Talk about pathetic: The recall coverage gets uncuriouser and uncuriouser. Which just shows that, when it comes to Hollywood curiosities, history keeps repeating itself.
We had to wait for the book to learn the scope of David Begelman’s embezzlement. We had to wait for the book to learn the degree of Robert Evans’ amorality. We had to wait for the book to learn the parameter of Peter Guber’s and Jon Peter’s profligacy. We had to wait for the book to learn the extent of Don Simpson’s debauchery. Now we will have to wait for the book to learn everything there is to know about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character. Only this time, it’s California and not just the truth that’s suffering from what is clearly another Hollywood cover-up and a too-compliant media.
“He’s never going to run. Some of us have skeletons in their closet. He has monsters in his closet.” So said John Connolly, the freelance journalist who wrote that now infamous Premiere profile about Schwarzenegger alleging moral turpitude and sexual harassment, before Arnold announced his candidacy. Since then, the 55-year-old New Yorker has spent all the weeks of this recall campaign looking even deeper into the background of the actor whose next role is disturbingly likely to be governor. Where the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, the Washington Post, Newsweek, Time, ABC, CBS, NBC, and those other supposed bastions of superior reporting (why bother to even mention Fox?) claim to have found next to nothing, Connolly tells L.A. Weekly he has found a lot.
Which is why he’ll be shopping his book proposal about Ah-nuld right after the October 7 election.
And not a quickie paperback, either. After all, Schwarzenegger will be in office for another three years (if, and it’s a big “if,” there’s not another recall). So Connolly plans a big sprawling hardcover to tell the unvarnished story of the man, the myth, the musclehead, the migrant, the mogul, the misogynist, the monster, yada, yada, yada.
“I think I have very explosive information,” Connolly alleges. He wouldn’t give us details – he’s saving them for his book. But the point is there seems to be information on Arnold out there for any enterprising reporter to find. “In sex, in business, in his personal life, how he’s dealt with people over the years, it’s extraordinary,” Connolly says. “This couldn’t have happened in any place other than in Hollywood.”
After next Wednesday, the small window of opportunity that existed for any examination of Schwarzenegger’s character before the election will be gone for good. It was a sort of test of the emergency fact-finding network, and both Hollywood and journalism failed it miserably.
Hollywood circled the wagons and protected its own. Throughout the campaign, Schwarzenegger’s treatment of women on and off the set has been an issue. Still industry eyewitnesses are afraid to come forward for fear of being blacklisted.
So California’s CodePink feminist activists formally phoned Hollywood’s prestigious “Women in Film” group and asked if WIF would be willing to issue a statement: something sanitized that says it’s wrong for Hollywood to retaliate against women who make allegations of sexual harassment. “They said they would get back to me. That was about a week and a half ago,” CodePink organizer Karen Pomer told the Weekly.
Ugh, the hypocrisy of it all. Here WIF, an organization founded in 1973 in Los Angeles as the leading nonprofit organization dedicated to women in the global entertainment industry, claims its purpose is “to empower, promote, nurture, and mentor women in the industry” and “help break through the glass ceiling.” When, in reality, it’s nothing more than a gaggle of cowards whose main function seems to be glad-handing those meaningless “Crystal Awards” so everyone can feel so gosh darn good about themselves for doing something wonderful for Meryl and Michelle. Shame on them.
And shame on us, the journalists. Increasingly, it’s harder and harder to get any publication to print the truth about Hollywood, and not just because Big Media keep getting Bigger. Graydon Carter looks increasingly foolish sucking up to his buddies Barry and Brian, while Vanity Fair’s Hollywood coverage just sucks, period. David Granger at Esquire hasn’t even tried to blow the lid off this town. And David Remnick at The New Yorker weighs in only once a year with at best lightweight product.
There’s something terribly wrong when the Los Angeles Times recently spread wider and dug deeper into Bob Hope’s past on the occasion of his death than the paper has done into Schwarzenegger’s after he announced his recall candidacy. That the Times hasn’t owned this story with an army of drones at its disposal is incomprehensible. Especially with the lessons of the past still so fresh in mind. Like when the newspaper missed one of the great entertainment scandals, the David Begelman affair. (Or, as it became known, Begelgate.) Outmatched in its coverage of the story by out-of-towners like the Washington Post, New York Daily News columnist Liz Smith and — yes, it’s true — even Rona Barrett on Good Morning America, the paper got its proverbial ass kicked by David McClintick’s 1982 tour de force book, Indecent Exposure. So the Times went out and hired more hard news–oriented showbiz reporters as evidence of a new improved, tougher stance. And, still, the paper kept missing story after story for two decades.
It’s hard to make excuses when right on the Times staff roster now is a writer-editor who as a cub producer helped in the acquisition and development of Schwarzenegger’s Last Action Hero, the movie most consistently cited as key to unlocking the secrets of Arnold’s on- and off-set behavior. But Michael Cieply has yet to write a first-person account of what happened, or did not happen, during that movie. Exactly why remains a mystery.
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But Connolly isn’t surprised. Despite threats from Hollywood überlitigator Marty Singer, Schwarzenegger never sued Premiere over Connolly’s article, preferring to just attack the reporter personally and professionally. Still, the Schwarzenegger profile did hasten the departure of editor Michael Solomon, and Connolly was told by successor Peter Herbst, “I don’t think we’re going to be needing your type of journalism.” (Chides Connolly: “And if you read the magazine, apparently they’re not using anybody’s journalism.”)
Make no mistake about it: Connolly is controversial. But whether Connolly’s Schwarzenegger bio is bought by a major U.S. publisher will be worth watching. True, the last unauthorized book about the actor resulted in a lawsuit by Arnold against its British publisher that was settled. But Connolly is confident.
“Because most of the publishing houses are owned by major media companies that also have film studios, an actor can say, ‘I’ll never do another picture for the movie company if you publish that book about me.’ So, in the book world, politicians have less killing power than stars.” Connolly pauses to reflect on this. “What a sad commentary.”
E-mail Nikki Finke at firstname.lastname@example.org.