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REAL HOLLYWOOD MUSCLE : No Star Makes More Money, Wields More Power or Has More Fun

August 04, 1991|PAUL CIOTTI... | Paul Ciotti is a staff writer for this magazine. His last story was "The Scud That Hit Greensburg."

Jim Pinkerton, a White House policy adviser who knows Schwarzenegger through his work on the fitness council, says he finds it reassuring that Schwarzenegger hangs out with the same friends he had 20 years ago, such as Franco Columbu, now a Los Angeles chiropractor, and Jim Lorimer, a vice president of a Columbus, Ohio, insurance company. "If Arnold wanted," Pinkerton says, "he could have traded (Lorimer) in for some movie-executive type with a sweater around his neck. Most of the times I have seen him, he is with his mother." A widow, she lives in Austria but visits frequently.

During a time when half the country is afraid to say what it really thinks, Schwarzenegger is refreshingly outspoken--he calls fools "low foreheads" and reportedly tells wicked Ted Kennedy jokes. "He has an outrageous sense of humor, unyielding and continuous," Rack says. "When he locks on to something, he can be pretty merciless. He says what everyone else is thinking but is too embarrassed to say out loud."

But there are times when he is not joking. At his wedding, Schwarzenegger took it upon himself to defend Kurt Waldheim as the victim of a bad press, prompting old bodybuilding buddy and writer Rick Wayne to observe in the muscle magazine Flex that Hitler and Idi Amin no doubt had a bad press, too. To Wayne's astonishment, Schwarzenegger was hurt. "He said, 'I don't care what People magazine says. What do you want me to do? Go cursing them out? But you are my friend. I did not expect that crack from you.' "

Schwarzenegger has always been skittish about biographers. When Wayne (now newspaper publisher on the West Indian island of St. Lucia) mentioned that he was thinking of writing a book about him, Schwarzenegger told him he would tie him up in court until he gave up. In his 1990 photo-essay book on Schwarzenegger, George Butler described how Schwarzenegger subtly tried to talk him out of publishing a book of early bodybuilding photographs by offering to have Universal produce Butler's screenplay. Schwarzenegger opposed the book because "Arnold is a control freak," Butler said at the time. "And I'm out of his direct control."

Even when The Times tried to photograph Schwarzenegger for this story, he walked out of the shoot, saying that the plan to photograph him holding hidden lights in his palms, as if he were tapped into some universal power source, was a "stupid idea." Not knowing how the photograph would be captioned made him leery. (He later offered to sit with a more conventional photographer.)

To Wendy Leigh, such things are simply more examples of Schwarzenegger's obsessive need for control. Growing up the son of an authoritarian-minded village police officer, "he had no control at all," she says. "He felt humiliated and abused. So what did he do? He (used bodybuilding to create) a body that would give him control over everybody else. Who needs so much control except someone who is out of control?"

Schwarzenegger admits that he has always been "fascinated by people in control of other people." The only thing that makes him "nervous," he once told Playboy magazine, was "not getting my own way." This, along with Schwarzenegger's obvious interest in politics, has led many people to speculate that he might one day run for public office. If he does, says pollster Pat Caddell, he would make a formidable candidate. "He is a very strong-willed and strong-minded guy. He likes public affairs. He is really down to earth. He relates well to people. He has a love affair with the country. He is smart, articulate. He has a good perspective, drive and sense of self. I just wish he were a Democrat."

AS FOR ME, I'M STILL MYSTIFIED about Schwarzenegger. Although I found him to be a charming, personable, complex and powerful presence, I also saw a sharp edge just beneath the surface and a near-obsessive insistence on controlling his image (the White House asks for his OK before releasing photos of him with President and Barbara Bush). But even people who find him a less than attractive personality find him impossible to overlook.

"He has an astonishing capacity for success in ways that are not objectionable at all," says Time magazine correspondent James Willwerth, who once spent months tracking him down for an interview. "There is nothing wrong with being the kind of movie star that he is, but when you take all that and decide he is a wonderful person as well, then you lose me."

Even allowing for locker room hyperbole, he has expressed some rather astounding opinions. Wayne, who is black, says Schwarzenegger used to argue that if blacks were in charge of South Africa, they'd run it down the tubes. Yet today Schwarzenegger speaks out for tolerance and respect.

On the whole, Wayne says, "there is far more good to be said about Arnold than negative. He did what he had to do to achieve his goals. No American can appreciate what he has done without knowing where he started from in Europe." And you have to give him credit for this: His climb to the top, as single-minded and sweaty as it might have been, was not really about money. "The joy with this guy is simply making it," says Wayne. "He would sit in a Jacuzzi, smoking a cigar, teasing about the surroundings--'Not bad, huh?--as if to say, 'Hey, look where we came from.' "

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