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That swinging Schwarzenegger.

If you have any lingering doubts about who has won the cultural war in America in 2003, consider this: Our born-again president is celebrating the election of a new California governor (married to a Kennedy), who bragged about smoking "grass and hash" and gang-bragging a black woman in Gold's Gym in Venice, Calif.

("Everybody jumped on her and took her upstairs, where we all got together"), who explained that "the cock isn't a muscle.... You can't make it bigger through exercise, that's for sure," and who felt like "King Kong" when he won the Mr. Olympia content because "we had girls backstage giving head."

All of these quotes are from Arnold Sehwarzenegger's 1977 Oui interview, the substance of which (minus most of the graphic quotes) was transmitted to California voters by the mainstream media weeks before the recall election. It &so included Arnold's memory of a picture he had in his head when he was 15, which is now frighteningly close to coming true: "I had a vision of absolutely wiping everybody off the stage." For all those who doubted the durability of 1960s values, it only took an Austrian muscle builder turned movie actor to certify their longevity at the polls.

Arnold's election is the first event to give genuine substance to the Log Cabin Republicans' contention that there is room for everyone in the Grand Old Party. "Everybody decided that this stuff just wasn't relevant," a senior California political reporter explained to me. Lou Sheldon, chairman of the far-right Traditional Values Coalition, was practically the only pontificator to say that he was offended. But does anyone believe that the Republican National Committee, Rush Limbaugh, and the rest of the right-wing attack machine would have been just as nonchalant if any of those quotes had been attributed to the leading Democratic candidate for governor'? (By the way, if you want to celebrate the return of America's best loved ex-drug addict to the airwaves, you can go to Limbaugh's Web site right now and show yore' support by buying the official Rush Limbaugh Wellington Micro Bomber Jacket. It's white! It's "imbued with mythic qualities." It's made of polyester. And it's only $89.95.)

Exit polls suggest that the last-minute revelations of Arnold's routine groping of fellow female workers on most of the movie sets he ever worked on did affect the decisions of some of those who waited until the last weekend before the election to decide whom to vote for but he still won by a staggering margin of almost 1.5 million votes. Isn't anyone in California old enough to remember what happened the last time they sent a B-movie actor to Sacramento?

But at least Arnold is gay-friendly. Well, sort of. By Republican standards, anyway. In 1977 he said he had "absolutely no hang-ups about the fag business" because "gay people are fighting the same kind of stereotyping that bodybuilders are: People have certain misconceptions about them just as they do about us." Now the Los Angeles Times says he's for gay adoptions but against gay marriage, while the San Francisco Chronicle says he opposed the domestic-partnership bill that Gray Davis signed into law weeks before the recall election. (Incidentally, this new law hasn't gotten nearly as much attention as it deserves: It essentially makes the largest slate in the nation as gay-friendly as Vermont.) Unfortunately, Arnold's transition committee was chaired by David Dreier, an extreme right wing Republican congressman, who has an improbably low 17% approval rating from the Human Rights Campaign.

Because Arnold is a genuine international movie star--and because France, whatever its eccentricities, is not in the habit of electing the stars of second-rate action movies to senior political positions--Arnold got much more coverage in the French press than the typical candidate for governor in California. Because he had novelty value. But surely that is also why he is such a smash in California.

It's so much more entertaining to have an actor as governor than a gray career hack like Gray Davis. And one thing is certain: People move to California because they I crave entertainment.
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Title Annotation:last word
Author:Kaiser, Charles
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Date:Jan 20, 2004
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