Arnold's True Lies

Article excerpt

Byline: Laurence Leamer

Schwarzenegger's new autobiography, and the secrets behind his love child and the end of his marriage.

Arnold Schwarzenegger never does anything small: muscles, movies, extramarital affairs. And with his steroidal forthcoming autobiography, Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story, heavily embargoed until its Oct. 1 release and his appearance on 60 Minutes planned for the prior night, he is shouting out not "I'll be back," but "I am back."

Unfortunately, there are few of his old friends who agree with him. The fallout from his impending divorce from Maria Shriver, with the sordid revelations that he fathered a child with their longtime housekeeper, has dealt the former California governor a body blow no amount of hours in the gym can fix. "Arnold is up there by himself in his mansion all alone with his pictures and souvenirs of a career," says one of his old friends. "He's like Citizen Kane."

A master at marketing and PR, however, Arnold is promoting the book with a publicity blitz as calibrated as any political campaign. A few weeks ago, the former governor agreed to meet me for lunch, on the condition that I not quote directly from anything he said until after the 60 Minutes episode airs.

Those who have read his book tell me that by calling his tome Total Recall, Arnold intends for the first and last time to tell the story of the paternity scandal that brought him down and made his name a symbol for sexual betrayal. He apparently believes that the world will let him tell his tale his own way and then allow him to go on with his "unbelievably true life story."

But in returning to Hollywood as a senior citizen (the 65-year-old made a cameo appearance as a long-in-the-tooth action hero in this summer's The Expendables 2), Schwarzenegger is trying to resurrect his career at an age when his contemporaries have long stopped hoping to land starring roles. He is also attempting his comeback without the help of Shriver, his wife of 26 years, who stood by him through numerous accusations of infidelity, until she could no longer ignore the obvious. Friends and Kennedy family I spoke to for this article told me that even after separating from her husband when he confessed to the affair with the housekeeper, Maria asked Arnold to go to therapy with her to try to work out their problems. He was willing to go once, but refused to return--despite the fact that it would cost him his marriage, members of her circle say.

Shriver is watching the building spectacle over Total Recall with apprehension and disbelief. The daughter of Sargent and Eunice Shriver, sister of JFK, Maria was brought up with a sense of public decorum. She doesn't know why Schwarzenegger has to write this book now and talk about his affair with their housekeeper, offering up revelations that will only hurt their four children, her friends and family say. She doesn't understand why Arnold would use literally anything, even the most painful details, to climb back into the public spotlight. As recently as a few weeks ago, he had given her no idea about the contents of the book.

But that may have been too much to expect from the man who, according to one family member I spoke to, angrily declared when Shriver asked for a divorce: "I have the money, the power, and the plane, and I will have the friends."

I hadn't seen Schwarzenegger since 2004, when I was researching a biography about him, Fantastic. As I greeted him at Caffe Roma in Beverly Hills, I saw a man who appears a diminutive, action-toy version of the movie and bodybuilding Arnold. He is devoid of his once-bulging muscles, and his face looks as if a master taxidermist has been at work. In the '80s, you would often find Schwarzenegger at his special table in the back of the restaurant, schmoozing with his bodybuilding buddies, smoking a stogie and commenting authoritatively on the breasts and buttocks of women who walked by. …