I came in second, on grounds that I was not defined enough, not perfectly developed. I was just the biggest, not the best.
That did a little number on my mind. I went away from the auditorium overwhelmed, crushed. I remember the words that kept going through my head: "I'm away from home, in this strange city, in America, and I'm a loser..." I cried all night because of it. I had disappointed all my friends, everybody, especially myself. It was awful. I felt it was the end of the world.
A woman dared Arnold Schwarzenegger to bare his chest recently, while he was signing bookflaps of his new autobiography in a Midwestern shopping center. I will, if you will, he came back. What started there as an innocuous rib turned into a commercial bonanza. Slipping out of their tops-he as startled as she at the absurdity of the spontaneous burlesque--they earned, at least, attention. The camera flashes went wild, and papers sold like Fenway franks the following day. Schwarzenegger is a Madison Avenue dream, a product who customizes himself for whatever consumer he is dealing with at the time. In the Midwest he pulls off his shirt; in his documentary-movie "Pumping Iron" he likens bodybuilding to 24-hour-a-day orgasms; and during an interview at the Crimson last week the chamelion discussed books on American history.
The Austrian-born Schwarzenegger radiates the ultimate make-out charm. He is confident but not offensive, self-centered but no braggard. He intersperses his jokes with winks and smiles that expose the boyish split between his front teeth. However dubious people may consider his athletic achievements--six Mr. Olympia and five Mr. Universe titles--nobody can call him a bore. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a P.T. Barnum with muscles.
He started lifting weights at 15 in 1963 and he retired in 1975 without any major competitive loses. Schwarzenegger became the greatest bodybuilder of all time, from the start with the admitted ulterior motive of emigrating to America and becoming a movie start propelling him forward. He doesn't talk about his "sport" unless asked: Yes, he did use steroids; No, bodybuilders are generally straight; the gays sit in the audience. It's obvious why he chooses not to dwell on shop talk. The muscle-beach look alone will not sell the man. For Schwarzenegger, it's the personality that sets him above such former Mr. Americas as pro-wrestler Tony "Dino" Marino and comic book huckster Mike Marvel.
Schwarzenegger has been cashing in on his limited fame for the past two years, trying to turn a bizarre physique into a lucrative business. Already he has had several movie parts, opened a mail order business for bodybuilding supplies, and set up a regular series of seminars for others equally eager "to sculpt their bodies." Soon he will be a guest commentator on ABC's Wide World of Sports. To play things safe, as Schwarzenegger says, he does a little real estate biz on the side.
Thie irresistible ne'er do' well, hustling every deal he can get his fingers into, compensates for his unmarketable aspects with a cosmetic personality. When his father dies several years ago he did not go to his funeral because it would have interrupted his training for a contest that would be held two months later. Perhaps he was hostile toward his policeman father who never came to terms with his son's weightlifting fetish. But there's something more, I fear, that was wrong there.
Arnold: The Education of Bodybuilder is a colossal disappointment. It is divided into three parts; the first stringing together simplistic accounts of his competitions. There is no trace of the swagger and sophistication which now make up his act. With his confessions of idolizing Hollywood musclemen and until recently, his inability to appreciate women as anything beyond "sexual tools," one wonders if this book is another one of his dimensions, Schwarzenegger the neanderthal.
The second part of the autobiography is a photographic documentation of the bodybuilder's education: from a husky, crew-cut teen-ager to world champion. The vein-popping, oiled-up poses are worthy of a photo feature in Christopher St. magaizine.
Part three documents training regimen for future he-men, a schedule like any you might find in a respectable weightlifting manual.
Perhaps, despite Schwarzenegger's self-assuredness, it was inevitable that the book would be so poor. Schwarzenegger's talents lie exclusively in pumping iron and charming people; his hack ghostwriter, Douglas Kent Hall, has written only on flabby subjects such as Van People and Rodeo. When Schwarzenegger says it will be a bestseller, "just like the bible," his credibility and smile wear a little thin.
Schwarzenegger knows where the best deals like, his book notwithstanding, and he will soon embark on the first of what he hopes will be a series of films based on the fantasy paperback, Konan, the Barbarian--shades of Johnny Weismuller's Tarzan epics. Despite his typecasting for the role, Schwarzenegger has been taking acting lessons for some time, even though he says he knows how to act. After all, acting is supposed to be natural these days since it has "gotten away from that Shakespearean way, delivering the lines in a weird way."
Like a chess player planning strategies several moves ahead, Schwarzenegger meticulously controls his every move (accepting, of course, his claim that "nobody manages me"). He lives out his credo "you should do anything you have to to be the best." As a weightlifter, this meant doing leg squats until his thighs swelled with blood and he could not walk. Now, he just cultivates his audience, never giving offense, hoping only to amuse and charm.
Asked about his political views, Schwarzenegger returns, "I never comment about that." Asked whether he prefers the East or the West Coast, he says, "Both. I even like the middle of the country." He admits to being a sex symbol but prefers the cutesy People Magazine road to the raw, provocative poses of Playgirl. He won't even say how much money he earns from his deals. "What does it matter?"
The crux of Schwarzenegger's problem is that hard as he tries to pass himself off as one, he is not a hero. O.J. Simpson can endorse sunglasses with a lackluster personality because he has churned out more yardage than anyone else. Broadway Joe Namath was the milltown boy going wild in the big city, but he also had the best arm in professional football. If Schwarzenegger had any of their athletic achievements for his career's foundation, be would outdistance them all. Mark Spitz had the gold medals but was too abrasive, Bruce Jenner has the athletic credibility but little else. Schwarzenegger, the undisputed world champion in his field, is considered a freak, or at best, a novelty.
Even though this act is so obvious, Schwarzenegger is still a "personality." His endorsement of any product will not appreciably increase sales nor will the inclusion of him in a movie have any significant effect at the box office. In what the overly glib Tom Wolfe calls the "me" decade, Schwarzenegger is its personification, turning vanity into a sport, and with luck a bank account. The manager of a hotel in which he was staying during his promotional tour best summed up Schwarzenegger's career: "It's just what Cesear Ritz (founder of the RitzCarlton Hotels) proved a hundred years ago. If you take a well-trimmed piece of beef and serve it with style, you're bound to make a fortune.