Michaele Salahi: Kidnapping, no; Journey rocker Neal Schon, yes.
Few people roll like Michaele Salahi and her husband, Tareq, late of "The Real Housewives of D.C." and originally infamous for allegedly crashing a state dinner at the White House.
Depending on when a person checked in on the Salahi drama Wednesday, Michaele was either kidnapped, according to Tareq, or just fine, according to police. Then there was the part about Michaele running off with a guy from a rock band.
But more about Journey guitarist Neal Schon later. Seriously. After the police stuff, and before the Montel Williams stuff.
Tareq reported Michaele missing very late Tuesday night, telling law enforcement that his wife had been gone for six hours, the North Virginia Daily reported. She'd called him from a cellphone with an Oregon number, he said, to tell him she was fine and on her way to her mom's house.
He said that after talking to his mother-in-law, who according to TMZ told Tareq she didn't know what was up with Michaele, he feared a kidnapping. The former house-husband of D.C. told NBC that his wife's "cryptic" behavior during the call made him think she was trying to convey a message to him in code, the way they'd play-acted in the past in case either one were, you know, kidnapped.
"I swear to God," Tareq told NBC, denying that the kidnap report was a publicity stunt. "I'm missing my wife," he sobbed, breaking down in tears that you can see in the video embedded below.
The Sheriff's Department in Virginia's Warren County then issued a statement Wednesday afternoon saying essentially not to worry -- officials had been in touch with Michaele and were confident nobody had been kidnapped.
"She seemed calm, was engaged in conversation, and assured the deputy that she had left the residence with a good friend and was where she wanted to be," authorities said. She allegedly didn't want her husband knowing where she was.
Tareq Salahi told NBC a different story. "I think she's being forced by, whatever this Oregon phone number is, she's being forced to say she's OK," he said. "She's being forced to to say this to the local authorities." The couple had frequently dealt with stalkers and death threats, according to Tareq.
But the best was yet to come.
Of possible interest to those who graduated high school in the early 1980s: Foreigner and Night Ranger were opening for Journey on Wednesday night in Memphis.
The drama around the non-kidnapping came just ahead of Sunday's scheduled auction of Oasis Vineyards assets -- an auction related the winery's 2008 bankruptcy filing. Though the Hume, Va., winery is not on the block, bids can be placed Sunday in person or online on items including winemaking supplies, kitchen and catering equipment, trucks and tractors, more than 200 cases of various wines, and about 5,000 bottles of unfinished sparkling wine currently en tirage. Oasis was founded in 1977 by Tareq's parents.
Also on the Salahis' dance card: A Sept. 24 event at the Oasis that's being billed as a charity fundraiser, with "a portion of proceeds going to benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society."
At least that's how it's now being billed, after Montel Williams' legal team sent a cease-and-desist letter Aug. 25 demanding that the TV personality's name and the name of his foundation be removed from any materials associated with the $150-a-ticket event.
"I have never met, never spoken with, never been involved with anything to do with these people," Williams told the Ministry shortly after learning someone had been marketing "A Hollywood Oasis -- When Hollywood Glamour Meets the Capital Region" with an assertion that he would be attending, and that a portion of proceeds would go to the Montel Williams MS Foundation.
"It appears that the Salahis, whose bizarre behavior has been widely reported, are attempting to piggyback off of Montel's record of advocacy on behalf of MS sufferers worldwide to advance the apparent re-opening of their failed winery," rep Jonathan Franks said in an Aug. 26 statement on Montel's behalf, adding that Team Montel had that day been contacted by multiple governmental agencies investigating the group responsible for the event. Williams' people intended to cooperate with authorities, Franks said.
The Salahis protested via TMZ that they were not responsible for the actions of those who held events at their winery, placing blame instead on D.C.'s Most Fabulous Magazine, which was affiliated with the event and had posted the invites online. The mag is run by one Howard N. Cromwell, who has previously represented the Salahis, serving as the PR contact when Michaele released her dance track, "Bump It." In May, she was down to serve as head judge for a Memorial Day bikini contest publicized by Cromwell.
Though Cromwell's DRAWOH LLEWMORC Omnimedia Inc. (DLO) had written to Williams' foundation Aug. 10 stating that the foundation would be the unsolicited beneficiary of the magazine's third-anniversary celebration, the former talk show host did not reply or accept an invitation for any representative of the foundation to attend.
"The use of Mr. Williams' name without his permission is unacceptable, and Mr. Williams' attorneys intend to pursue all available legal remedies in this matter," Franks said.
In a letter to Williams' attorney dated Aug. 26, Cromwell's attorney said Williams' team was mistaken, and no materials had represented Montel as confirmed to attend. "The charity event is ... not a Salahi or Oasis Winery event," the letter stated. "Any misunderstanding or miscommunication is therefore DLO's responsibility, and not that of Mr. and Mrs. Salai or Oasis Winery." The letter also said Williams' name had been removed from any DLO websites.
Williams' legal team had sent its cease-and-desist letter to the Salahis on Aug. 25. On Aug. 30, Cromwell posted a link on his Facebook page to materials again stating Montel was expected at the event. That offer of an "international marketing & branding opportunity" had also been revised to reinforce Michaele's status as a person "who has MS."
Michaele Salahi revealed her alleged MS diagnosis on "Fox & Friends" in September, saying she'd left the White House state dinner not due to her and Tareq's lack of a seating assignment, but rather because she was suffering MS-related fatigue. The two were spotted, however, hanging out at a hotel bar nearby for hours after leaving the state dinner, ultimately allegedly skipping out on the tab. Michaele has not publicly discussed any treatment she might be undergoing for MS, which she said she'd been dealing with for 17 years.
Williams called it "egregiously offensive" that his name might have been used to mislead people into buying tickets to an event he was not affiliated with. "They might not have crossed the line enough" in this case, he said, but "they've figured out how to skirt the law. I hope the next time they get caught."
Williams said he suspected his name came up as a result of success he'd had recently on the D.C.-area charity circuit raising money for veterans causes. Since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999, the veteran of both the Navy and the Marines also has worked on behalf of MS research.
Various state regulatory and law enforcement agencies in Virginia have been looking into the Salahis' activities, a source familiar with the inquiries told the Ministry.
Said Montel: "These people need to go away."
-- Christie D'Zurilla
Top photo: Michaele and Tareq Salahi attend a White House state dinner -- allegedly uninvited -- in 2009. Credit: Bill O'Leary / Washington Post
Right photo: Neal Schon of Journey on the "Today" show in July. Credit: Lucas Jackson / Reuters