series. The 10-minute film stands as an oral history of Bremen's exploits and features interviews with members of the Bremen family as well as baseball great George Brett and sports reporter Jeremy Schaap. The film was produced by Brendan McFadden, aired online on Grantland.com, and was praised publicly by the likes of Keith Olbermann.
"Retirement" and death
In 2005, Bremen claimed to be retired from gatecrashing ("You've heard of the Taser gun? You've heard of 9/11? They don't ask questions anymore.") but he didn't rule out a final bow at a future U.S. Senior Open. "Could there be an opportunity when I'm 60? Yeah," he said. (Although he later turned 60, he did not attempt any reported impersonations.)
- Vitello, Paul (July 10, 2011). "Barry Bremen, Professional Impostor, Dies at 64". New York Times. Retrieved 20 July 2011.
- Lynch, Eamon. "That Man's An Imposter: Former NFL cheerleader Barry Bremen crashed the 1985 U.S. Open," Golf magazine (2005). Retrieved July 17, 2008.
- Kenyon, J. Michael. "Real action in '79 was outside the lines," Seattle Post-Intelligencer (July 6, 2001). Retrieved July 17, 2008.
- Greenwalt, Julie. "When Barry Bremen Tried to Infiltrate the Dallas Cowgirls, the Team Found It a Drag," People, vol. 13, no. 2 (Jan. 14, 1980).
- Rubin, Neal. "Great Impostor sidelined today," Detroit News (February 5, 2006). Retrieved July 15, 2008.
- "The Art of the Sports Hoax «". Grantland.com. Retrieved 2014-04-14.
- Dormish. Marrty. "Open up and allow loved ones to know you," The Round Up: The Student Voice of NMSU, (Nov. 11,2004). Archived July 20, 2009, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved July 17, 2008.
- Not-So-Great Moments in Sports, HBO Home Video, 1988.