Der Vild, Vild Vest!

Arnold Rides In With His Own Brand of Machine

An ultraslick pro, he's made some canny moves in recent years, from selling his way out of the faltering Planet Hollywood chain (but not so quickly that it looked ungrateful) to agreeing with Warner Brothers that Collateral Damage's release should be postponed because of the untimely terrorist-bomb plotline. (Alas, it did come out eventually. Talk about a bombplot!) And in the last week, he's savvily used movieland references to cash in on his iconic stature, presenting himself as a Capraesque man of the people and paraphrasing Networkto squeal, "We're mad as hell and we're not gonna take it anymore!" He's even parroted his own movie sayings, scaring those of us who live in dread of a campaign fully waged in catchphrases.

Thankfully, gay makes his day. Arnold's been progressive on queer issues and has even promoted gay adoption, so the second he threw his barbell into the ring, Andrew Sullivan blogged, "Yay! A pro-gay, pro-choice, hard-ass Republican! An eagle has landed. Now let him soar." (He's certainly Sullivan's physical type.) Still, cinephiles remember Arnold making some gay-panic-style remarks about bodybuilding in the '77 documentary Pumping Iron, and in '92, he was targeted by the activist group Queer Nation for saying at a Bush the Elder campaign rally, "I watched the debate and [the Democrats] all looked like a bunch of girlie men." (In response, Queer Nation called Arnold a "bigot" who was fueling "the anti-gay agenda of the Bush/Quayle campaign.")

Adding to the complicated sexual stew, Spy magazine had reported that Arnold once posed for gay nude photos, just for starters, which certainly makes the bigot much more interesting. What's more, gay commentator Rex Wockner reminds me that the comedy series In Living Color mockingly outed Arnold in a 1990 sketch. Reviewing Total Recall, one of the show's flaming critic characters shrieked, "Yes, this is the movie where muscle-bound Arnold Schwarzenegger goes in search of his past. Just a hint, Arnold: Try lookin' in the closet." Asked by a tabloid at the time if Arnold's gay, his rep shot back, "Absurd!" Sounds right; in fact, a source tells me that when he saw Arnold standing in a hotel hallway in the '70s, the budding star explained, "My buddy and I picked up a girl and I'm waiting for my turn again."

California gold rush (from left): Mary Carey, Arnold, Gary Coleman, and Gallagher ride to center square
illustration: Nathan Fox
California gold rush (from left): Mary Carey, Arnold, Gary Coleman, and Gallagher ride to center square

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That's so Arnold! He's such a chiseled monument to the straight-guy sensibility that he can even saunter naked into a bar to demand a leather outfit from a girlie man in T3 and not everyone smirks. And though co-star Claire Danes suggested to the press that the Terminator is a gay icon, Arnold corrected, "He's just an icon, period." (Again, a cautious, crafty reply.)

Meanwhile, Gray Davis, an icon to none, will supposedly fling major mud Arnold's way, and it'll no doubt be of the "groping letch" variety. (Dick Morris is suggesting that the Dems already have some whopper ready and that things will get uglier than the Liza divorce.) At least they can't get Arnie on the Nazi-daddy thing; Arnold famously skipped Pops's funeral for a bodybuilding competition—another smart career move. And luckily for the guy, many onlookers are throwing bouquets instead of dirt. Hollywood entertainment journalist Jeanne Wolf, who considers herself a friend, gushes, "Arnold has great discipline and focus." But no experience! "We don't live in a world that demands exact experience anymore," reminds Wolf. "We live in a world where you take your experiences and use them in a new way. People are sick of the politicians with ingrained experience." True, and giving another boost to Arnold's so-far viewpointless campaign, it's also a world of unprecedented celebrity entitlement and presence, even in punditry. (Janeane Garofalo and M*A*S*H's Mike Farrell were way more visible during the Iraq invasion than Halliburton's Dick Cheney.) With their seemingly boundless influence and demands, celebs rule our country anyway.

"I think it's a joke," counters Gotham-based Schaefer. "What are his qualifications? Isn't it a little strange to see someone who dyes his hair red run for public office? He's an actor. It's all about appearances." Yeah, but at least talk shows won't have to be interrupted for Arnold's press conferences; they'll include them.


Related Articles:

"The Fringe on Top: Extremists Help the GOP Muscle In on the Golden State" by Rick Perlstein

"Mondo Washington: In Arnold's Shadow, Dean Could Strengthen Lead" by James Ridgeway

"Shlock 'N' Roll: Sources Confirm Schwarzenegger Candidacy Really Just an Elaborate Joke." A cartoon by Ward Sutton

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