My Unbelievably True Life Story, by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
I read it so you don’t have to. By the numbers: this book is 619 pages, weighs about 2.5 lbs, and to my surprise, is the 6th book Arnold has written. (The others were all about bodybuilding.)
So, he’s way ahead of me in writing books, but I did discover some things we had in common within the first 10 pages. First, no musical ability whatsoever. In his case, both his parents are musical and he is the odd man out. In my case, I carry on the proud family tradition of flat singing, but only when necessary to clear people from a room. Arnold’s father also didn’t talk about his time in the military. Same with Duke! Imagine if he and Gustav could swap stories, although Gustav said there was nothing to tell. Once when I asked my Dad what he did in the Army, he just said “Ahhh!” and waved his hand dismissively.
Arnold grew up old school in Austria, where you go outside to use an outhouse, and walk through forests so dark that the light barely penetrates them during the day. And this from the culture with the original Grimm’s fairy tales where people get hacked to death, not the Disney versions we know. It was very Spartan, so for entertainment he and his brother Meinhard used to play the game of “church” where one of them took turns as the priest, standing there pontificating with a picture book larger than their actual bible. This turned out to be a Nazi propaganda manual with pictures of bridges, crops and all the wonders of the Third Reich. These and other similar items were recalled after the war.
After a brief stint in the Austrian Army, where he learned to drive tanks and was what they called “prone to catastrophe”, he moved on to pursue his dream of bodybuilding and then acting. It’s a toss-up which is more tedious to read about, using explosive reps to work the pecs, or getting in touch with inner emotions. If you ever run into Arnold and want to get under his skin, mention his puny calves. He just couldn’t develop them no matter how hard he tried! By contrast, I am blessed with calves so muscular I can’t wear off the rack boots but need wide sizes.
After a comedy appearance with Lucille Ball (Arnold played a masseur), she became like a mother to him and always stuck up for and gave him advice. He feuded with Sylvester Stallone for years and they eventually reconciled. (Note – Brigitte Nielsen first had an affair with Arnold while filming Red Sonja, though he was already involved with Maria. She wanted to continue it back in Los Angeles but he explained that wouldn’t happen, since, again, he was involved with the woman he was going to marry. Brigitte went on to marry and divorce Stallone, though to some she is best known from Celebrity Rehab.) Arnold said Sharon Stone was a sweetheart off the set, but needed a LOT of attention during the filming of Total Recall.
He discovered his political bent while watching a discussion between Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey (as translated by his German-speaking hosts). Humphrey went on about social programs and welfare while Nixon talked about how the people should be free to choose (?). He felt Humphrey sounded “too Austrian” and declared himself a Republican like Nixon. The first time he was a guest of the Kennedys at their compound, one of Maria Shriver’s little brothers immediately told on him to Sargent Shriver: “Daddy, this guy loves Nixon.” Despite that, the Kennedys were extremely gracious to him at all times.
Of course, Arnold successfully became California Governor when Gray Davis was recalled. He didn’t tell Maria until a few days before a decision was due that he was seriously considering entering the election. (You know how you don’t want the wife jabbering at you at home all the time.) He describes the Republicans as wanting to “go for the kill shot” with the Democrats: let the state fail, blame it on the Democrats and then swoop in to save the day and take over. They didn’t much care for how he wanted to try to fix problems instead. In fact, what the Republican party liked best about him was how he was a big fundraising draw due to his celebrity………but his social politics were way too middle of the road for the increasing right wing. He’s pro-choice. Pro-gay marriage. Pro-reasonable gun control. He’s actually for universal health care; he just doesn’t want it to be government-run, single payer. I don’t know exactly what that would look like, but I can see why some people I worked with called him Rhino – Republican In Name Only.
The final chapter of Arnold’s book (well, before he offers life advice) is titled The Secret. It is about Klaus Chavez (not his real name, but how I refer to the son Arnold fathered with the family’s longtime housekeeper). Arnold says he assumed the child was the housekeeper’s husband’s, but of course he didn’t ask. Klaus’ resemblance to Arnold made it apparent at some point. Maria had no doubt figured this out and when they went to a marriage counselor, that was the first question put to him. Arnold and Maria immediately separated and are now heading for divorce, though he is optimistic they can get back together. They have four kids together; one is Democrat, one is Republican, and two are independent/decline to state. Klaus’ political affiliation is currently unknown.