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Gate crasher to appear on 'Real Housewives of DC'

by David Bauder
| June 17, 2010 9:00 PM

NEW YORK - Executives at the Bravo network took a long time deciding whether to go ahead with its "Real Housewives" series based in Washington after one of its stars crashed President Barack Obama's first state dinner, its programming chief said.

The network said Tuesday it was going ahead with the series featuring Michaele Salahi, starting Aug. 5 (9 p.m. PDT).

Bravo was nearly at the end of filming the latest installment of its "Real Housewives" franchise last November when Salahi and her husband, Tareq, talked their way into the White House affair. The embarrassment forced the White House to tighten security restrictions.

The network could either go ahead with the series or scrap the season altogether, Andy Cohen, the top programming executive, said Tuesday. There was no way at that stage to simply replace her, he said.

"It was a long, engaged process" to decide on going ahead, he said. "There were many, many serious conversations. I think when everyone sees the show they'll agree it was the right thing."

Cohen said Bravo was as surprised as the rest of the country to find out the morning after the dinner that the Salahis had gone somewhere uninvited; the gate crashing was not encouraged or suggested by Bravo. Its production company had filmed them getting ready for the event.

He rejected the view that Bravo was rewarding Salahi for bad behavior.

After the gate crashing, Bravo had said no decision had been made on whether Salahi would be in the cast - a statement that would seem contradictory to Cohen's claim Tuesday that the network was nearing the end of its filming when it happened.

But he said Bravo has made calls in the past to cut or de-emphasize people they thought would be main characters but whose stories were eclipsed during the process of editing tape and putting the show together.

"If anything, (the incident) put her more in jeopardy for being on the show because she became such a lightning rod," Cohen said. But during editing, it became clear how connected Salahi was to the other characters' stories. The final decision to keep her was made about six weeks ago, he said.

A state dinner, particularly a new president's first, could be considered the Super Bowl of power events in the political city. Much of "The Real Housewives of D.C." series focuses on how influence in the city is derived as much from proximity to power as money, Bravo said.

The gate-crashing incident will be dealt with in the series toward the end of its run, Cohen said.

"It's not the Salahi show," he said. "She's one of five women."

Other "Real Housewives" joining Salahi are Mary Schmidt Amons, the granddaughter of TV personality Arthur Godfrey; Lynda Erkiletian, the founder of a modeling agency; Catherine Ommanney, a British import who's an interior designer; and Stacie Scott Turner, a real estate agent who started a charity for teenage girls in foster care.

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