Who Was Barry Bremen of ‘The Great Imposter and Me’, the Eccentric Disguise Artist and Subject of Jeremy Schaap’s ESPN Documentary?

One would be hard-pressed to find an individual who can say they participated in the NBA All-Star Game, the NBA Finals, the MLB All-Star Game, the World Series, the Super Bowl, and golf’s version of the U.S. Open. But Barry Bremen, famously known as “The Great Imposter” and now the subject of two ESPN documentaries, could make that claim.

Now, it must be noted that Bremen didn’t partake in these events in a legal sense. Nevertheless, he’s still part of the history of each despite the circumstances.

A native of Detroit, Bremen was a novelty goods salesman in nearby West Bloomfield, Michigan. Now, with all due respect to those in that industry, let’s face it — there’s not a lot of fame and prestige that comes with being a novelty goods salesman.

But Bremen, a former athlete, wanted that fame and prestige. So the husband and father of three simply made it happen, just not the way one would expect.

Bremen snuck his way into the action at various sporting events and was dubbed ‘The Great Imposter’

'The Great Imposter' Barry Bremen on 'The Tonight Show'
“The Great Imposter” Barry Bremen on “The Tonight Show” with host Johnny Carson on February 9, 1979 | Gene Arias/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

Seeking to fulfill his wish of being in the limelight, Bremen began his journey toward becoming “The Great Imposter” at the 1979 NBA All-Star Game at the Pontiac Silverdome. Dressed in a Kansas City Kings uniform, the 32-year-old made his way onto the court and actually participated in layup drills before he was busted by actual Kansas City Kings All-Star Otis Birdsong.

But Breman had gotten a taste and was only just starting.

At the 1979 U.S. Open at Inverness in Toledo, he snuck in and played a practice round with Jerry Pate and Wayne Levi.

In July 1979, with the help of Kansas City Royals legend George Brett and famed broadcaster Dick Schaap, Bremen made his way onto the field at the MLB All-Star Game. Wearing a New York Yankees uniform, he took fly balls for half an hour before he was caught.

That December, he disguised himself as a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader and got onto the field at Texas Stadium, a gag for which he lost nearly 25 pounds and practiced routines with his wife. Bremen sported a blonde wig that day in Irving.

And this went on for years.

Bremen snuck into the 1980 U.S. Open and did so again in 1985 when he played a practice round with Fred Couples, Curtis Strange, and Jay Haas. He posed as an umpire during the 1980 World Series and made it all the way to home plate with the rest of the crew before being discovered. And he again intruded upon the MLB All-Star Game in 1986, shagging flies before LA Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda busted him.

In January 1981, he posed as a line judge at Super Bowl 15. He tried to sneak into Super Bowl 16 as the San Diego Chicken but didn’t make it in. At the 1981 NBA All-Star Game, Bremen repeated his trick from two years earlier. Only this time, he wore a Houston Rockets uniform. Later that year, he posed as an NBA official and stood on the floor with the crew during the national anthem ahead of Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the Rockets and Boston Celtics.

He also ventured into the non-sports world, taking the stage at the 1985 Emmy Awards, where he nearly walked off with the statue for Best Supporting Actress.

‘The Great Imposter’ did indeed become famous and is now the subject of two ESPN documentaries

The legend of “The Great Imposter” grew as the years went on, and Barry Bremen did indeed achieve the fame he desired, making appearances on both The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and Late Night with David Letterman. He was also the subject of stories in People and Parade and was twice named Sportsman of the Week by Dick Schaap on The Today Show.

Bremen died of esophageal cancer in June 2011 on his 64th birthday, but his celebrity lives on. In 2014, he was the subject of the 10-minute short documentary, The Great Imposter, as part of ESPN’s Emmy Award-winning 30 for 30 shorts series. And his incredible story gets a longer run time in ESPN’s The Great Imposter and Me, which is written and narrated by Jeremy Schaap.

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