Schwarzenegger Goes From Screen to Office
LOS ANGELES – For Arnold Schwarzenegger, becoming governor of California is just the latest astonishing transformation in a lifetime full of them.
From humble beginnings as a farmboy in Austria, Schwarzenegger turned himself into the world’s greatest bodybuilder and Hollywood’s biggest action star. Along the way, he married into America’s leading political dynasty, wedding Kennedy relative and Democrat Maria Shriver.
Now the Republican actor has been elected leader of the most populous state in America. As he often promised on the campaign trail, the man best known as the “Terminator” helped terminate Democratic Gov. Gray Davis less than a year into his second term.
In a two-month campaign full of mind-bending twists and turns, Schwarzenegger’s victory followed a series of shocking accusations. A parade of women came forward in the campaign’s final days to say Schwarzenegger fondled and touched them in unwanted sexual advances. And Schwarzenegger had to defend himself against reports that as a youth he had made admiring comments about Hitler.
Schwarzenegger denied the Hitler claims, which also were refuted by associates. He dismissed some of the groping allegations as lies while admitting to wrongdoing and apologizing. “I have behaved badly sometimes,” he said.
By the time those charges surfaced in the campaign’s wild final days, the juggernaut Schwarzenegger launched in announcing his candidacy on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” could not be stopped. Voters’ desire to oust the deeply unpopular Davis was too sharp to curb.
The schoolboy who once told disbelieving companions he would become a champion bodybuilder in America had done it again.
Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger, 56, was born in the southern Austrian farming town of Thal in 1947. His father, Gustav, was a local police chief and Nazi Party member. An investigation by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, to which Schwarzenegger has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars, concluded that he joined the party voluntarily but found no evidence he committed war crimes.
Schwarzenegger is remembered in Thal as a reserved boy who was obsessed from an early age with developing his muscles. He would do pull-ups and other exercises from an iron bar erected between two trees.
“His only interest was in shaping his body in hopes of one day becoming Mr. Universe,” his first trainer, Kurt Marnul, told The Associated Press in a recent interview. “His ambition was so great.”
He first captured that title at 20, only a year after leaving his boyhood home for good. He ended up winning a total of 13 championship titles, including Mr. Universe, Mr. Olympia and Mr. World.
Schwarzenegger first gained attention as an actor for his appearance in the 1977 bodybuilding documentary “Pumping Iron.” Over the next decades, he starred in numerous films, including 1982’s “Conan the Barbarian,” 1984’s “The Terminator,” plus two sequels, and 1990’s “Total Recall” and “Kindergarten Cop.”
His entry to public life began when he became involved with the Special Olympics. He soon started an after-school programs foundation now active in 15 cities and served as chairman of President George H.W. Bush’s council on physical fitness.
He first considered a run for governor last year, but opted out after deciding he could not break his contract for “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines,” which was released this summer.
Instead he sponsored Proposition 49, an initiative that would devote as much as $550 million annually to before- and after-school programs. The measure passed by a large margin with bipartisan support last year, although it remains unfunded because of the state’s budget deficit.
Politically, Schwarzenegger describes himself as fiscally conservative and socially moderate.
As he has staked out positions, he has sometimes seemed to split down the middle on issues, giving both liberals and conservatives something to like.
He supports abortion rights but opposes partial-birth abortion and believes in parental consent. He supports an assault weapons ban but speaks in favor of the right to bear arms. He took a stance against a bill to give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, but also opposed Proposition 54, the initiative to prohibit the state from collecting most racial data.
On the campaign trail, Schwarzenegger says he wants to be governor to give back to the state that’s given him so much.
After getting involved with community service and working with after-school programs, he realized helping others offered more rewards than a career focused only on self-promotion, he told The Associated Press in an interview.
“I found a new me,” Schwarzenegger said. “When I first came over to America, it was all about me, me, me. It was like, ‘How can I be rich? How can I build my movie career? How can I become the most muscular man?’ It was all about me, and then there was like this turn and I found it was really great to do this.”
Schwarzenegger Goes From Screen to Office