Whenever the Super Bowl rolls around, I can’t help but think about Dion Rich. Don’t have $7,500 for a ticket to Reliant Stadium in Houston? Not to worry. It’s not a big deal if you’re Dion Rich, a suave, sophisticated gate crasher. This San Diego gadabout gets his kicks crashing major events. The Super Bowl is his crÃ¨me de la crÃ¨me. He’s crashed nearly every one of the previous 37 bowls.
But he says he hasn’t been able to crash every Super Bowl. "I had a ski trip planned one year and I couldn’t get out of it," Dion told me.
Afterwards, his friends said, "Hey, Dion, we missed you on TV. Where were you?"
Dion responded: "I was out skiing, but next year I’ll be back ”¦ That’s when Super Bowl crashing became my thing, my challenge."
Up until about 15 years ago, Rich often found his way to the field, locker room and press box. After Green Bay beat Kansas City in Super Bowl I, news photos showed Dion standing behind Vince Lombardi during the Packers post-game press conference in the dressing room. When Oakland defeated Philadelphia in Super Bowl XV, his face was on the national wire photos when the two coaches came together on the field, even though he was not identified in the photos. His crowning moment came in a published photo in Newsweek. It showed Dion and Dallas players carrying Tom Landry off the field after Super Bowl XII.
"That photo will live with me forever. I’m very proud of it," Rich explained.
Rich also gets a kick telling about crashing Pete Rozelle’s pre-Super Bowl party about the Queen Mary. However, it was the beginning of the end. Security became much tighter.
"It took them 20 years to catch me and a sting operation at that. But, they finally caught me big time and my days on the field and in the locker room and press box have been limited.
"I thought of make-up and costumes ”¦ I may reconsider. But it’s not as challenging and that’s what I like best, the challenge."
In a world of reproductions, Dion is an original. He’ll be 74 on his next birthday.
"I’m getting too old to be chasing coaches. My heart beats like a trip hammer every Super Sunday. My stomach ties up in knots," Dion said. "I’m every bit as nervous as any of the players. Before they started looking at me, I wasn’t the least bit nervous, because I didn’t care one way or the other. Now they’re all looking for me."
Rich won’t give up his trade secrets. Not for publication, anyway. He confided a few of them on the promise of secrecy. They were doosies!
"When youth passes me by, I’ll put in all in a book," he said.
I go back a long way with Dion. He shocked me out of my shoes in the parking lot at Caesars Palace in 1982. Larry Holmes was taking on Gerry Cooney in the ring. I looked over to celebrity row for sightings. I got one. In the second row, next to Farrah Fawcett, you guessed it, Dion Rich.
There are others. When the Yankees beat the Dodgers in the World Series, Bowie Kuhn, George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin were on the podium following the victory. So was Dion Rich.
If it’s a special event, there is Dion. I’ve asked him what he plans for the Super Bowl. No doubt he plans something. He might not be on the sidelines, or the field or even in the locker room. But, he’ll be there. Somewhere.
The last time I talked to Dion it was just before Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards.
"Sorry," he said. "I’m running late ”¦ I have to drive to L.A. to be at the Golden Globe Awards. It’s the one event I have to wear a tuxedo to crash!"