"Hey, you hear the news about the housewives of DC crashing the president's party?" read a quick note from one of my best friends, Manny Varela, a 29-year-old engineer from Miami. Like most people, Manny is not one to care about some party in D.C., never mind that it's the Obamas' first state dinner. But he is a fan of "housewives" -- short for the Bravo's hit and addicting "The Real Housewives" reality TV series, now filming its Washington, D.C. edition.
"How funny," Manny wrote. "What great marketing for the show."
A very, very good point.
This is, after all, all about marketing, whether Bravo likes it or not. Though folks at Bravo have told various news organizations that they have yet to finalize the cast for its D.C. series, it's this drive for self-marketing that seems to have landed socialites-turned-"gate-crashers" Tareq and Michaele Salahi inside the White House in the first place. Hey, who could resist a "real housewife" who gets face-time from a smiling President Obama? In our reality TV culture exacerbated by the rise of social networking sites -- in which 15 minutes of fame can be elongated by the number of photos and videos swirling around the Web -- who can blame the Salahis for their sheer, shameless self-promotion? Their shared Facebook profile have 743 photos and 14 videos, and you don't need to be Facebook friends with Tareq and Michaele to see them. Just click away.
Inevitably, people have created and joined groups mostly chastising and mocking the wedding crashers heard 'round Facebook.
A group called "Tareq and Michaele Salahi Crashed My Party" has 173 members. Introducing himself as the Salahis, the group's creator wrote: "Hi, we're fameseeking losers Tareq and Michaele Salahi and reality show wannabes. Got a party? Tag sale? Doesn't matter. We'll crash it. Is your 5-year old having a birthday next week? Just tell us when and where. Join this group--it's even easier to get in than a White House gala."
There's also a group called "Tareq and Michaele Salahi deserve a reality show!!" The group has 469 members. A member wrote on the group's wall: "Laughin' all the way from Malaysiaaaa...." Wrote another: "Lol, This is great. And 'they' say our Ports and Borders are secure!"
From a news perspective, Thanksgiving 2009 has been hijacked by the Salahis. They're splashed across front pages and covers of newspapers, from the Washington Post to the New York Daily News. Who they are, why they did what they did, how they sneaked past layers of security and snaked their way inside a White House state dinner have given cable TV much to be thankful for in what could have been a sleepy weekend news cycle. They're now subjects of comprehensive, heavily foot-noted Wikipedia articles -- one for him, one for her -- and featured in an article on "gate-crashing." They got all the publicity they were asking for -- and then some.
"Remember, now, they're not just some random people. They're people who are trying to get on a show," Nick O'Neill, the founder and editor of AllFacebook.com, told HuffPostTech. "This is savvy marketing for them."
Yep, marketing in our digital age. And the Salahis aren't done yet, which might explain why, three days after Roxanne Roberts and Amy Argetsinger of the Washington Post originally broke the story, they have not deleted their joint Facebook account. The photos, videos and everything Salahi-related are still on Facebook, and there's a link to Michaele's self-described "exclusive" fan page. The latest entry on the page, posted at 11:46 a.m., read: "I was honored to be invited to attend the First State Dinner hosted by President Obama & the First Lady to honor India. In June 2010, the America's Polo Cup will be between INDIA & the UNITED STATES. Please join me in this cultural celebration of politics, diplomacy, fashion, sports, entertainment & family fun."
The page lists 10,152 fans.