Two bizarre hoaxes captured the attention of the American public in the autumn of 2009. On October 15 the nation sat riveted for hours at the spectacle of a six-year-old boy apparently adrift in a weather balloon; and on November 24 the Obamas’ first White House state dinner was crashed by a pair of status-seeking wannabe celebs. Both instances underscored our addiction for distraction and endless fascination with the trivial, but also exposed the soft underbelly of a national psyche which values celebrity and style over substance or merit.
On October 15, America watched breathlessly as a small silver weather balloon, a prototype designed by handyman and amateur scientist Richard Heene of Fort Collins, Colorado, swirled and glided erratically across the state, tossed by fitful winds and allegedly bearing the inventor’s young son, Falcon. The helium-filled craft had been tethered in the Heene’s back yard, but had broken free earlier, after which Falcon was found to be missing, and believed to be aboard. The balloon traversed three counties over a distance of 50 miles, at times reaching altitudes of 7000 feet, gradually losing helium, and when it finally came to a soft landing outside Denver International Airport, no one was found inside.
The airport had been closed, National Guard helicopters and local police as well as media from all major networks had followed the balloon’s progress, and now a desperate search began for Falcon Heene, who was feared to have fallen from the craft somewhere en route. Nearly three hours later, Falcon was found hiding in a cardboard box in the attic of the family home, and suspicion soon emerged that an elaborate hoax had been perpetrated.
The Heenes were not unfamiliar with controversy. The family appeared twice on the reality show “Wife Swap,” and at the time of the incident were actively attempting to elicit network interest in a reality show based on their lives as storm-chasers and members of an unconventional, nonconformist clan who prized scientific experimentation and invention.
On the day following the flight, during a Larry King Live interview, Falcon responded to questions as to why he had not answered his parents’ calls when they were searching the home for him with an all-too-candid, “You guys said that, um, we did this for the show.”
After determining that the balloon was not strong enough to have carried Falcon, county sheriff Jim Aldernen announced on 18 October that convincing evidence of a hoax had been found, and that charges would be filed. He alleged the family had devised the fraud some two weeks prior to the incident, in hopes that the publicity would make them more marketable for future media endeavors. On 13 November Richard Heene pled guilty to felony charges of attempting to influence a public servant, while his wife Mayumi faced a misdemeanor charge of false reporting to authorities.
The transit sky for October 15 well illustrates the events. The Sun at 22 Libra is exactly semisquare (45 degrees) the Black Hole at 7 Virgo, indicative of that parallel reality, alternate dimension, all-is-not-as-it-seems circumstance these Deep Space behemoths love to engender. Hoaxes and frauds are particularly susceptible to Black Hole dynamics, as they create a false image which hides the true reality, and absorb others’ energies for purposes of their own. An approaching opposition to another Black Hole at 24 Aries suggests the brash, derring-do atmosphere to the incident, as does asteroid Icarus, named for the boy who rashly flew too close to the sun, melting his wax wings and plunging to earth. Icarus at 4 Scorpio is conjoined a spotlighting Quasar, bringing attention and public notice. Icarus here is also reminiscent of the brief span of time when investigators feared that Falcon may have fallen from the craft to his death. From 22 Libra the Sun has also just made its annual opposition to TNO Eris at 21 Aries retrograde, named for the Greek goddess of strife, evoking the outrage and discord people felt when they realized they had been duped.
Conjunct the Sun is asteroid Richard at 25 Libra, for Falcon’s father Richard Heene, the central initiating figure in the dramatic hoax. The boy himself is represented several times: Mercury, ruling children and a noted Trickster god, at 8 Libra is conjunct a media-attracting Pulsar at 7 Libra, and exactly squared an attention-grabbing Quasar at 8 Cancer. Asteroid Child at 12 Leo is conjunct a controversy-provoking Maser at 14 Leo and exactly opposed a Black Hole at 12 Aquarius, indicating the bizarre, alternate reality quality to the event. Asteroid Horus, named for the ancient Egyptian falcon-headed god, seems a suitable stand-in for a boy named Falcon, and lies at 23 Sagittarius, conjunct another newsworthy Pulsar, and asteroid House, which at 27 Sagittarius also conjoins the Galactic Center at 26 Sagittarius. Falcon (Horus) was indeed found hiding in his own home (House), after a media blitz lasting for hours which received global attention (Galactic Center).
