What a long, strange trip it's been

By Alex Heigl
Updated December 16, 2013 02:15 PM
Credit: Robert Knight/MNS/WireImage/Schon Productions

Four years ago, if you’d have said, “One day, a woman famous for gate-crashing a White House dinner will marry the man who wrote ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ – and on Pay-Per-View, no less” – we might have said you were crazy.

But on Sunday, that was exactly what happened, when Michaele Salahi and Neal Schon tied the knot in San Francisco.

Schon is the guitarist for Journey, a band whose music you have likely performed or seen performed at karaoke at some point in your life.

Salahi is most famous for the aforementioned gatecrashing and her stint on Bravo’s Real Housewives of D.C., but her circuitous route to live-broadcast wedded bliss merits a closer look.

Salahi grew up mostly in Florida, where she attended a Catholic school. Her family later moved to Fairfax County, Va.

After graduating, she flirted briefly with a modeling career, and spent a year at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., before moving back to northern Virginia and working as a makeup artist.

“This isn’t a wedding. This is an emerging new nation”

Tareq Salahi grew up in northern Virginia, the son of vintners. He met Michaele on the party circuit and pursued her intently, buying her gifts and flying her to Rio and London. The pair were eventually married in 2003, in a wedding so expansive (and expensive) that one guest was quoted as saying, “This isn’t a wedding. This is an emerging new nation.”

Tareq began running into financial problems with his parents’ winery that same year. In 2006, the board of Oasis winery voted to remove Tareq as an officer: Countersuit followed countersuit, and the entire thing was still dragging on as of 2009, when the Salahis began a campaign to be included in the D.C. edition of Bravo’s popular Real Housewives franchise.

Then came the gatecrashing incident.

“It would be nice if someone apologized to us”

On Nov. 24, 2009, the Salahis were photographed at White House state dinner for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The White House maintains they were not invited to this event, which is why it came as a surprise when they posted pictures about it on their Facebook page. Shock at what amounted to a massive security breach ensued, with Michaele’s role on Real Housewives coming to the fore. (The couple denies they did anything wrong, suggesting at one point that “it would be nice if somebody apologized to us.”) The Secret Service later apologized for the breach.

The incident was covered on Real Housewives of D.C., the first season of which ended on Oct. 21, 2010. In September of that year, Michaele also revealed she had been living with multiple sclerosis for years.

“I never saw Sister Act

In October of 2010, Salahi had what she called a “humiliating and torturous” experience when she and the rest of the Real Housewives cast stopped by The View, and Whoopi Goldberg either “hit” or “grabbed” her, a charge Goldberg has denied. “Whoopi, I don’t know you,” Salahi told PEOPLE at the time. “I never saw Sister Act.”

In March of 2011, Salahi joined – and was subsequently dropped from – Celebrity Rehab. Tareq told PEOPLE that Michaele joined the show because she needed help “managing her stress and her illness,” presumably referring to her MS. VH1, for their part, said that, “Prior to the taping of the current season, producers were advised that Michaele Salahi met the criteria to be treated in this setting. However, professional assessments spanning from that time to the present, found that she did not meet such criteria.”

In June of 2011, Michaele debuted her song “Bump It.” A live performance of the song is below.

Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)

On Sept. 13, 2011, Michaele disappeared from her home. What followed became more byzantine as time wore on: After Tareq reported her missing and began speculating that she’d been kidnapped, the Warren County, Tenn., Sheriff’s Office released a statement saying that they’d spoken with Michaele, who informed them “she had left the residence with a good friend and was where she wanted to be.” That “good friend” turned out to be Journey guitarist Neal Schon. Tareq briefly pressed forward with his version of events, claiming that she may have made the call under duress.

A few days later, Tareq filed for divorce, alleging – among other things – that Schon and Salahi had been in a relationship “for a period of months” prior to her disappearance.

By December, Tareq was calling Michaele “a well-known and documented liar,” alleging that she lied about being a Washington Redskins cheerleader, Victoria’s Secret model and college graduate. The divorce only got uglier from there: Michaele alleged abuse, and Tareq filed a $50 million lawsuit against his ex and Schon, which was later dismissed.


Schon and Salahi announced details about their wedding in late 2013. It would be in San Francisco. It would be “exciting,” but it “[wouldn’t] be cheesy in the least.” Lastly, it would be broadcast on Pay-Per-View.

“We’re not interested in any drama,” Schon told The Daily Beast. “That’s why we haven’t gone into the reality thing. This is real.” The pair paid a reported $250,000 in permits to rent and film under the rotunda of San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts. Part of the event’s $14.95 PPV price tag is said to be going to typhoon relief in the Philippines. (Journey has already donated $350,000 to relief efforts in the Philippines, their lead singer Arnel Pineda’s homeland.)

The wedding’s theme was “Then, now and forever,” referencing Schon and Salahi’s friendship prior to their engagement; guests included Omarosa Manigault and Sammy Hagar. After the ceremony, Journey played a set that included “Faithfully” and “Don’t Stop Believin’.”

Michaele, we never will.

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