This is my second foray into the inflated world of celebrity autobiography and, while action star, former California governor, and one-time tank driver Arnold Schwarzenegger is, in most respects, nothing like our dear R. Kelly, the two have one undeniable similarity: an unwavering conviction that theirs is the most interesting story ever written, with the help of an uncredited ghost writer.
Arnold’s book is over 600 pages long and ends with a black and white photograph of him stroking the bronze thigh of an 8-foot statue of himself in his hometown of Graz, Austria. Besides that, there are also four glossy, multi-page photo inserts scattered throughout the book to provide a handy visual aid when you want to imagine Arnie meeting someone famous.
Look: Here he is with Tony Blair.
The Austrian Oak's book also features an index more expansive than your average encyclopedia (if you were born after 1990, just think of that as a sort of Wikipedia that can cut you). The heading “Conan Movies” has 37 subheads, including, but not limited to: “Action scenes in," "Arnold’s awe of Jones in," "Arnold’s earnings from," "Arnold’s mother on set of," and "Orgy chamber in." There are also, obviously, separate headings for Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer, because no one wants to get confused while obsessively fact-checking trivia.
I read the entire thing and this is what I learned.
THE SCHWARZ HAS A WEIRD RELATIONSHIP WITH HOMOSEXUALITY
He was actually pretty cool about Prop 8 when that hideous debacle swept California, so I was surprised to read stuff like this: “He came out in this tiny bathing suit. We were all flipping out. How unbelievable he looked!” and “By spring, I’d hung up muscleman pictures all over the wall above my bed,” alongside stuff like this: “Putziger definitely didn’t seem gay; he looked like a businessman!” and “I didn’t want to stare at the naked guys, so instead I casually walked around talking to Andy’s assistants.”
I guess it would be kind of a trip to hit puberty and become interested in girls while simultaneously developing an obsession with the “visual perfection” of the male form, but come on, Arnold, gay men are occasionally employed by businesses too.
HE'S NOT VERY GOOD AT SELF-DEPRECATION
While Schwarzenegger and Kelly’s respective opuses (opi?) both feature admissions of past mistakes, Ahhnold really struggles with humility when it comes to his bodybuilding days. “I’d come to America like a hundred carat diamond that everyone was looking at and saying ‘Holy shit.’ But the diamond was only rough cut.”
That can be roughly translated to: “God, I was such a pile of garbage. Grade A, expensive, top quality garbage that impressed everybody. I smelled like garbage, if garbage smelled like beautiful roses in springtime. You know, like, terrible, I guess.”
POSTWAR AUSTRIA SOUNDS SCARY AND HILARIOUS
Scary: As children, Arnie and his brother Meinhard (you can’t laugh at his name, he died young in a car accident, RIP Meinhard) used to play with a Nazi propaganda book until the government came to take it away and their parents had to explain that their favorite toy had been a nightmare hatred-manual.
Hilarious: Arnold had a friend named Franz Janz.
Scary: Arnold lived in a tiny village with very little electricity, surrounded by dark forests and the ruins of old castles.
Hilarious: “One night I was walking on that path, keeping a close eye for threats in the trees, when suddenly, out of nowhere, a man was in front of me on the path… if it had been a goblin, it would have gotten me for sure.”
AUSTRIAN HUMOR SEEMS TO REVOLVE MAINLY AROUND COMEDY SHOCK-STATEMENTS
A lot—like, A LOT—of this book is comprised of anecdotes where Arnold says the aggressively wrong thing, but it’s OK that everyone was offended/amused because he was just bein’ Arnold. The first thing he ever said to his mother-in-law was, “Your daughter’s got an incredible ass.” Did you hear that? He’s so crazy!
Once, he even refused to sign a bill because of a personal fight with a politician and wrote "FUCK YOU" in a secret message along the side of his official letter.
“We have fun here. We joke. I pray nightly for the sweet embrace of death.” – Arnold’s press secretary, probably.
THE GOVERNOR IS FULL OF SAGE WISDOM
The last chapter is called “Arnold’s Rules” and basically sums up the lessons one should take away from this behemoth of an autobiography. Standouts include: “Being outrageous is a way to succeed,” and “When someone tells you no, you should hear yes.” Be careful with that last one.
The last sentence of the book encourages readers to “Live a risky life and a spicy life.” You know, spicy, like getting your maid pregnant. But risky, like keeping it a secret while she continues to work for you for 14 more years.
To be honest, this book was so long I got a little skimmy around the middle sections, so you're not gonna hear much about the snake that “had its way” with Arnold during the filming of the Conan films. As a make-up gift, though, I saved you the best passage:
“I always wanted to be an inspiration for people, but I never set out to be a role model in everything. How could I be when I have so many contradictions and crosscurrents in my life? I’m a European who became an American leader; a Republican who loves Democrats; a businessman who makes his living as an action hero; a tremendously disciplined superachiever who hasn’t always been disciplined enough; a fitness expert who loves cigars; an environmentalist who loves Hummers; a fun-loving guy with kid-like enthusiasm who is most famous for terminating people.”
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