Asteroid Loke, named for the Norse god Loki the Trickster, at 28 Leo is exactly opposed a reality-warping Black Hole at 28 Aquarius, squared an illuminating Quasar at 28 Scorpio and the provocative Maser at 28 Taurus, forming an exact Galactic Grand Cross that suggests some massive fraud is in the works. Asteroid Phaeton at 19 Taurus, named for another youth famed for his ill-fated celestial ride when he attempted to drive the chariot of the sun, forms an exact Galactic Grand Trine with asteroid Aeolia, named for the island home of the mythic Greek god of winds, Aeolus, and the Black Hole at 19 Capricorn, reiterating the themes of wind-blown aerial transport and bizarre alternate realties.
A second incident of interest, ridiculous on its face but with disturbing implications for presidential security, occurred 24 November, when Michaele and Tareq Salahi crashed a White House state dinner for the Prime Minister of India. Dressed in a vivid red and gold semi-see-through sari, Michaele and her tuxedoed husband managed to bluff their way past security and pose for personal pictures with smiling bureaucrats and Washington insiders, including Vice President Joe Biden, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty and CBS News anchor Katie Couric. Worse, the breach of security was not recognized until the Salahis later posted their photographic mementoes on their Facebook page.
Once again, a desire for celebrity, and specifically, a spot on a reality TV show, was the underlying motivation for the deception. Michaele Salahi, a former model and winery owner who had been the spokesperson for Virginia’s “Wine Getaways” ad campaign, had been known to be agitating for a spot on the Bravo cable network’s realty series, “Real Housewives of D.C.” for months, but it was not until more than a week after the incident that the full facts emerged. The Salahis were already under contract, and the show had been in production since September, with the White House party-crashing planned as the first season finale. In mid-September, in an unaired CBS “Early Show” interview promoting the upcoming series, Michaele stated that “President Obama has made it very accessible for anyone to visit the White House, so that’s like a big thing right now.” Late that month the couple made their first attempt to meet the Obamas by gate-crashing the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Awards dinner, but were removed by security when they were found occupying seats reserved for donors.
That was a mistake they failed to make at the White House, where they were announced, but never seated, instead flitting from notable to notable taking pictures during the cocktail reception preceding dinner. The Salahis insist they were invited by a Pentagon official, who denies the claim, stating she specifically told them she could not obtain their admittance. The Bravo contract also explains the sudden cancellation of a scheduled “Larry King Live” appearance by the couple, who are forbidden to appear on any but NBC media outlets. But they could, and did, speak to Matt Lauer of NBC’s “Today” show, where on December 1 Tareq Salahi stated, “This has been the most devastating thing that’s ever happened to us. We’re greatly saddened by all the circumstances that have been involved in portraying my wife and I as party crashers. I can tell you we did not party crash the White House.” Michaele added, “Our lives have been destroyed, everything we’ve worked for, Matt. For me, 44 years, just destroyed.”
Although their contract doesn’t preclude it, the Salahis refused to speak with Congress later that same week, and the House Homeland Security Committee has issued a January 20 subpoena for the couple, who have stated their intention to refuse to testify on Fifth Amendment self-incrimination grounds. The incident has raised serious questions about White House security, and although the administration has announced new guidelines and increased inspection for admittance, it has also stonewalled investigators intent on getting to the bottom of conflicting claims about the invitation status for the Salahis, citing executive privilege in refusing to allow White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers to appear before Congress.
As with the Heenes, the Salahis’ antics are well represented in the chart for the White House state dinner crashing which occurred at approximately 7:15 PM EST on 24 November 2009, when Michaele swept past the photographers clustered at the entrance. The Sun at 2 Sagittarius is conjunct the Black Hole at 4 Sagittarius, evoking the bizarre event and allowing the Salahis to insert themselves, chameleon-like, into an alien environment without detection, a Black Hole adaptive specialty. Neptune at 23 Aquarius is fittingly posited in the Ninth House of diplomacy and political functions, creating confusion and allowing the Salahis’ deception. Neptune is also squared by asteroid Michela, for Michaele, at 26 Scorpio, and opposed asteroid Michelle, for the First Lady (who, as hostess, received the actual social slight of the gate-crashing gaffe, from an Emily Post perspective), at 24 Leo.
Both Michela and Neptune are within two degrees of conjunction to a spotlighting Quasar, so the deception wasn’t hidden for long. Michela is also conjunct Venus, representing women in general, at 21 Scorpio, itself exactly inconjunct fractious, disagreeable TNO Eris at 21 Aries retrograde. Eris is the goddess perhaps best remembered for her own gate-crashing at the wedding of Thetis and Peleus, when the uninvited divine guest tossed a golden apple inscribed “to the fairest” into the festivities, an act which ultimately precipitated the Trojan War.
