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Arnold Mein Governor!

What makes the Schwarzenegger campaign tick? To find out, our writer runs away to join the circus.

By Harmon Leon

Some say science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard started Scientology to win a bet he made with friends. That's my theory on the genesis of the Arnold for Governor campaign. Is it vastly wrong that a big, arrogant Austrian bodybuilder/ action star wants to lead our state as a puppet representative (he's good at memorizing lines) for the Bush/Cheney Republican party? Sure Arrrrrrnold moans on about the children ("We have to do it for the children," etc.) and is a great cheerleader, but what the hell does he stand for besides wanting to bring California back (or baaaaaack)?

Then again, in Terminator, Arrrrrrnold only uttered 18 lines, and look how successful that movie was! Can most people, star-struck, discern movie-Arnold from political-Arnold in the decision about who will be leader of the fifth-largest economy on the planet? What Mickey Mouse is to the Disney Corporation, Arrrrrrnold is to the Republican party: a cute, child-friendly mascot.

Maybe I'm wrong (I could be wrong?), so I decided to venture to L.A., go undercover and become a volunteer at the Arnold Schwarzenegger for Governor campaign headquarters.

Yes, I wanted to look past the political circus sideshow and, I hoped, see qualities reminiscent of a young, idealistic Jack Kennedy--WHO COULD SQUASH YOUR HEAD LIKE A GRAPE!

Please, don't hate Arrrrrrnold because he's beautiful!

ARRRRRRNOLD FUN FACT: Did you know Arnold underwent a genioplasty--a procedure in which his jaw was been moved back so it no longer juts out? Way to go, Arrrrrrnold!

Preparation

In order to fit in fully undercover, I'm going by the pseudonym John Kimble (Arnold's character in the movie classic Kindergarten Cop, since I figure Arnold got his stand on education from making that movie). As John Kimble, I'll compensate for my lack of political knowledge by demonstrating a vast scholarship of Arnold movie trivia. I'll also adopt the famous Terminator catchphrase "I'll be baaaaaack!"

After filling out an information form on the Join Arnold website, I receive an email giving the impression that Arnold himself personally wrote it!

Dear John,

Thank you for signing up to volunteer with Californians for Schwarzenegger. Together, we will bring California back!

There is an enormous disconnect between the people of California and the politicians of California. We the people, are doing our job--working hard, paying our taxes and raising our families. They, the politicians, are not doing their job. They fiddle, they fumble, and they fail. It is time to return California to the people.

We will keep you apprised of ways in which you can help with this campaign. Again thank you for joining the team.

Sincerely,
Arnold Schwarzenegger

I imagine Arnold lumbering over a keyboard, big sausagelike fingers punishing the keys. After reading and rereading the "fiddle, fumble and fail" line, I push reply:

Hey, Arnold!

Thanks for emailing me back! Wow! I can't believe it's you!

No problem, I'd love to help you out, buddy. By the way, I really like your movies. I've seen Terminator over 23 times.

Hey, I got an idea, let's say HASTA LA VISTA, BABY to Gray Davis! You can use that in one of your speeches if you want.

Your pal forever,
John Kimble

I'm giggling--actually giggling like a schoolgirl with a silly crush--when I get my first sight of the Arnold for Governor headquarters in Santa Monica.

"You've stolen my identity!" mocks a delighted homeless man out front, spouting a line from an Arnold movie where one's identity was stolen. He notes the huge (or huuuuuuge) banner in the window that depicts Arnold perched in front of the American flag, pointing as if to say, "I am Arrrrrrnold!" But which Arnold is it? Collateral Damage Arnold? Running Man Arnold? Predator Arnold?

If the outside of the building conjures giddiness, the inside does so even more. In the world of Arrrrrrnold, everything is big: big balloons, big American flags, big, big, big! Large pictures of Arnold with children ("We have to do it for the children!") are scattered along the walls. In one picture, Arnold hovers over a child playing chess ("You are playing a game that totally screwwwwwws with my mind!"). In another, he's hunched over a child typing on a computer ("In Terminator, I was a T-800 much like a compuuuuuuter!"). The only thing missing is a massive close-up of Arnold's flexed biceps.

I approach a man moving a table. He is large, but in a soft, oversized-baby sort of way. For some reason, this man's eyebrows are singed off (did Arnold do that?). He is a Republican campaign specialist brought in especially from Ohio to whip the Arrrnold headquarters into shape.

I ask the man who is large (but in a big baby sort of way), if I, John Kimble, can be an Arnold Schwarzenegger for Governor campaign volunteer.

