Tareq Salahi Says He's Turned His Life Around--Except for That Lingering Nasty Divorce

The onetime reality TV show star talks getting out of debt and back into the wine biz, and what’s next for him.

By: Carol Ross Joynt

Photograph courtesy of Salahi.

The saga of Michaele and Tareq Salahi is well-known in Washington and, thanks to their White House gate-crashing episode, in the world. They starred in a failed reality TV show, The Real Housewives of Washington, DC, and got caught up in financial messes and lawsuits that even included Tareq's family. The family winery, Oasis, in Hume, Virginia, went up for bankruptcy auction; then, as if that wasn't enough drama, Michaele bolted from the marriage to run off with Neal Schon, a member of the rock band Journey, and Tareq exhibited the fury of a man scorned, slinging all kinds of accusations at his estranged wife. Then he went relatively quiet (for the Salahis), as did Michaele. A divorce is being pursued and may happen, and Schon recently told the Huffington Post that he and Michaele plan to marry eventually.

We caught up with Tareq this week. He was back in Virginia from his part-time home in Los Angeles, readying for another court date and making plans for a food and wine show to be produced at Oasis. He says the bottom line is he's a new man.

Where do you consider home now, California or Virginia?

My real home is the capital region. I was born in DC and raised in Virginia. Right now the fact is I'm spending a lot of time in LA because of the divorce. I have an apartment in West Hollywood. I'm out there part-time. It's kept me busy. I have a lot of different projects.

Like what?

Celebrity Fight Night with Jose Canseco. We did a boxing match.

Who won?

He won by a technicality.

What about other projects?

I did a project for the History Channel, America's Book of Secrets, about the White House state dinner. We went into more things than ever before. Really good details. For example, why nobody talked about why we had indeed submitted our Social Security numbers.

Did the History Channel have proof?

Yes, they did. Which is why I did it.

Did this vindicate you and Michaele of charges that you crashed the state dinner?

What vindicated us a long time ago was Matt Lauer, who found out the truth when he saw documents from the White House. But by then nobody cared anymore because we had become an entertainment. The History Channel had the affidavits we had showed only the Secret Service and Matt Lauer.

When do you think the public will know exactly what happened that night?

We know it was a mistake on [Pentagon official] Michele Jones's part and the social secretary's office.

You still maintain you received an actual invitation?

We never said that.

Michaele said so to a hairdresser; she claimed the invitation was in the car.

That wasn't true.

Could you envision a scenario in which, after your divorce is final, Michaele could come out with a story different from yours?

No, the facts are the facts.

Are you still under the threat of federal prosecution?

No, but let's put it this way: The statute of limitations expires in November.

In only a few sentences, what's the latest on you?

The state of me is that I'm keeping my head high. I've learned a lot from this betrayal by my wife, but I'm using that betrayal as a learning experience. Access Hollywood did a makeover on me. I've lost about 35 pounds. I'm getting back to the old me, the me from before Michaele, the me who was just a good kid, who was in the wine industry, and I'm now back in the wine industry. We're back into polo and sponsoring polo events. I've been playing on weekends.

Back to your fighting weight?

I'm back to the weight from before I met Michaele.

So she was fattening for you?

[laughs] I didn't say that.

Do you have a girlfriend?

No, I don't. My divorce isn't over. I have a lot of friends, men and women, mostly in the horse community. I go out in groups, but no girlfriend.

Did I read somewhere that you dated a madam?

That's not true. I went to a red carpet event and she was walking the red carpet the same time I was. I would definitely never date anyone like that.

What about your parents?

My dad passed last year. My mom still has her Montessori School in Alexandria. She lives mostly at the vineyard house [at Oasis].

Last time I heard, the two of you weren't speaking.

We have patched up our relationship. It came about because of the divorce. My mom was never a fan of my wife. So she was happy we split before we ever had children.

Had you and Michaele been talking about having children?

Yeah. We wanted children, but for whatever reason, Michaele was not able to have kids.

What was the result of the winery auction? Where do your debts stand today?

Most of them are gone, discharged. I'm starting fresh. Bankruptcy was a large part of getting rid of all the debt. It worked out in my favor. I bought back what I needed for the winery from the bankruptcy auction.

What did that cost you?

I won't say.

But you're living off the winery?

Yeah.

Do you get paid money from TMZ or other similar websites or tabloids?

Me? No. In the past there were promotions we did, something related to a project or an exclusive story or photo spread. We got paid. That's very typical.

What's the most you got paid for one of those spreads?

It can range from $17,000 to upward of $50,000.

Do you think you'd still be with Michaele if not for Real Housewives of Washington DC ?

No. The cheating happened long before Real Housewives. I just didn't know it was going on. Real Housewives captured some of the drama during the small window of our marriage. It captured who she was. A lot of people saw it more clearly than I did. I hate to admit it, but some of my other castmates, the ladies, saw what was there, and I had on blinders.

Do you watch the series still, the other franchises?

I do not.

What is ahead for you?

I've always loved food and wine. I love to cook. There are talks going on for a food and wine show at Oasis; we're going to announce it in the fall or early winter. We'll have a full-blown commercial type of kitchen, where you can come to learn to cook, and watch from your home on the computer. I'll be involved in one way or another on camera, but the focus is the food, the wine, and the people. This is the future. This is what Tareq Salahi wants to do.

Will it be called the Tareq Salahi Show ?

[laughs]. We're only in the beginning stage with agents, production, and formatting.

No role for Michaele?

We'll be divorced by then, and the truth is I don't want to ever look back. I have no grudge. I wish her the best.

When will you be officially divorced?

We're waiting for the other side. There are a number of court dates, one as early as Monday at Circuit Court in Front Royal. All she has to do is pay her side of the mutual shared debts.

But you said all the debts were cleared up?

Mine are, but hers are not. There's a few million dollars there that have to be straightened out by her side, and then the divorce is done. They can make this divorce end quickly, pay the financial obligations, or we'll go to a full-blown jury trial in Virginia. And we'd call everyone to testify--Journey, the whole band, their wives, their girlfriends.

What if you are asked under oath about the night of the White House state dinner?

They cannot ask about that. We would never address anything about the White House. Michaele has already informed the judge she is going to plead the fifth on everything, anyway.