The National, Monday, May 23, 2011
THERE is nothing ordinary about Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Champion bodybuilder; blockbuster film actor: a married-in (for now) member of the Kennedy family; recent governor of the most populous state of the most powerful nation on earth; and, an Austrian immigrant, to top it all off.
Now, the extraordinary man known for outsized achievements was, perhaps, at the biggest crossroads of his life following the revelation that he fathered a child with his family’s housekeeper of 20 years, analysts said.
Everything seems on the line: His marriage, his acting career and his post-governorship ambition to become a sort of statesman.
Can the man known for superhuman accomplishments pull himself out of a self-made mess worthy of Hercules’ Twelve Labours?
“This is not a positive, extraordinary moment,” Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a senior fellow at the University of Southern California’s school of policy, planning and development, who has closely followed Schwarzenegger’s career, especially as governor, said.
“I believe from day one that what he will do, with his post-governorship, is model it after the post-presidency – ironically – of Bill Clinton,” who formed a foundation, promoted international causes, served as a diplomat and even negotiated the release of American journalists from North Korea, Jeffe said.
“But, Schwarzenegger is radioactive right now,” Jeffe continued.
“When Clinton began, he was (several) years away from the Monica Lewinsky and the impeachment situation. So, there has been a bit of time between when he was able to reshape his image.
“I don’t see Arnold being able to put together that agenda at this time. Can you imagine him being now received by Elizabeth II, or anyone else for that matter?
“I don’t think that is going to work for a while,” Jeffe added.
When Schwarzenegger left the governor’s office last year because of term limits, his ratings were at a historic low, 22%, matching Democratic predecessor Gray Davis’ ratings just before a recall election ejected Davis from office, according to a field poll. That rating equalled the lowest ever given to a sitting governor in the more than 50 years that the field poll has been surveying the public.
Jeffe said Schwarzenegger’s woes grew from the state’s staggering deficit, despite his pledge to straighten out the finances.
Meanwhile Schwarzenegger, 63, has been forced to also place his movie comeback on hold.
Plans have also been halted to produce The Governator, a children’s comic book and TV show based on Schwarzenegger’s life. The title is a play on his successful Terminator films.
Hollywood media expert Michael Levine, a publicist who had represented 58 Oscar winners, called the Schwarzenegger love child revelation as “the most outrageous Hollywood scandal since the Woody Allen controversy in 1992”, when Allen, then in his mid-50s, declared he was having an affair with 21-year-old Soon-Yi Previn, the adopted daughter of his longtime partner, Mia Farrow.
Allen and Previn married in 1997.
“He was a terrible governor. Not mediocre. Terrible,” Levine said. “Politics: dead. Over. Forget it.
“Now, Hollywood, he can try over a period of time to redeem his career, but I think that is going to be very difficult because he is an action star and he is aging and, generally, Americans like their action stars younger,” Levine said.
Female filmgoers were now going to have trouble with Schwarzenegger, he added.
“I don’t think what has happened to Schwarzenegger is a crowd pleaser to women.”
Yet, Levine acknowledged how unpredictable Hollywood can be.
“History has not been kind to people who have underestimated Schwarzenegger,” he said.
“Prophecy is dubious business.”
On the home front in Los Angeles, he and Maria Shriver, 55, have put their marriage of 25 years on ice and have separated.
They have four children together, and one of them had shown signs of distress by changing his last name to Shriver on his Twitter account.
Complicating his family relationships is the love child, a boy who is now 13 and was born less than a week after Shriver gave birth to their youngest child, another son, Christopher.
“This is a man who reinvented himself so many times,” Wendy Walsh, an author and psychology expert who holds a doctorate in the field, said.
“I don’t think he will ever have back the family in the way he had them.
“ If he comes out of the other side of this and, if he uses this crisis to grow, he will be a different person.”
His relationship with his children – now five, not four – would be challenging, Walsh said.
“The question is how trustful will they be and how forgiving they will be – for all five,” including the love child, Walsh said.
“Now there is a kid who is traumatised, the youngest one living in suburban Bakersfield (California), living away from his half-siblings.
“For the rest of his life, he is going to watch his half-siblings live in mansions,” she said.
Less secretive, better relationships, a more authentic self – these are some remedies that Schwarzenegger needs to pursue.
“He’s got a pile of money on his hands and a lot of time. What is he going to do with it?” Walsh asked.
“And, he basically needs to keep his pants zipped for a couple of decades.
“And, then, people will go and pay to see his movies.” – CNN