"This is the first election I've ever been excited about," I state, then add, "I've seen T2 over 23 times!"

"What do you do for a living, John?" he asks with a fixed grin that hides stress. His goofy demeanor makes me think it's his first time outside of Ohio.

"I'm a kindergarten teacher," I proclaim, then add, "but I also work in law enforcement!"

He fails to get the reference, leaving me to doubt his competence as a Schwarzenegger specialist. I'm told to come back tomorrow at noon to help get the campaign headquarters ready for the big rally featuring, you guessed it, Arrrrrrnold!

Making an excited face, I add, "OK! [pause] I'll be baaaaaack!"

ARRRRRRNOLD FUN FACT: Did you know Arnold objects to his wife, Maria (a Kennedy), wearing trousers? Way to go, Arrrrrrnold!

Game Day

Noon. The place is bustling. Bustling and extremely hot. Several large TVs blare Arrrrrrnold speech clips: "This is a takeover by the people! I want to be the people's governor!"

I've returned wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with Arnold as the Terminator holding a large gun. Earlier, as I stood in line at a coffee shop, I judged by peoples' reactions that Arrrrrrnold's Terminator image has now taken on a political significance, in the same manner as, say, images of Che Guevara.

I'm hoping other Hollywood celebrities will be on hand as volunteers: Steven Seagal blowing up balloons, Ned Beatty making coffee. Rob Lowe, suffering mild megalomania, has already offered his services as a political adviser ("When I'm on a movie set, I want to know who the director is!").

Activity at headquarters centers around placement of red, white and blue balloons by a large group of men who look like bodybuilders of the past and present, each wearing identical Join Arnold T-shirts. They scurry about like worker ants on steroids.

I'm delighted to once again see the man who is large (but in a big baby sort of way). He's more stressed than before but still grins madly. As he looks down at my Terminator T-shirt, I can see the wheels in his mind trying to decipher whether the image of his candidate with a large gun is a positive thing or not.

Because I arrived early, I'm given one of the most prestigious volunteer tasks. Standing by the entrance, I get to be the public face of the Arnold Schwarzenegger for Governor campaign headquarters! If anyone comes into the headquarters with a question concerning the recall election (and hopefully T2 trivia), I'm there to answer it and direct them to a table full of Arrrrrrnold brochures and mailing lists.

"Why don't you put on a Join Arnold T-shirt?" the man who is large (but in a big baby sort of way) suggests, pointing to the backroom.

"OK!" I chirp. Then, "I'll be baaaaaack!"

We chuckle at my "clever" reference (he chuckles a lot less than I do).

Upon my return in my stylish red, white and blue Join Arnold T-shirt, the man who is large (but in a big baby sort of way) directs me toward a box of pamphlets that read "I Want to Be the People's Governor."

"Be sure to give everyone one of these and a Join Arnold sticker," he instructs.

I look at the material then say, "OK! [long pause] I'll be baaaaaack!"

We again laugh. But this time, he isn't really laughing.

I'm beginning to think it's fun to support Arnold. Why should he stop at governor? He should be president! He could team up with True Lies co-star Tom Arnold for vice president, making them a mismatched-buddy presidential pair. Because they're so mismatched, they'll always be shouting lines like, "I'm getting too old for this shit!" whenever another Republican-based war is launched against a defenseless country whose policies we spontaneously decide we don't agree with. And then, through a zany chain of events, President Arnie will be sent to the front lines, firing missiles and uttering cute catchphrases.

I'm teamed up with another Join Arnold volunteer named Eddy, who was a cop for 31 years, invades my personal space when he talks and tells me he used to see Arnold eating breakfast at the I-Hop back in the '70s.

"He's a real good guy!" says Eddy, moving in closer.

People, mostly tourists with cameras, walk by, drawn by this whole oddity. Some do double takes. Others convey a sense of disbelief; all are intrigued.

"JOIN ARNOLD!" I shout in the doorway like a circus barker. "COME JOIN ARNOLD!" My role as public face of this fine operation is a complete cute-girl repellent. A pair of hotties walk by and look at me as if I'm the village idiot. White middle-aged men, on the other hand, love me.

Members of the press, with extensive camera gear, start filtering in, setting up for the 4pm rally. "Can you tell me what's going on?" a man with video equipment from CBS News asks me.

Standing up straight, I tell CBS News, "At 4 o'clock, the rally begins. Arnold will be arriving at 5 o'clock. At 5:30, Jean Claude Van Damme will be joining him onstage to make a political endorsement and give a martial arts demonstration."

I nod my head with authority.