Disruptive, shocking, rule-breaking Uranus is also prominent; at 22 Pisces retrograde, it conjoins the 19 Pisces Midheaven from the Tenth House of public notice, from where it opposes asteroid Washingtonia, the venue for the deception, at 28 Virgo, and trines Venus/Michela, indicating the controversy sparked by a woman named Michaele. Asteroid Loke, named for Norse Trickster God Loki, at 7 Virgo is exactly conjunct a Black Hole and opposed the Moon at 4 Pisces, which in turn exactly squares the Black Hole conjoined the transit Sun. The Moon is also conjunct asteroid Barry (for Barack Obama, the name by which he was known in youth) at 0 Pisces, creating a somewhat loose T-Square between the Sun (the event itself), the Moon (the presidential residence), Barry (the president) and Loke (the Trickster).
Michaele Salahi was born 1 October 1965. Her birth chart suggests issues with publicity-seeking and deception. The Sun at 8 Libra is conjoined the media-attracting Pulsar at 7 Libra and exactly squares an attention-grabbing Quasar at 8 Cancer, indicating someone who at some point comes to prominence in a newsworthy event or circumstance. Asteroid Nemesis is with the Sun and exactly on the Pulsar, so Michaele can be her own worst enemy, and if, as she asserts, this incident has “destroyed” her life, she has no one to blame but herself. Asteroid Michela at 1 Libra is conjunct the supermassive Black Hole at that degree, the largest anomaly of its type of which we are aware, exerting a huge pull on her psyche and drawing others into her orbit effortlessly, for good or ill. Transit Saturn at the time of the gate-crashing was at 2 Libra, just past conjunction with Michaela, and while it brought her to the prominence that its Tenth House natural rulership indicates, it could also account for the rather dismal perspective Michaele has on the outcome of her efforts.
Natal Mercury at 11 Libra closes in on asteroid Barry at 12 Libra, much in the way that publicity-seeking Michaele appears to have been stalking the president at the Congressional Black Caucus dinner and his own home turf. With Mercury also exactly inconjunct natal Saturn at 11 Pisces retrograde, Barack is Michaele’s avenue to the media (Mercury) career (Saturn) she so desires. And with a Black Hole at 13 Libra encompassing both Mercury and Barry, that seemingly impossible goal was attained, however bizarrely. Michaele’s own Eris is also tied to the pattern; at 11 Aries retrograde it exactly opposes Mercury, another indicator of the negative reaction the Salahis have had to the publicity they so courted. This falls somewhere in the category of “be careful what you wish for.”
A combination of Uranus and asteroid Hybris at 16 and 15 Virgo respectively suggests a brash disregard for convention and a sense of invincibility, or at any rate, unaccountability, which enables Michaele to boldly and aggressively assert her wishes, dreams and aspirations, with no fear or even understanding of the possible negative ramifications or repercussions. Natal asteroid Washingtonia at 23 Libra was receiving an exact trine from transit Neptune at the time of the incident, and also opposes a Black Hole at 24 Aries, another indicator of overcoming huge odds and pulling off an unlikely result, associated with the nation’s capitol and a high degree of deception or confusion which makes it possible. Natal Venus and Neptune are conjunct at 20 and 18 Scorpio respectively, painting a portrait of a more-than-usually deceptive woman, one relying on charm and a false front to attain her goals, and further conferring the overlay of personal glamour which is so apparent in the photos. But a “glamour,” in magickal terms, is also a charm or spell which causes others to see one as something other, and more, than one actually is, certainly an apt meaning for this situation. Perhaps most telling, asteroid Loke at 26 Virgo is exactly squared the Galactic Center at 26 Sagittarius, signifying global attention and notice (GC) for a trick or act of deception (Loke).
What the upshot will be for the Salahis is difficult to tell, but Michaele is likely fortunate in that transit Saturn will reverse direction a week before her scheduled House appearance, and four degrees shy of conjunction with her Sun, suggesting that the full force of the law may not be applied, and she might not receive the harshest of penalties for her transgression. But will viewers tune in to her Bravo series to watch the fun, giving Michaele Salahi the attention and fame she so desperately craves? Sadly, the answer to that question is most likely ‘yes.’