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"Excuse me, are you with the Wilson party?" he asked an elderly guy getting out of his car.
"I'm with the Mack Lewis party" was the reply, and Ayers had everything he needed to know.
We walked inside and told the woman at the door we were with the Lewis party (which we soon learned was full of septuagenarians). She pulled out two red tickets and handed us each one. Ayers said he thought we got two free drinks, but she said the policy had changed.
"Well, can we have an extra ticket?" he asked, making her eyes roll and her head shake.
Ayers isn't the slickest-looking dude -- hangdog face, shaggy hair, thick glasses -- but this works to his advantage. Even though she had seen him a dozen times, the doorkeeper still didn't recognize him. Nor did the waitress who took our drink orders, although she did inform us the happy-hour policy had changed: Now you had to buy a drink before you could get a free one.
When Ayers asked why the deal was different, she said, "People were taking advantage of it, leaving right after they finished their free drinks."
Well, imagine that.
Ayers loves the thrill of the crash. He almost got his ass kicked once at a small-town wedding when the groom walked in the kitchen and saw him chowing down on the party's grub. (He ended up paying for what he ate.) His biggest feat to date is crashing the Super Bowl, he says, adding it was a little scary how easy it was: "I made it past three checkpoints."
According to Ayers's account, he showed up, wearing all black, at the hotel where the halftime crews were loading the bus and mixed in with the workers, getting a free ride all the way to field level. After that, he just made sure not to stand in one place for very long.
When it comes to crashing smaller events, he recommends always carrying an empty box in your car, anything that'll make you look like a delivery driver. And then you've just got to talk your way past the guards.
"They usually make minimum wage," he says, "and by the end of the night they're pretty tired."
He also recommends buying copies of every color wristband available, so you're ready for whatever may come. He has a buddy who goes out with one of each color pinned to the inside of his jacket.
"They worked great at the rodeo cook-off," he says.
If Ayers is to be believed -- after all, his specialty is lying about his importance -- he's pulled off some great crashes over the years: parties, mixers, the Academy Awards. But I soon found myself telling him about all the different ways I'd found to scam drinks. Perhaps I was drunk on seven days of success (and, you know, three beers), but by the time I left I was sure I'd taught him a thing or two.
I'd scored way more freebies than he had in the past week. And the Wild West thing was a bust. I could've done much better at an art opening. I could've gotten trashed. Could it be that I was the master of free booze?
Or at least that's what I thought until it hit me: He hadn't paid for any of our drinks at Wild West. I had bought them all.