ARRRRRRNOLD FUN FACT: Did you know for his role in 'Junior' Arnold spent time in a doctors' waiting rooms in order to learn how pregnant people behave! Way to go, Arrrrrrnold!

Before things get too crazy, I break for lunch ("I'll be baaaaaack!"). I make damn sure to remove my Join Arnold T-shirt before re-entering civilian life on the Third Street Promenade, especially in light of the political skate punks staffing a booth supporting conspiracy theorist/presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche. In contrast to the pomp (or pompousness) and circumstance of the Schwarzenegger headquarters, their small table sports a handwritten sign that reads, "Stop the Terminator," along with "Arnie's Flabby Arms Will Destroy Californians!" These are the Don Quixotes stabbing at the giant action-hero windmill--it's time to stir things up!

"Hey!" I say to one of the political skater punks. "Do you know that Arnold Schwarzenegger is going to be appearing at a rally one block away at 4 o'clock?"

"No way," exclaims the political skater punk. "Hey, guys!" he yells to the rest of his ragamuffin crew, sharing the news.

"Yeah, Schwarzenegger's going to be there at 4 o'clock," I restate, scribbling on a piece of paper. "Here's the address!" I then add, "But remember, if you see me, you got to act like you don't know me!"

I hand the one-I-assume-is-the-leader the address of Arrrrnold's campaign volunteer headquarters. For the second time this week, I feel giddy. I conclude my lunch break by temporarily switching teams and helping to hand out Arnie's Geek Act Is Falling Flat leaflets.

ARRRRRRNOLD FUN FACT: Did you know childhood friends of Arnold stated that he often said his goals in life were to move to America, become an actor and marry a Kennedy. Arnold has done all three! Way to go Arrrrrrnold!

As I return to the Join Arnold headquarters, the man who is large (but in a big baby sort of way) accosts me.

"We have to be more security conscious!" he exclaims. Assuming he's uncovered my recent double life on the LaRouche campaign trail, I'm about to hand in my Join Arnold T-shirt. Instead, he points to a velvet nightclub rope.

"Don't let anyone past here," he says, anointing me with added volunteer power.

I nod incessantly, repeating aloud what he just said: "Watch everyone who comes in. If they say they are here to volunteer but didn't check with me yesterday, don't let them in. We need to keep out the riffraff!"

The concern about riffraff is interesting, considering there have been no background checks on their own volunteers. I am the riffraff!

"This is a very controversial election," large (in a big baby sort of way) continues. "There'll be women's groups picketing later. Yesterday, someone threw an egg at Arnold!"

"Arnold was cool about it," adds one of the large bodybuilders of the past and present. "He just threw off his jacket and said, 'Where's the bacon?'"

I think surely this will become another Arrrrrrnold catchprase.

As it gets closer to 4pm, the carnival rolls in. The already hot headquarters swelters. A multitude of TV cameras are set up on one side of the room (I think Entertainment Tonight is here!). A hot-dog stand and popcorn booth are put into place. This has all the excitement of a Planet Hollywood opening. The large TVs continue spewing Arnold's political philosophy.

"This is a takeover by the people! I want to be the people's governor!"

As I stand at the entrance, arms folded, it's reassuring to know they have put me in charge of security. I can put on my résumé: Security for Arnold Schwarzenegger. I decide to use the opportunity to go completely mad with power.

"Can you please get on the other side of the rope?" I bark at a guy who's obviously been working here all morning. With others, I take a more apathetic approach. "Go right on in," I tell some French tourists wanting to take photos.

Slowly, Arnold supporters start lining up down the block, along with the first Schwarzenegger protester. She holds a sign that reads, "All Robot. No Human Parts!"

With the appearance of a professional-looking security team (suit jackets and ear pieces), I'm relieved of my duty as headquarters security chief. I'm told to wait in back with the rest of the volunteers and help myself to some chicken wings donated by Hooters (it's good to see Hooters showing a political voice).

The newly arrived campaign volunteer staff is a sad bunch. One older, effeminate man wearing an ascot holds a bouquet of roses with a card on it that reads "Arnold" (I think he has a crush). Another concerned man asks his wife if his Join Arnold T-shirt should be worn tucked in or not. Others slightly resemble Arnold in haircut and build.

I take the opportunity to explore, unhindered, every damn nook and cranny of the campaign headquarters. I go down a long hallway where Arnold will enter through the back alley. Any buffoon (or terrorist) could show up early, claim to be a campaign volunteer and get free reign to this place. The security team should know this. Even Arnold's idiotic movie plots are more cunning than this.

