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It’s both rude and risky for a grown man in his senior years to call another grown man in his senior years a “pig.” Who am I, after all, to engage in gossipy, back fence moralizing about a wealthy celebrity’s sexual conduct? I’ve been better behaved than many I know, male and female, but in an open election for Paragon of Virtue, I wouldn’t exactly make the runoff.
Nevertheless, Arnold Schwarzenegger is someone I think most men my age can feel quite comfortable calling a “pig.”
The steroid cinema superstar of the ’80s and ’90s and ex-governator of California was on “60 Minutes” Sunday and Monday’s edition of “CBS This Morning” hawking his new autobiography, somewhat hilariously titled “Total Recall: My Unbelievably True-Life Story” (Simon & Schuster, 656 pages, $35).
What’s hilarious in the title from such a cardinal American publisher is this: Publishing house editors and executives generally try to minimize all impressions of subliteracy in their authors, even the giant celebrity musclehead ones born in Austria.
I have no doubt that Ah-nuld loves his title. It has a Schwarzenegger sound to it. You can practically hear the word “unbelievably” tripping off his tongue with all the grace of a boulder in a mountain avalanche.
An editor of even minimal literacy and stylistic panache might have suggested the adjective “unbelievable” as a replacement for the adverbial modifier “unbelievably” to convey the exact same idea intended by the author. But, so help me, I’d bet the farm that they left it on the 656-page book to secretly convey to us that they don’t really like the guy, either.
Frankly, I’m not sure editors and executives should allow themselves to do that, but in Schwarzenegger’s case, I can understand an exception being made.
On “60 Minutes,” his interlocutor Lesley Stahl was most appalled that Schwarzenegger’s infamous family betrayal – having an out-of-wedlock child with the housekeeper – was of a wife who had, after all, “given up her career for" him. Just to make sure we all understand how disgusted Stahl was by that, she mentioned it twice. You couldn’t miss the quiet loathing of one female journalist and celeb interviewer going to the defense of another.
Duly noted, Lesley.
Right about here, I must confess having sat with other journalists at film interview tables across from Schwarzenegger on two occasions, years apart. He is, in life, an immensely likable fellow – charming, happy and radiating jolly, infectious narcissism.
Ah-nuld’s limitless self-love is conveyed with a broad, beaming, almost constant smile that seems even broader than it is because it steals over that large, concrete-block head.
The usual assumption people like to operate on is that narcissism is off-putting. In fact, we human beings tend to like the quality in others.
It cues us how to feel if we’re not sure – especially if it’s conveyed by an immense, complicit grin, the way it always was in Schwarzenegger’s case.
That’s how he became a superstar. Add the steroid, muscle-bound physique to the big-budget cinematic action, top it off with an irresistible smile of self-worship, and the American movie audience was hooked.
So why shouldn’t Maria Shriver be?
The scandal blew all that to kingdom come. Having a child with the housekeeper and then keeping the woman around the house is – I think we can all agree – a thoroughly swinish way to treat one’s wife, more notable when she’s a Kennedy relative well-known to us for being an extremely smart and engaging TV journalist.
That, as Stahl pointed out, is especially true after this same wife was instrumental in turning back a small tide of groping tales unleashed when he first ran for governor. The explanation Ah-nuld oinked out for Stahl didn’t really carry the day, in my opinion.
I certainly wish Ah-nuld well in the cluster of films to come, now that he has gotten political power and personal ignominy out of his system. I’ll be happy to see them, but I’d rather not hear any more of him trying to explain his unusual – and thoroughly 19th century – notions of domestic employment.
Ah-nuld on “60 Minutes” led off what is likely to become the greatest Sunday premiere night in TV history, with rare and spectacular season premieres of “Dexter” and “Homeland” on Showtime, “The Good Wife” and “The Mentalist” on CBS and “Revenge” leading into the brand new “666 Park Avenue” on ABC.
It was enough to make us in Buffalo forget the can of whupass that New England opened up on the Bills on Sunday afternoon.
On “Dexter,” moral apocalypse has finally hit the universe of everyone’s favorite serial killer. His sister, Debbie, now knows that her brother has a penchant for butchering other killers he has drugged and strapped to tables. She doesn’t know yet how high his body count is, but, of course, that’s a matter of time.
Of course, the hipper “Dexter” audience will have no trouble taking this in stride, because we’ve long known that the performers playing brother and sister – Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter – were, in fact, married when the show became popular, which is a bit of uncommon kink even on cable. With such backstage weirdness accepted so casually, having Deb privy to Dexter’s formerly secret life is easier to handle, in its way, than the real life Arnold Schwarzenegger explanations of the way Hollywood superstars with Kennedy family wives allowed themselves to behave.
On “Homeland,” on the other hand, what is TV’s finest dramatic series quite predictably continued to be stunning.
What we are watching is the story of a secretly brainwashed ex-POW and terrorist – now a congressman and veep hopeful no less – and his love/hate with a bipolar CIA operative so crazy that she voluntarily submitted to shock treatment.
And, incredibly, we like, even love, them both. That is the show’s mind-boggling achievement.
At the end of Sunday’s episode, the audience watched with tender regard as a deeply confused teenage daughter helped her dangerously enigmatic and confused father bury “with respect” a Quran that had been defiled by her mother.
And this, after the riots all over the Middle East – including the murder of an American ambassador in Libya – that were supposedly related to a film exploiting Islam’s endemic sensitivities about misrepresentation.
“Homeland” is a small TV miracle – just as, in their way, “The Sopranos,” “Deadwood” and “The West Wing” once were.
email: jsimon@buffnews.com