Charlie LeDuff’s LeDuff-ian Take on the Schwarzenegger Affair

By now most outlets are running the name of the woman with whom Arnold Schwarzenegger fathered his “love child,” and the press is climbing over itself for exclusives. It’s all pretty mucky stuff.

A few more details are also emerging about how the Los Angeles Times initially got the story, and their worth looking at, though the story is far from complete.

One piece that is definitely worth a look for a very different from-the-bleachers-style take on the Schwarzenegger shenanigans is this short personal account from Detroit-based writer Charlie LeDuff. If you know LeDuff from his days at the New York Times, The Detroit News, his freelance work, of this interview with CJR, you know he’s a pretty quirky cat. In his Schwarzenegger story, published on the website of Detroit’s Fox News 2, LeDuff reflects on the time he watched the Golden Globe awards at the governor’s house and met the now infamous housekeeper.

LeDuff was there on assignment for the Times. He had been trying to set up interview time for a profile and been rebuffed until after Schwarzenegger won the 2003 election. He’d then set up a date to go motorcycling, but the governor had forgotten the appointment. As a way of apologizing, he invited LeDuff and his wife to come watch the glitzy ceremony at his home.

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!

Then this happened:

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.

A lot has been written in the past few days about powerful men, their wives, sex drives, maids, nannies, media trials, and all in between. But few have probably said as much as LeDuff does with this small vignette. And if he sounds a little too sympathetic for your tastes, be sure to read to the very end to find out why.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Joel Meares is a former CJR assistant editor. Tags: , , , ,