I make it to the end of the hallway, right by the very door where Arrrrrrnold will be entering, noting the many places I could hide if I wanted to. Just then another door swings opens. A large member of the security team comes out. He wears a look of concern. Am I busted?

"I wouldn't use that bathroom unless you can find a plunger!" he tells me. He then walks away.

ARRRRRRNOLD FUN FACT: Did you know that Arnold has a soccer stadium in his hometown of Graz, Austria, named after him? Way to go Arrrrrrnold!

A mariachi band (Arnold shows affinity for the Latino community) assembles onstage and starts playing. More protesters organize outside with varied and imaginative signs. I am once again given the most prestigious volunteer position, manning the front table filled with Arnold propaganda, along with a woman wearing two carpal-tunnel wrist braces and a middle-aged lady who used to be mayor of a town close by. Everyone who enters the building has to interact with us.

We are a team! We are Arnold!

"Let security know if you see anyone acting suspicious or bad-mouthing Arnold," briefs the security chief (great, I won't look in a mirror). "This is still a private party, and we don't have to let them in!" He makes a line with his arm right in front of me. "Right now, no one gets past here!"

Outside, Arnold's goons openly mock the scrawny protesters.

"He's the Terminator! Who the fuck are you going to vote for?" yells a goon at a petite woman.

"Gary Coleman!" she shouts sarcastically.

"What a bunch of kooks!" exclaims the middle-aged former mayor (who actually uses the word "kooks"). She doesn't share my silent delight with the now large number of protesters. She points to a sign that reads "Arnold's Daddy Was a Nazi!" and retorts, "Oh, yeah? Well you are a bunch of commies!"

"Yeah, commies!" I repeat, in order to gain her confidence.

The sign is eclipsed by another reading "Governor Gang Bang!" This is enough to make the carpal-tunnel sufferer, now sweating profusely, steam.

"Oh yeah, well where were you when Clinton was in office!" she shouts, looking toward me for support.

"Yeah!" I reply, fully enjoying the voyeuristic aspect of hearing Republicans when they are angry.

Humvee a Few Bars

"I've been to a protest before," remarks a 12-year-old kid from Manhattan Beach, who, along with his brother, is wearing a blue button-down shirt and khaki pants. How cute--young protesters who were probably dragged here against their will by their Republican parents.

Almost wanting to tussle his hair, I ask the little rapscallion, "What did you protest?" He looks at his brother and smiles.

"We protested CNN for their biased coverage of Bush!"

So much for wanting to tussle his hair.

A TV camera is shoved in my face.

"Hi, we're from Fox 11 News. If it's OK, can we ask you a few questions?"

"You bet you can!" I exclaim.

"Why do you support Arnold Schwarz-enegger?"

I look directly into the camera.

"You know, I must have seen Terminator 2 over 23 times!" I nod. "How often do you get to vote for your favorite movie stars? Robert De Niro isn't running, so I'm voting for Arnold!"

The Channel 9 News, a documentary crew and several photographers turn their cameras to me, as I continue spewing inanities.

"I like what Arnold represents, and that is a man with huge muscles and a big gun! It's time we had a governor that can really kick serious ass!"

I throw in "Hasta la vista, Gray Davis!" and share that character actor Lance Henriksen was the first choice for the role of the Terminator. Now I've really worked myself up into a frenzy, so I finish up with another, "Hey! I think it's time we said ... HASTA LA VISTA, GRAY DAVIS!"

Republicans continue to pile in. It's getting even hotter. The carpal-tunnel sufferer starts complaining she's going to pass out. The mariachi band plays with added frenzy. Something is about to go down.

I look out from among the crowd of protesters and realize that, by complete coincidence, one of my best friends in the whole world, Johnny Hardwick, is among them, screaming into a bullhorn about lying Arnold taking campaign funds from large corporations.

I stand glaring with the other stoned-faced, Join Arnold goons. I finally make eye contact with Johnny. It takes a moment for him to register why I'm inside Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaign headquarters wearing a Join Arnold T-shirt. Not wanting to blow my cover, I wink. It sinks in what exactly I'm up to. This is followed by large amounts of laughter on his part.

Just then, from across the street, in full view of everyone, a large two-story banner is dropped down the side of the building. It reads, "ARNOLD, YOU'RE TERMINATED!"

It's simply beautiful. This pisses off the sweaty carpal-tunnel sufferer.

"What a bunch a kooks!" she cries. "How would you like to be Arnold and come to your headquarters and see that?"

"What a bunch of goombahs," I nod.

