The Reliable Source: Who are these people? The climbers at the White House gate

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 27, 2009

Michaele Salahi spent seven hours in a posh Georgetown salon getting ready for her big night out. She was going to the White House for the Obamas' first state dinner. Creating the perfect hair and makeup for the glamorous blonde for such a special occasion would take time, of course. But then there were the cameras, the takes and retakes.

The Northern Virginia socialite was being taped by a production crew for Bravo cable channel's forthcoming "The Real Housewives of Washington."

"It was a lot of schmoozing with the staff," James Packard-Gomez, CEO of Erwin Gomez Salon, said Thursday, explaining why the hair and makeup session lasted from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The salon was abuzz because Michaele and her husband, Tareq, were among the 320 VIPs invited to join the president and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. "They were asking, 'So, what do you think of them getting invited to this?' "

The stylist doing Michaele's hair asked to see the White House invitation, Packard-Gomez said. "She starts rummaging through her purse, and then said, 'It must be out in the car.' "

Would the film crews get into the White House, too? " 'We tried,' " he says she told them, " 'but they wouldn't let them in.' "

But the White House says there never was an invitation. Somehow the aspiring reality-TV stars managed to get themselves in Tuesday night and were photographed with Vice President Biden and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, causing an international uproar about security at the executive mansion.

The Secret Service said the Salahis crashed the party and that the agency is investigating how the couple penetrated presidential security. The Salahis' attorney, Paul W. Gardner, posted a statement on the couple's Facebook page: "My clients were cleared, by the White House, to be there. More information is forthcoming."

The Salahis did not respond to e-mails Thursday. But their publicist, Mahogany Jones, said in an e-mail: "We will be addressing this specifically with several media platforms." Meanwhile, CNN announced that the now-famous couple would appear on "Larry King Live" on Monday night.

Bravo and the local production company it has contracted, Half Yard Productions, said the production team was aware that the Salahis were headed to the state dinner and took the couple's word that they were on the guest list. A film crew followed the Salahis on the drive to the White House but did not attempt to follow them onto the grounds.

NBC News anchor Brian Williams, an invited guest at the dinner, told the "Today" show that he noticed the couple's SUV being turned away from the East Gate entrance. A camera crew was with them, and a woman touched up the Salahis' makeup and hair, Williams said.

It is still unclear whether the couple managed to meet or be photographed with President Obama, Michelle Obama or the guest of honor. Guests went through a formal receiving line in the Blue Room before dinner, but a White House official said Thursday that he did not know if the couple went through the line. India's embassy did not respond to a call for comment.

This is not the first time the Salahis have represented themselves as power players: On the couple's joint Facebook account are pictures of them in the first family's glass-enclosed viewing area after the inaugural concert at the Lincoln Memorial.

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