Michaele Salahi has a French pedicure, a way with guys who are setting up her mic for appearances, and as she showed at a Thursday appearance at Carol Joynt’s Q&A Cafe in Georgetown, a fierce determination to shape the narrative surrounding her and her husband Tareq—even if she can’t always pull it off.
Joynt had warned her email list that she wasn’t even sure that the Salahis, notorious for crashing a White House state dinner, and stars of the upcoming Real Housewives of Washington, D.C., set to begin airing on August 5, would show up to lunch at the Ritz Carlton in Georgetown. But show up they did. And after thanking Joynt for the opportunity, the conversation quickly turned to the contradictions between the Salahis’ public image and the state of everything from their marriage to their vineyard.
Joynt didn’t go easy on the couple, saying she thought it was unusual that she hadn’t encountered the Salahis in her time covering the Washington social scene for New York Social Diary and hosting luncheon interviews throughout the city. And she said she had driven out to the Salahis’ vineyard and found it in a condition that doesn’t exactly match Bravo’s description of a working winery.
“It’s a serious winery and it needs to be taken seriously,” Michaele shot back.
Video courtesy Debbie Weil.
Tareq’s response was more moderate, even as he insisted that the vines were salvageable. The winery is in bankruptcy, he acknowledged, as part of the fallout surrounding his father’s declining health from Alzheimer’s disease, which has resulted in lawsuits over who should control the vineyard.
The Salahis declined to answer questions relating to the possibility of prosecution for their infiltration of the state dinner, saying that “for the Salahis in the real-time world, that chapter is closed,” and citing contractual obligations that require them to wait to comment until after that episode of the show airs. And they brushed aside questions about whether Bravo had tried to fire or marginalize them, insisting that their relationship with the network was strong.
They were more forthcoming about the details of their pre- and post-shooting involvement with the series. Michaele said she did her test shoot for Bravo in March of 2009, without knowing which show the production company was considering her for. She said recommended Mary Schmidt Amons and Lynda Erkiletian, who Salahi said “I’ve known. . .over 15 years” for the show, but acknowledged that their relationships may have changed during the shoot.
“Sounds like I have to tune in and see what happens,” Salahi said, echoing Bravo’s tagline, when Joynt asked her if she was still friends with the show’s other cast members. “I like them.”
And however the show is cut—the Salahis say they haven’t seen any final footage—it seems they have no regrets about their participation in the show. Tareq said the couple is represented by Max Markson, the Australian PR agent who claims Al Gore and Bill Clinton as clients in some overseas dealings and calls P.T. Barnum his role model. Salahi mentioned the PGA as an organization the couple has been in talks with.
And if none of that works out, they’ve still got Bravo. The Salahis announced that they’ll be hosting the show’s world premiere in Washington on August 5. Tareq wouldn’t name a location except to say “it’ll be near the heart of the city,” or as Joynt put it, “near the White House. Tickets will start at $20, and top out at $100 for those who want—or need—drinks to go along with their surreality television.