"I wish I had my Glock!" she says. "I'd put that infrared scope right on them!"

"Yeah!" I agree. "TERMINATED!"

ARRRRRRNOLD FUN FACT: Did you know that Arnold was the first private citizen in the United States to own a Humvee? Way to go, Arrrrrrnold!

Onstage, a multiethnic special-interest group assembles, members of which include an African American bodybuilder wearing a Gold's Gym tank top (he keeps flexing his grotesque muscles). They are pretty much the only minorities in the joint. I guess this shows that Arrrrrrnold knows minorities and likes them (also bodybuilders!).

The assembled crowd starts chanting, "ARNOLD! ARNOLD! ARNOLD!"

I wonder how Arrrrrrnold will make his big entrance. Will he drive his Humvee through the plate-glass window dressed in commando gear? Or will he propel down from the opposite building wearing night goggles and dodging bullets? I'm wrong on both counts.

"Please welcome, Maria and Arnold Schwarzenegger!"

The crowd goes apeshit.

"ARNOLD! ARNOLD! ARNOLD!"

Arnold Schwarzenegger (star of Last Action Hero) and his wife, Maria (is she wearing trousers?), simply stroll onstage to a sea of flashbulbs. Arnold is huuuuuuge! They both look like tan androids.

"ARNOLD! ARNOLD! ARNOLD!"

The protesters outside are now making loud chicken noises. Some pound on the glass. I spot the political skater punks, singing their rendition of "Edelweiss" involving Arnold's link to Enron and how it screwed all of California. I feel pride, knowing I'm fully responsible for their presence.

The protesting, bullhorns and chicken noises are so loud that they have to close the doors, as things are kicked off by a prayer from Arnold's monsignor. All the Republicans lower their heads.

"Oh strong and faithful God ..."

Then Arnold speaks! This is history in the making, similar to what others felt hearing Jack Kennedy or Martin Luther King Jr. speak for the very first time.

"It's an honor to be here with you!" he says in his guttural accent. "Thanks to all the volunteers. This is your home!"

"ARNOLD! ARNOLD! ARNOLD!"

And then Arnold's android wife (a member of the Kennedy family, mind you) says a few supportive words. She's one of those women who are beautiful to the point of being creepy.

"I'm glad to be here on behalf of a candidate who I know would make a difference in this country ... ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER!" (I could almost hear Ted Kennedy turning in his grave, if he happened to be dead.)

Someone yells out something about Enron. Hurrah! It's one of the political skater punks How did he get in? He's quickly escorted out of the building by Arnold's goons.

Arnold talks more about the issues.

"My wife, she is the greatest mother in the world. She was here for days, putting up balloons, helping decorate this place."

That's funny, I think, I saw all the balloons being put up and his wife (in trousers or not) wasn't here at all. Arnold continues philosophizing.

"When I was bodybuilding, my wife always said don't eat more pie. She would read every script to every movie I've done." He turns his huuuuuuge body toward her. "Maria, I love you today more than ever!"

Arnold then decides to rally his supporters.

"People say to me, Arnold, you have the greatest job in the world. You make so much money. You have the most beautiful wife. You own so many businesses. Why do you want to do this?"

He pauses for dramatic effect.

"Because I could no longer watch and TAKE IT ANYMORE! It's time to give baaaaaack! This is why I'm running for governor of this great state!"

"ARNOLD! ARNOLD! ARNOLD!"

The crowd has been lulled into thinking they've heard Arnold speak about the issues. Here's a man who, when asked how he'd deal with the state's $38.2 billion deficit, said, "Maria and I teach our kids basic principles. We teach them: don't spend more money than you have. ... I promise that's what I would teach Sacramento!"

That, my friends, is the bell tolling for the dumbing down of America.

Chicken Wings at Hooters

When the rally ends, the two Republican kids, the ones who protested CNN, caught in the joys of childhood, are out on the street waving Join Arnold signs at passing cars. I'm asked if I want to join some of the campaign volunteers for chicken wings down at Hooters. I decline.

The man who is large (but in a big baby sort of way) looks like a stressed proud father. His collar is back up. He tells me to come back tomorrow, excitedly explaining the agenda: make phone calls, hand out pamphlets. I nod my head vigorously, saying, "That sounds great," then hold up the photo of Arnold carrying a big gun.

"Hey, can you sign this for me? It would mean a lot!"

He seems confused, especially when I run over and reunite with my protester friends, leaving him holding the photo in his doughy hands.


Harmon Leon is the author of 'The Harmon Chronicles' and the upcoming 'Scam America.'

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From the October 1-8, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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