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Legends in Love : They're icons, screen stars, political heroes. But they fall heads over heels just like the rest of us. Here are four tales of courtship and conjugal bliss, from the book 'Marry Me.' : Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger

February 14, 1996|Reprinted by permission from "Marry Me! Courtships and Proposals of Legendary Couples." Copyright 1994 by Wendy Goldberg and Betty Goodwin. First published in 1994 by Angel City Press, Santa Monica; paperback, 1996, Fireside Books, a division of Simon & Schuster

Married April 26, 1986

They met in 1977, before the term "power couple" was coined. But if ever there was a couple with power, it is broadcast journalist Maria Shriver and international film star Arnold Schwarzenegger.

At 21, Maria had recently graduated from Georgetown University. She already had a clear direction in which she wanted to take her life--a career in news reporting--and was enrolled in the Westinghouse broadcast-training program. Part of the large, close-knit Kennedy family, Maria had joined the clan at the Robert F. Kennedy Pro-Celebrity Tennis Tournament in Forest Hills, N.Y., held annually in honor of her late uncle.

Maria's brother, Bobby, had invited Arnold, 30, to compete though he wasn't a tennis player. The Austrian native was a bodybuilder whose Mr. Olympia competition was the subject of the critically acclaimed 1977 documentary film "Pumping Iron." Arnold had become a contender for Hollywood-hero status when he made his acting debut in "Stay Hungry" (1976).

Maria had been introduced to Arnold by news anchor Tom Brokaw at a party the night before the tournament, but it wasn't until she saw him on the court that she truly took notice. Arnold and former football star Rosey Grier were hopelessly losing a doubles game to a pair of 10-year-olds when they removed their shirts and vamped for the crowd.

"Your daughter has a great body," Arnold told Maria's mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, that day. He's funny, Maria thought. And gutsy.

Everyone around them sensed the instant chemistry.

That afternoon, Maria impulsively invited Arnold to join her family at their house near the Kennedys' legendary compound in Hyannis Port, Mass. As her brother remarked, "Maria had never met a guy and brought him to the Cape that fast."

Eunice, who started the Special Olympics, and Sargent Shriver, the first Peace Corps director and former ambassador to France, were extremely protective of Maria when she was growing up. They kept an eye on whom she dated and made sure of her whereabouts. Before she met Arnold, she had had only two other serious boyfriends. Although Arnold was altogether unlike any of Maria's other beaux, he was funny and natural and immediately impressed Maria's parents.

"I was pretty sure when I met him that I would marry him," said Maria. "I admired his independence, his focus, his drive, his humor. I thought I would have a challenging life with him. Not an easy life, but an interesting one."

Arnold saw Maria as someone who could be an equal partner. "It's a big advantage to be with someone who is smart," he explained. "She's not afraid to express her opinion, even though it's not always what I want to hear. I have enough people around who are yes-people. That's the last thing I need in a wife."

*

The couple began dating as Maria was working her way up the TV-news ladder, first as a segment producer and eventually as an on-camera reporter. Her big break was a reporting slot for CBS News.

Maria wanted to develop her own identity, professionally and personally, before she married. She had set a goal of becoming a network anchor by age 30. In no hurry to settle down, she would think about marriage then too. After all, her mother was over 30 when she married. Maria idolized Eunice and had always wanted a marriage as strong and lasting as that of her parents. In 1985, a year ahead of schedule, Maria won the anchor assignment on the "CBS Morning News."

Arnold was equally determined to succeed. In 1982, he starred in "Conan the Barbarian," an enormous success, followed by a sequel, "Conan the Destroyer." Two years later, his phenomenally popular film "The Terminator" thrust him into the role of superstar.

Arnold became an American citizen in 1983, and soon after gained recognition and respect for the active role he took on behalf of the Republican party. Maria, the niece of President John F. Kennedy, was a liberal Democrat. They learned to accept each other's political positions. "The thing people don't understand is that he grew up in a socialist country," says Maria. In America, she adds, "it's natural for immigrants to come wanting government out of their lives. That's why so many become Republicans."

In the summer of 1985, Arnold took Maria home with him to Thal, Austria. While they were in a rowboat on the lake where Arnold swam as a child, he asked her to be his wife.

"Are you serious?" asked Maria.

Arnold presented her with a diamond engagement ring. He was serious. "We'd been together eight years, so naturally I said, 'Yes!' " recalled Maria.

*

The following spring, the couple's friends and families gathered at the compound in Hyannis Port for the nuptials. The day before the wedding, Maria's cousin and maid of honor Caroline Kennedy (who would marry Edwin Schlossberg three months later) hosted a luncheon at her mother Jacqueline Onassis' cottage. Thirty guests were served New England clam chowder and kept the soup mugs, which were inscribed "Maria and Arnold, April 25, 1986, Chowderheads."

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