"The movie is a 10." That was Arnold Schwarzenegger's brutally candid appraisal of his own new film, "Last Action Hero," delivered to a rapt Sam Rubin on Friday's edition of "The KTLA Morning News."
Schwarzenegger's live, infomercial-style sitting with entertainment reporter Rubin--who at times looked poised to climb up on his subject's lap and purr--was yet another notch in Arnold's media belt, affirming his genius at manipulating opinion about himself and his movies. You had the feeling that if the admiring Rubin could have managed it, he would have bronzed Schwarzenegger on the spot.
Although celebrityhood has always opened doors, no one wields it as artfully as Schwarzenegger. When working the media--particularly the willing television crowd--no one matches his shrewdness. Not first runner-up Madonna. Not overbearing Tom and Roseanne. Not hammy boxing monologuist Don King.
Because of his remarkable ability to charm and flatter his media marks while using them, Schwarzenegger the self-promoter operates in a rare stratosphere. His true brawn is his brain. On some level, reporters surely know when they're being Schwarzeneggered. As if having an out-of body experience, though, they are powerless to stop the seduction. Nor would most want to.
Perhaps more than any other show-biz entrepreneur, Schwarzenegger has X-ray vision into the media's symbiotic soul--understanding the willingness of many to surrender themselves, for example, in exchange for a few moments of "good TV." In Schwarzenegger's case, this means TV people getting a fame rub-off from one of the most popular and charismatic figures on the globe.
Earlier last week, Schwarzenegger granted KNBC-TV Channel 4 movie critic David Sheehan an audience along with an advance screening of "Last Action Hero." Sheehan's pal-to-pal musings with Arnold about the movie aired on the Channel 4 news. And, predictably, so did the rave review.
Schwarzenegger has been running this con for years. And Friday it was Rubin who was summoned, as he and Conan the Cajoler had a televised breakfast together at Arnold's own restaurant, whose name was prominently bannered for the camera. Aired live in two parts, during the 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. segments, the verbal combat was blood-curdling.
"You have a great personality," Schwarzenegger snarled at Rubin.
Rubin angrily countered by naming some of the Fabulous Big Names who were set to appear at Sunday's Westwood premiere of "Last Action Hero."
"I think it will be a spectacular," Schwarzenegger stubbornly argued.
"You seem to establish a connection with your fans," Rubin viciously shot back.
"It's really the fans who lift you to this pedestal," Schwarzenegger blasted. Before Rubin could recover from the ferocity of this counterattack, Arnold added, "This is the best movie I've ever done."
Whoa! No wonder viewers complain about excessive violence on television. Only the ceremonial exchange of peace offerings remained, with Schwarzenegger giving Rubin a "Last Action Hero" cap and T-shirt, and Rubin presenting Arnold a cap bearing the title of a coming Channel 5 series.
Cut to the KTLA studio, where anchors Barbara Beck and Carlos Amezcua displayed their own "Last Action Hero" hats and T-shirts, especially appropriate attire for Amezcua, who has a cameo role in the movie.
"The KTLA Morning News" personalities can be a very funny, refreshingly unpompous bunch. But their smart-alecky irreverence and self-effacement are often a device to euphemize their own show's puffery and self-adulation, as if making fun of what they do somehow \o7 hides\f7 what they do. It doesn't.
Earlier in the breakfast, Rubin praised the way Schwarzenegger cut his food. He handed his own omelet to the actor, who promptly cut it for him. "Do you want me to feed you too?" Schwarzenegger asked.
No, Arnold, you'd already done that.
KATIE AND HILLARY: She repeatedly called Hillary Rodham Clinton "Hillary," as if they were best pals. And, predictably, there were all those group shots of interviewer and interviewee, blurring the line between the journalist and her subject. But if the First Lady was good Thursday night--and, boy, was she ever--so was Katie Couric, the "Today" First Lady who interviewed her.
The occasion was NBC's prime-time hour on Hillary Clinton, anchored and reported by Couric. Highly articulate and smooth without being glossy, Clinton proved she had the gift. And so did Couric, despite too often injecting herself into the hour and failing to ask the First Lady about the recent White House debacle over her old friend, C. Lani Guinier.
What Couric did do, though, was otherwise ask moderately tough questions of Hillary Clinton, even occasionally pressing the First Lady to be more specific. Couric was pugnacious without being shrill, and much less of a puppy dog with the First Lady than Tom Brokaw was recently during his hour at the side of the President.