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Politics Aside, Sacramento Gets Into a Party Mood

November 18, 2003|Jenifer Warren | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger starred Monday in a glitzy and historic inauguration that was part political debut, part Hollywood premiere.

Although only 7,500 handpicked guests -- and several hundred journalists from around the world -- had passes to witness the event up close, hundreds of other Californians massed on the Capitol's western flank, some crushing up against a chain-link security fence, some gathering half a football field away to watch the ceremony on a giant screen.

By the start of the program, the crowd on the sidewalks was five deep. Fathers hoisted children on their shoulders. Some onlookers climbed trees. Others griped about being stuck in the cheap seats, far from the action.

Samantha Guzman, 43, hopped a bus downtown to catch the show. "If I can just hear his voice from here, I'll be happy," Guzman said, hovering outside the security barrier. "I already saw him drive by in his limousine. He rolled down the window, waved and gave me that gorgeous smile."

At least she could hear the music, an eclectic program that mixed mariachis with Japanese taiko drumming and orchestra tunes from the "Sound of Music."

Precisely on schedule, the Schwarzeneggers took the stage beneath a large white canopy at 11 a.m. The governor, well-tanned as usual, wore a gray Prada suit and blinding white shirt. His wife, Maria Shriver, wore a cream-colored Valentino ensemble.

Schwarzenegger's in-laws, Sargent and Eunice Shriver -- members of the famed Kennedy political clan -- were also on hand, as were the Schwarzeneggers' impeccably groomed and rarely seen children, Christopher, 6; Patrick, 10; Christina, 12; and Katherine, 13.

Christopher, with blond, shoulder-length hair and a dark blue blazer and tie, proved that life as a politician's child can be challenging. Throughout the program, he alternately squirmed, yawned, stretched and puffed his cheeks in and out, though he did become briefly enthralled with the interpreter translating for the deaf.

Monday had dawned gray and misty in Sacramento, sending panic through the hearts of inauguration organizers fearful of rain. By late morning, however, a patch of blue sky had opened above the Capitol, providing a bright overhang to the day's prime event -- the oath of office.

At 11:20 a.m., Schwarzenegger stepped forward on the dais and placed his hand on a 1911 Bible he had purchased shortly after immigrating to the United States. Standing ramrod straight, he was sworn in as the state's 38th governor by Chief Justice Ronald M. George. As Gov. Schwarzenegger delivered a 12-minute speech, scores of state government Web sites replaced the photograph of his ousted predecessor, Gray Davis, with a picture of the new man in charge.

And with that, the transition was complete.

After the ceremony, the new governor began what could be called the "let's do lunch tour," stopping in at three consecutive feasts, each featuring strudel and other temptations reflecting Schwarzenegger's homeland of Austria.

At the first, with legislators and other statewide elected officials in the Capitol rotunda, Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson (D-Culver City) offered a comedic greeting that played off Schwarzenegger's movies.

"You know, governor," quipped Wesson, "this is the first time I've been asked to give a toast to a Republican governor. And I have forgotten what I'm supposed to say. So I hope in a short period of time, I will have 'total recall.' "

With guests raising glasses filled with Evian water, Wesson then offered a native Austrian toast -- "Zum Wohl," or "to your health."

After offerings of roasted chicken with mango salsa, Yukon potato souffle and fire-seared eggplant fritter, the governor was hustled off to his next celebration, at Sacramento's venerable Sutter Club. There, a dozen California Highway Patrol officers stood beside a burgundy awning, shooing away reporters to clear a path for celebrities, wealthy donors, Schwarzenegger family members and politicians.

When a voice from the crowd -- a voice belonging to Linda Mahawk, a blues singer from Dixon -- piped up, "Oh, my God, he's going to walk right by us," onlookers craned their necks to see. It wasn't Schwarzenegger, but a friend, actor Rob Lowe.

Lowe was followed by former Gov. Pete Wilson and a stream of celebrities, each of whom sent the entertainment press into a frenzy. "Tia!" they yelled at Tia Carrera. "Over here! This way!"

Actor Tom Arnold was one of only a few celebrities who paused to offer thoughts on their pal's first day as governor: "He was a little emotional," Arnold said, "he was almost sweating. I didn't know a terminator could sweat."

Shortly after 1 p.m., the new First Couple showed up, arriving in a fleet of four SUVs with a CHP escort. Schwarzenegger headed promptly for the door, but Shriver stopped to answer a question from an Access Hollywood reporter: How did it feel looking out on that crowd?

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