Mace Bugen Notary Stands Tall with Celebrities
It all started in the early 1900's, long before the words "cell" and "selfie" had become a permanent part of the vernacular, Mace Bugen was making capital of the idea. Before photo shopping made it possible to "doctor" a photo in interesting ways, he knew how to finagel a photo of himself chumming it up with the celebrities of the day. He made his living as a real estate/insurance man and notary, but he made a life as a pseudo-celebrity, the first-known selfie-photobomber.
Bugen was born an achondroplastic dwarf. He stood just 43 inches tall and had withered legs beneath a normal-sized head and torso. He managed to turn what people of the time termed a handicap into an advantage. What he lacked in height, he made up in Jewish chutzpah, nerve and downright cunning to carve himself a niche.
Bugen's life is chronicled in a book titled "The Little Gate Crasher: The Life and Photos of Mace Bugen," written by a niece and published by The Sager Group.
The dwarf himself explained his photo-taking motives: He wondered why God had not given him the physique to become a football player. Since that didn't happen, he said, "At some point I figured it out. I gotta do something special to let 'em know I'm me."
The sobriquet "Little Gate Crasher" is attributed to renowned newscaster Walter Winchell, who in a Sept. 28, 1955 newscast commented on Bugen's penchant for gate-crashing his way into most major sports events of the day. The nickname stuck. Using his unique gate-crashing skills resulted in his showing up in photos with such celebrities as Muhammad Ali, Jane Russell, polio vaccine pioneer Jonas Salk, Sammy Davis Jr., Joe DiMaggio, President Nixon and Marilyn Monroe.
The President Nixon event was classic Bugen. He followed his usual pattern of showing up at a celebrity event with a camera, demanded a press pass and presto! The photo shows the Prez bending down to accommodate Bugen's mini height and chatting, while the attendant Secret Service gents stood shocked and wondering what to do. The picture was one of Bugen's favorites.
The Marilyn Monroe photo, alas, had disappeared before the book was written. The family surmised he had given it to a friend.
Bugen proudly posted his photos in his insurance/realty/notary office. He wasn't successful in every attempt he made to put himself in the picture. Groucho Marx was among those who didn't cave in to the pressure. At the time when Bugen was a notary, no one promoted themselves as a mobile notary but his specially made vehicle would had made it to do so.
For every celebrity who got away, like Marx, Bugen counted many successes. Had he been a traveling notary, there would had been a lot more feathers in his cap as that is the most common type of notary that busy clebrities use today.
The Gate Crasher died in 1982 at age 67, leaving a large hole in the Easton-area Jewish community where he had earned a reputation for doing big things and refusing to think small.