Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
November 07, 2005
la vista, Arnold
By Bruce Vilanch
I wrote some stuff for Arnold Schwarzenegger before he became political. His friends Dick and Lili Zanuck had taken on the widely coveted but strangely hard to fill job of producing the Oscars show, and I was the head writer. Nobody ever wants to appear on the Oscars, but everyone wants the gift baskets; plus, it is a chance to score a free gown or tuxedo, and you can never underestimate how people who can afford everything will do almost anything to get something for nothing. The people who appear are nominees or previous winners or people deemed by the production staff as Hot This Year. Then there are the other people, the big names who have no particular reason to be there but are doing it as a favor or because their mothers have told them it would be nice to see them all dressed up on a red carpet for a change instead of naked on a movie screen.
Arnold fell into that last category. He was a friend of the Zanucks, and we' d all seen the nude shots. He was presenting one of the technical awards, which didn't thrill him: It's rare that anyone in the audience recognizes the winners-chances were, Arnold would be stuck onstage with some very excited but very obscure toilers in the field. So to juice it up, we made a short movie all about special effects. It featured Arnold driving his own Hummer around Los Angeles while, thanks to the magic of computerized effects, things blew up everywhere he went. It was cute, but that was the year the Oscars show actually crossed the four-hour mark, and the Zanucks decided the movie had to go-a difficult decision in that Lili had directed it. Instead, Arnold came out and made some remarks I wrote about special effects, which went over pretty well. Afterward, I'd bump into Arnold every now and again, and we would laugh about the great lost movie we'd worked on and how it would be unearthed years from now by enterprising film scholars. We would laugh, even though he knew I was gay and I knew he was Republican.
The last time I saw him was a few years ago, just before he got overtly political. It was at an anniversary party thrown by the late photographer Herb Ritts and his lover, Erik Hyman. The party was at their house, which hovered just above the waterline at Malibu. The place was packed with celebrities and also with other gay couples who weren't famous but just part of the many circles in which Herb and Erik traveled. Arnold arrived with Maria Shriver. He wore a leather bomber jacket and had a cigar hanging out of his mouth that probably cost more than the jacket. I was sitting on the deck with k.d. lang. Arnold strode over and effusively greeted us by name. Later, a cake appeared and people sang and the happy couple kissed-not Arnold and Maria, Herb and Erik. Not long after that, Herb's silent infection found its voice and shouted him out of this world.
It's hard to imagine that the Arnold who stood and celebrated the love and devotion of these two men could be the Arnold who, against the will of the elected officials of the people, vetoed same-sex marriage legislation in California. But politics and ambition make people do unimaginable things. I wonder if it keeps him up at night, asking himself how he came to betray all the Eriks and Herbs he had embraced in his life by negating their love with the stroke of a pen.