“It’s OK. You can say this is total b-------,” a fellow reporter counseled as we stared, rather incredulously, around Tareq Salahi’s sparsely occupied backyard.
For those who don’t know, the Secret Service’s least-favorite party guest is back in the spotlight after deciding to challenge Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who has doggedly scrutinized Salahi’s charitable works and family winery, for the keys to Virginia’s governor’s mansion.
Salahi formally launched his bid Sunday at a “Crash the Candidate’s” barbecue hosted at his home in Front Royal, Va.
An impromptu tour of the trophy room revealed shelves crowded with objets d’art from around the world (ceremonial Japanese swords, woodcuttings from Bora Bora), as well as correspondence from appreciative political types.
And what brag wall would be complete without a shot of you and the heir apparent to Britain’s royal family — even if certain philandering rock-and-roll groupies had to be unceremoniously excised from the magic moment.
Once he wrapped with the film crew, Salahi made his way to the backyard, where he continued to mug for the cameras.
By now, the crowd had grown to about two-dozen adults (including married couples, a group of remarkably upbeat gay college men and Oasis wine-sipping business associates), a handful of children (teens to toddlers) and a half-dozen security guards (standard uniform: Oakleys, ear piece, dark blazers).
Salahi's stump speech was rather nebulous. He invoked Reagan, railed against over-regulation, spoke of "second chances and new beginning," heaped praise on Virginia's military personnel and pledged to work across party lines in defense of local business. Total running time: less than 20 minutes.
When we asked one gentleman about Salahi’s gubernatorial aspirations, he shrugged and tried to pawn us off on his wife. Turns out she used to do business with Salahi but hadn’t seen the man in 20 years. “He was always a nice, agreeable man,” she said of their decades-ago dealings.
Calvert Clark was much more emphatic in his support. Having worked with Salahi in the wine and tourism trades and played alongside him on the polo field, Clark portrayed Salahi as someone bred for political life.
“One thing about Tareq Salahi, he always wins,” Clark assured HOH. More importantly, he asserted that the former reality TV star was ideally suited to make hard choices because “he doesn’t have any problem with criticism.”
“He’s not going to follow a party line. He’ll do what’s best,” Clark predicted.
Disillusionment with the current system drove Dan Armor to attend.
“I believe everything in place is broken,” he shared, lamenting that truly successful problem-solvers know well enough to stay out of politics because “the entire system is rigged.”
“I’m all for radical change. And this guy’s an outside-the-box thinker,” Armor said of Salahi. He conceded that Salahi might not have a “politically correct résumé” but suggested that electing another career politician would only perpetuate the status quo.
“Let’s try something different,” Armor proposed.
Back inside, campaign contributors took advantage of a promised perk: a picture with Salahi.
The consummate showman had set up a green screen in his living room and gave attendees a choice of fake backgrounds to appear before.
The photographer told HOH most guests opted for either the governor's mansion in Richmond or, per Salahi's instruction, a shot in front of the White House. He noted, however, that one guest had elected to be photographed virtually standing next to an image of a bleary-eyed Prince Harry cribbed from TMZ's coverage of the would-be monarch's nude romp in Las Vegas.
A grinning Salahi AND drunken royal in the same pic. Talk about tabloid gold ...