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
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
"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
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 |
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.