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AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN

Dion Rich Discusses Gate Crashing Career With 'Sports Illustrated''s Rick Reilly

Aired February 6, 2002 - 09:50   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Talk about one for the record books. The man you're about to meet has managed to sneak into 32 consecutive Super Bowls. That is right. He goes to World Series games, the Olympics, the Academy Awards -- you name it, he has crashed it, and he doesn't pay for it. Dion Rich, now 72 years old, has spent decades honing his particular craft. And just this past weekend, despite all the heavy security in New Orleans, armed with all the tricks of his trade, he tried to keep his streak alive in New Orleans.

How did he do? Dion Rich joins us now from San Diego.

And with us from Denver, "Sports Illustrated"'s Rick Reilly, who writes about the champion gate crasher in his latest column.

Thanks a lot for being with us Mr. Rich and Mr. Riley. Welcome back.

Mr. Rich, let me start with you.

The Super Bowl was designated a national security event. It was protected by federal, state, local law enforcement. How long did it take you to sneak in?

DION RICH: According to Rick Reilly, Rick told me it took about six minutes. Six minutes total.

COOPER: We have some pictures...

RICH: Rick timed me, Anderson.

COOPER: You were probably wearing that American tie. That probably helped you. We have some pictures from your past exploits. This is from Super Bowl I, you, and Vince Lombardi and Pete Rozelle. Super Bowl XII, we have a shot of you with Tom Landry. You're actually carrying Tom Landry. You are like Zelig, you are everywhere. Super Bowl VII, we have a shot of you with Don Shula. You're totally like Zelig. This is really bizarre.

You have clearly spent a lot of time and energy developing this talent. Why? Why do you do it?

RICH: It depends, Anderson. You have to use a different technique for each and every venue. This one I happened to luck out, going in a side door for this Super Bowl. I did evade the security stand, as Rick can testify for.

COOPER: Rick, let me bring you in at this point.

You watched Mr. Rich's technique. Describe his technique for us, if you will.

RICK REILLY, "SPORTS ILLUSTRATED": He's like part Professor Erwin Corey and part Fred Astaire. like when he wants to look bumbling and dottering, he looks bumbling and dottering. He went around the security metal detector, passed the one guy, and passed the bored National Guardsmen by looking like he was lost, and he kind of looked a little like Einstein after a three-day drunk. He's looking around, and no one stopped him or bothered him.

Then as soon as he was passed the Guardsmen, he just lit up the ramp as quick as you could be. So I followed him up there. Then he walked past the ticket taker, and he kept looking for an opening. I wasn't quite sure what he was looking for, because I was back about 100 feet. And then, suddenly, his moment came: This usher came barreling out of a door that was locked from the outside, and just like Fred Astaire, he just slipped his foot in and walked in like he was going into his own patio.

The NFL spent $7 million on security on this thing, and it wasn't enough to stop Dion Rich.

COOPER: Rick, in your article, you say the security there was tighter than Joan Rivers's eyelids, which is pretty tight there. It's kind of funny that he is able to do this, but is it kind of scary at the same time?

It's kind of funny. It's kind of scary. Remember there were F- 14s above us, tanks, Humvees. There were sharpshooters on the roof. There was camouflage everywhere. It was three times tighter than any security I've ever seen at any event, and still, this guy got in. And once he got in, I looked at him and said, I'm so glad you're on our side. There are some people out with some bad ideas, and I'm glad all you want to do is get in and get your picture taken in front of the Super Bowl scoreboard.

COOPER: Mr. Rich, is it the challenge of getting in that you love? It doesn't seem like it's the event itself per se. It's more the challenge. Is that right?

RICH: It's for the challenge. It's a lot of fun. It's been a great hobby. Besides, you can't meet this type of person at your local bus stop.

COOPER: There's you and Gweneth Paltrow. I'm sure she was thrilled.

RICH: Rick is making me an international hero, believe me, an international hero.

COOPER: Mr. Rich, are you heading to Salt Lake City? RICH: Yes, I have a week in San Diego, of relaxation, at the San Diego Buick Open. In fact, I went to the big banquet last night at the Hilton. I had an invitation. Believe me, I had an invitation.

(CROSSTALK)

RICH: Right after the Buick is over, I have the big Hall of Fame banquet to attend in San Diego. And after that, I'm off to Salt Lake City.

REILLY: Anderson, this tells you all you need to know: After the game, he called me at midnight; he was at the Rams party. He snuck into that.

(CROSSTALK)

RICH: I have a picture. I just got with Jack Faulkner. He and I go back over 40 years, when he was with Sid Gilman, 1961, when they came down from Los Angeles. I have a picture at his table. I sat at his table. I have another picture dancing on the dance floor. And I also have one more picture where they took pictures this year of -- whoever wanted a picture they had like a little picture stand, and boom, in 20 minutes, you'd get a picture.

COOPER: Mr. Rich, thank you very much.

RICH: So that was what I called -- Anderson, I call that my quadruple hat trick, Sunday.

COOPER: We will look for you at the Olympics. If you are carrying the torch, we will know you are victorious. Thanks very much for being with us.

Rick Reilly, I love your column, thanks for being with us.

RICH: It's my pleasure.

And Rick, do me a favor: Call Diane Bell in San Diego. She's dying to talk to you.

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