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The Party Crashers: A look at Tareq and Michaele Salahi before they were famous

Highlights of the lives and careers of Tareq and Michaele Salahi, the couple who attended last the White House state dinner, held last month in Washington, without an invitation.

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She went after the first goal right away, deciding at 18, her mother says, to give modeling a try. "I wasn't thrilled with it. It was a business I didn't want her to be in," says Rosemary Holt, who accompanied her to New York to talk to agencies.

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Michaele also tried college. Though a wedding announcement in Washington Life would later describe her as a "graduate" of King's College, which is in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., she attended only for the 1989-90 school year, according to the college. By the mid-1990s, people who knew her say, she was working at a makeup counter at the Tysons Corner Nordstrom, where she went by Michaele.

She was blond by then, and striking, recalls co-worker Arlie Morgan, who now co-owns Sisters3 boutique in Arlington. Often wearing a full-length fur, Morgan recalls, Michaele would glide through the aisles doing a classic beauty-queen wave, cooing "Hellooooooo, friend!" to all and sundry. She was, Morgan says, "everything a 'cosmetics girl' was supposed to be back in the day: drop-dead gorgeous, sparkling personality, ambitious and a real sales shark."

She did have one quality the others resented, Morgan says. Michaele "could never remember anyone's freaking name."

Rachel Harshman also got to know Michaele around the same time and considered her a friend. (Their relationship eventually deteriorated over a payment dispute: Harshman claims she wrote the Salahis checks toward a charity event and asked them not to cash the checks until she had funds to cover; she says they cashed them right away, then accused her of nonpayment via a police complaint and threatening letters from their lawyer. The Salahis have not responded to repeated attempts to contact them through e-mail, telephone, Facebook and a representative.)

Harshman remembers that Michaele had an out-of-town boyfriend. Harshman never saw him, though she did see a photo of him once: a tall, handsome guy who sold insurance. "I think he was more of a simple guy."

Margenau also recalls that Michaele had a boyfriend at the time of his Christmas party, but that they were "on the outs." And Tareq was besotted and "kept working it," as Margenau puts it.

"He would show up everywhere he thought she would be," says Harshman. Michaele, she says, was more reserved. She "treated him like a good friend." He bought her gifts. "He started setting a lifestyle for her," Harshman says.

And then, he was talking about marriage. Michaele wavered, Harshman says, but soon after she moved onto the Oasis property, where Tareq lived with his parents.

For young Tareq, an Oasis

Tareq, 40, came from more elevated circumstances. His father, Dirgham Salahi, is a Jerusalem-born Palestinian. Together with his wife, Corinne, he founded the Montessori School of Alexandria. Corinne also helped raise Ismail, a son from Dirgham's earlier marriage who is now a doctor.

The Salahis had a brush with scandal in the 1970s, when they began holding bingo games to fund the school. In 1978, Dirgham testified in court that he had paid bribes to Commonwealth's Attorney William Cowhig, who, he alleged, had threatened to shut down the games. Cowhig, who denied the charges, was acquitted but later resigned.

Around that same time, they founded the winery. Dirgham, who had studied geology, became a man of the soil, carefully selecting French hybrid grapevines. "Tareq's dad was smart in business and shrewd," says Chris Pearmund, who has worked in Fauquier County, in the wine industry, for 25 years. "Tareq's parents have done well by working hard."


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