Journey — go figure! For a band that recorded its hits in the early ’80s, it’s getting a lot of buzz these days thanks to a pair of rock-n-roll Cinderella stories. Unfortunately, one of them kind of turned into a pumpkin Monday night.
Michaele Salahi and guitarist beau Neal Schon resurfaced in the D.C. area Monday night to promote a new rockumentary — only to vanish into the night before the panel discussion he was supposed to join.
The occasion: The AFI Silverdocs film festival’s opening-night screening of “Don’t Stop Believin’:Everyman’s Journey,” which tells the story of Arnel Pineda, plucked from the obscurity of a Manila cover band in 2007 and hired as Journey’s new lead singer after Schon discovered his homemade videos on YouTube.
Schon and Salahi were the designated paparazzi bait at the Silver Spring theater’s micro-red carpet. You remember the backstory: How the Virginia socialite best known for crashing a White House state dinner and starring in Bravo’s “Real Housewives” abruptly left husband Tareq Salahi last fall to take up with the rock star.
“I’m the happiest I’ve ever been,” she told us Monday. “I learned that I’m resilient and that I am with the person who is worthy of my love.”
She wore a form-fitting white satin dress and rhinestone flip-flops that brought the statuesque blonde down to Schon’s height — a courtesy she rarely seemed to accord to her ex. The guitarist was turned out in black leather and shades. The divorce from Tareq — currently mounting a quixotic campaign for governor of Virginia while grappling with state crackdowns on his charity and businesses — has grown ugly, but the new couple seemed untroubled.
“The craziness still goes on, but we’re just not paying any attention to it anymore,” Schon said. Their romance, after years of friendship, “isn’t surprising to me but it wasn’t planned. It’s kind of beautiful when things just kind of unfold and people meet at the right time.”
Alas, no romance is depicted in the documentary, which focuses on Pineda’s dizzying first year with Journey. A slim, unassuming man whose heavy accent melts away when he unleashes his rock-god tenor, Pineda is seen grappling with homesickness and sudden fame as his bandmates adjust to a novice frontman. “They didn’t know if this was going to work,” explained filmmaker Ramona Diaz, “this guy who hadn’t sung before more than 200 people” suddenly expected to command arenas.
Though scheduled to join the post-screening panel discussion from his home in the Philippines via Skype, Pineda ultimately couldn’t be roused — he and his wife have a new baby, festival organizers told us.
And as soon as the credits rolled — Schon and Salahi were outta there, despite imploring from organizers to stay. The guitarist was overheard grousing that the film didn’t emphasize the dynamics of the band enough. A rep for the band told us Schon had informed organizers over the weekend he couldn’t stay for the panel but did not elaborate on why.
UPDATE, 6/21: Neal Schon says he didn’t bail on Silverdocs
Updated 4 p.m.
Read earlier: Tareq and Michaele Salahi — a reality-show life, just not on TV, 9/18/11
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