Carlos Allen makes the media rounds, talking about the White House state dinner

By Amy Argetsinger and Mary Jordan
Saturday, January 16, 2010

Carlos Allen, the man who sat down to eat at a White House state dinner without an official invitation, was talking in his attorney's office this week about the now-infamous November night that exposed troubling gaps in presidential security and launched a federal investigation.

"The only thing I regretted at the end of the night," he said, "was that they didn't have no dancing."

"Any dancing," his lawyer corrected, but even he laughed as Allen, eyes twinkling, kept up the shtick: He had really wanted to shake it with Michelle Obama, and maybe Hillary Clinton, too.

"With all due respect to President Obama, I know he can't dance," Allen said. "I wanted to show him up. . . . I can dance. Dancing is my thing."

That's Carlos Allen for you. Fellow non-invitees Tareq and Michaele Salahi -- whom Allen insists he barely knows -- have mostly hunkered down since their scandal broke, giving a single tense interview to NBC's "Today" show and pleading the Fifth Amendment with a congressional committee. Allen, though, has held forth on "Good Morning America," "Inside Edition," "Larry King Live" and to The Washington Post, radiating the sunny confidence of a smooth salesman who once threw swanky parties to hype his (now defunct) mortgage business.

With so much at stake -- a federal grand jury is probing the Salahi matter and feds say Allen's case is under investigation -- why the heck is he even opening his mouth?

His lawyer insists that Allen, 39, has nothing to hide: Just a guy in a tux who walked up to an agent, cleared a metal detector, boarded a van with an Indian delegation and rode straight up to the White House door. And then asked a staffer, "Where do I sit?" Simple as that.

"He may have more chutzpah than most people," said attorney A. Scott Bolden. "He may be more naive than most people. But he's not a gate-crasher."

Learning to fit in

Who is he then? The polo-playing Salahis had some local notoriety before they walked the White House red carpet -- a winery feud, a reality-show tryout, a swath of messy lawsuits. Allen was largely unknown outside his social circle and Mount Pleasant neighborhood.

In a two-hour interview with The Post, he presented himself as a self-invented man who, at the moment, is broke. Born in Colon, Panama, to native parents, he immigrated to the United States at age 6. His father was in the U.S. Army, and his childhood was spent on bases -- New York, Germany, Georgia.

At high school in Hinesville, Ga., near Fort Stewart, Allen was into hip-hop, break-dancing, Adidas shell tops.

Then his dad moved him to Columbus, Ga., near Fort Benning. "It was Sebagos, polo shirts, Dockers -- I couldn't believe these people were so nerdy!" For a year, he couldn't get a date. Then, "I said to my mom, 'Let's get some polo shirts.' . . . Then the females started coming."

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