I met the housekeeper with whom Arnold Schwarzenegger allegedly sired a love child. And let me just say that while she is well-endowed, she wasn’t much of a cook.
Let me explain: When Schwarzenegger announced his candidacy to replace California Gov. Gray Davis in the historic recall election of 2003, I had been trying to pump iron with Schwarzenegger or ride motorcycles so I could write a profile about him for The New York Times. I worked for the paper then as its junior man in the Los Angeles bureau.
But his camp held me at arms distance since I would often refer to him in print as the “sagging action hero.” Getting no attention, I would arrive at his news conferences in biker boots, big silver ties and my goatee brushed up with mascara to make it look like a tarantula. I freaked them out.
Then there was the matter of a half-dozen women claiming he had groped and manhandled them while he was in his Hollywood prime.
Despite the womanizing scandal, he easily won the governor’s chair and now an aide called me to say Schwarzenegger would grant me the interview, motorcycle and all.
I showed up on Pacific Coast Highway as instructed on my Harley-Davidson with oil leaking from the crankcase and waited. Seven o’clock, no governor. Eight o’clock. Nine o’clock. Nothing. By 10 o’clock I was cursing him up and down.
At noon, back at home in Hollywood and painting my porch, I got another call: “The governor wishes to apologize,” the aide said. “He just plumb forgot. You can understand that, considering?”
I said: “I guess so.”
“To make it up to you, the governor would like to invite you and your wife to his home tonight to watch the Golden Globes. Say seven sharp?”
My wife and I dressed in our best. I wore the black suit. She wore pearls. But when we walked into the foyer of his mansion, Maria Shriver was wandering the marble halls in her sweat pants.
The housekeeper, reported to be Mildred Baena , whom I recognized this week from the tabloid photographs, had a buffet laid out of warmed-over tacquitos, nachos and hot dogs.
This was no Hollywood party. This was watching TV with the Schwarzeneggers!
The governor gave me a Cuban cigar (considered illegal contraband under the Trading with the Enemy Act). He poured me Scotch. And then we sat down with the children to watch the red carpet show. Baena sat behind us on a stool at the counter. My wife sat stiffly next to me.
On the television, a starlet pranced down the carpet. The bottom half of her dress looked like the bottom half of an ostrich. The top of the dress was nothing more than two straps criss-crossing her breasts. Schwarzenegger, fresh off his groping scandal -- and with an East Coast reporter sitting in his living room no less -- barked out: “Look at her! Some queer told her she looks good in that but her t--s look like s--t!”
That was Schwarzenegger in a snapshot. Funny. Assured. Raunchy. Self-destructive. Not only did he have a reporter mingling with his family, he had his nanny/mistress.
We eventually went on that motorcycle trip. There was one unwritten rule. You were not allowed to pass the Governator. I didn’t know he didn’t have a motorcycle license until he crashed his bike into a car. I would have asked. Just like I would have asked about the love child had I known. It’s my job after all.
Or at least it was. Then I walked away from The Times to stay at home with my newborn. Nobody from my old life called. Not my journalism colleagues. Not the Hollywood phonies I had come to know. But Schwarzenegger sent me a letter. He wrote in part:
“If you ever start to feel unimportant, you’re wrong. But you can always relive the glory days, tell people about your buddy who can lift you up with a finger and runs the biggest state in the world, or give me a call.”
I appreciated it. And I called this week to tell him so. As you might imagine, I can’t reach him.
I’m not Schwarzenegger’s wife, thankfully. And I feel bad for her. That’s as far as I’ll delve into their relationship. But she had to know what she had in him -- an outsized man with a powerful will and enormous appetites.
Those appetites made him and those appetites ruined him. But if I were a gambling man, I’d make this bet: He’ll be back.
Charlie LeDuff is a Pulitzer-Prize winning writer who currently reports for WJBK Fox 2 News in Detroit, Michigan. Contact him by e-mail, click here .