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The girl who can't escape Arnie

Last Updated: 12:01am BST 02/10/2003
Page 1 of 3

Barbara Outland Baker's gauche, body-builder boyfriend told her that, one day, he was going to be Governor of California . . . She talks to Oliver Poole

In California this week, there is only one show worth watching and, for once, it's not a new production from Hollywood. Open the mail and there is the Nietzschean promo picture chosen to front the campaign poster, delivered to your door. Switch on the television and there he is, talking to Oprah or Larry King. Turn on the radio and what are the shock jocks talking about? Nothing but whether the Terminator is going to be the Governator.

Turn off: Baker used to be shamed by Arnie's bizarre appearance

Even the other candidates are obsessed. Never mind the budget deficit or electricity shortfalls, there is only one subject they really want to talk about and that is Arnie: Arnie the racist, Arnie the sexist, Arnie the guy the incumbent governor thinks you shouldn't vote for because he still can't speak English without an Austrian accent (a statement for which, in this immigrant state, he quickly apologised).

As Barbara Outland Baker knows, Schwarzenegger's command of English has been remarked upon ever since he arrived in America "with nothing just big dreams". She became his girlfriend in 1969, when he had just a few body-building titles to his name and a stint of national service as a tank driver in the Austrian army behind him. When they split up, in 1975, he was the best-known body-builder in the world, had repeatedly won Mr Universe and, with Pumping Iron, had taken the first steps to movie stardom.

Baker, now an English professor at a community college in California, pulls out her photograph albums. The pictures have that faded colour typical of early Seventies photographs, the sepia yellows and blues seeming to blur into each other. My host, then in her early twenties, poses in front of a Christmas tree, her arms stretching to surround the torso of a goofy-looking youth, his hair falling forward in a misjudged wave, his ears sticking out, his muscles bulging from a matching bright blue shirt and trousers.

"That was the thing about Arnold," Baker says. "He did use to wear that pitiful little European clothing. Polyester pants and pointy shirts and those awful 'under' T-shirts. It was an embarrassment to me at the time."


"At first, he could barely speak more than 200 words of English. My girlfriends, with their lawyer and doctor husbands, frowned on him. But I would get Arnold's bias: 'What do they know, they are just traditional,' he said. 'I am going to be famous beyond anything they know.' And I bought it, because he knew."

This was probably the last time that Schwarzenegger lived what any of us would recognise as a normal life. He and Baker shared a small apartment in Santa Monica for three-and-a- half years. They cooked barbecues in the back yard and spent days on the beach because they had no money to go anywhere more fancy.

"Arnold had only been in America for six to eight months when I first met him," Baker says. "He had poor table manners and had little understanding of polite society. When I first met him, I found him a turn-off. It was humiliating to be seen with him in public. He was just so bizarre looking.

"I was from a wealthy, conservative background. How could I be seeing someone with all those creepy muscles?"

Their first date was on the night of the Apollo moon landing. She has a photograph of Arnie standing in front of a black-and-white television showing a hazy picture of Neil Armstrong. He was 22 and she was 21, doing a summer job at a deli that he frequented.

"He was interesting. He had this incredible focus and that was very stimulating. He's as much a self-made man as it's possible to be - he never got encouragement from his parents, his family, his brother. He just had this huge determination to prove himself, and that was very attractive.

"There was a chemistry there, but he had chemistry with lots of women. They fell on him. But I didn't. I was an old-fashioned, virginal schoolgirl. I was 'no, no, no', and I think it was the challenge that grabbed him. That and, I believe, my intelligence."

Baker went back to college in San Diego and Schwarzenegger went to work in New York, but they met again later that autumn. "I could see there was a completely different perspective and presence and appreciation of who I was. I thought, this is going to be the man I'm going to marry, so, if not on my wedding night, why not now? Then we proceeded to be together for almost six years. I'll go to my grave knowing Arnold loved me."

Barbara Outland Baker: 'He was someone with so much focus, nothing could get in
his way'

Baker refers insistently to Schwarzenegger's lack of polish at that time. She taught him English and table manners. She found clothes for him and took him to her family home where, for the first time, he mingled with the American rich - successful accountants, lawyers and businessmen who, while they patronised him at first, were left in no doubt about the ambition of the man who would become the world's highest-paid film star.

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