by Wendy Leigh
It is, under any circumstances, a remarkable story. The shy boy, who is afraid of his father, too timid to seek the comfort of others, turns to lifting weights and builds on a dream to be best in the world. He wins all the body-building titles worth winning, then sets about turning those titles into cash.
Soon enough, his investments make him a millionaire (mostly from gyms and workout equipment). He then compounds his fame by becoming a movie star, earning $10 million or more per film. The icing on this strangely proportioned cake comes when the hero takes home a Kennedy as his bride.
The life of Arnold Schwarzenegger should make for a fascinating read. It probably will—some other day in some other book. If you’ve ever wondered why unauthorized biographies have a crass reputation, then look no further than this juvenile adventure.
Leigh, described on the book jacket as an international journalist, claims to have talked to everyone but Arnold, and, while that may be true, the pieces of the man’s life fail to fit into any compelling form. It reads like a collection of anecdotes, out-of-school tales and gossip culled from former friends and old clips.
We do learn a few things about Arnold, none of them too surprising. We are told, for example, that Arnold is ambitious. We know he wants to win. He’s a self-promoter and isn’t shy about flexing his movie muscle with those who threaten his authority. He had a string of love affairs, including one with Brigitte Nielsen (see, he does make mistakes), another with Beverly Hills hairdresser Sue Moray. He doesn’t like Sylvester Stallone, and, oh, yes, his father may have been a Nazi. The Terminator himself hasn’t been shy about being photographed with buddy Kurt (“War, what war?”) Waldheim.
In 1986 Schwarzenegger married Maria Shriver, despite the fact that she’s from a family traditionally dominated by liberal Democrats and he’s known in some circles as Conan the Republican. It remains by all accounts a happy marriage. Leigh hints at bubbles brewing beneath the calm surface, but that’s all she does—hints.
Nothing here furthers any understanding of the man or how he became one of a handful of movie personalities whose name on a project not only ensures that the movie gets made but that it will take in gym bags full of money. What we do get, in detail, is an account of Arnold and Maria’s wedding and reception.
Schwarzenegger’s life demands a quick-pumping narrative. Instead, Arnold is like a slow, lazy stroll through the park and just as memorable. (Congdon & Weed, $19.95)