|Man Without Qualities|
Sunday, August 31, 2003
Gold's Gym: The Mensa Workout Video
One thing about being a blogging private investigator with the name of a defunct Austrian writer, you've got to learn to go with your hunches. That's why when a guy named Arnold Schwarzenegger, who carried himself like Mr. Olympia but looked like he’d now pack a speedo the way a double scoop of Rocky Road packs a cone at Baskin-Robbins , walked into my office I should have trusted that feeling - like chilled Jagermeister trickling down my spine.
"Robert?" he said. "Robert Musil?"
"That's what it says on my license," I owned up.
"You've got to help me. I'm being blackmailed. Please!" His voice was shaking like the pitch of a bad Oompah band. I took a bong with a little lump of hashish I kept in a drawer for special clients and pushed it across the desk. I’d read he indulged. He tried lighting up, but the match shook like a distress signal from a sinking ship and he nearly ignited his pompadour.
"Suppose you relax and tell me all about it. Let me guess. A little woopie on the side and now tootsie is threatening to tell the wife unless you pay up?"
"Dummkopf!” He expelled between gap teeth in strong Austrian twang. “My schatzi has no illusions! When she was a kid she earned her allowance fetching packages from the Hyannis pharmacy for the Kennedy boys and their dad. I’m talking about the public! They can’t be allowed to learn the truth. I’m running for Governor!"
"You and everyone else in this town. Level with me, Schwarzenegger. I can't make any promises. Kaus’ already outed you . … and your muscle of love. The Oui interview from ’77. The naked musclebabe. The gang bang. What's left? What can I do?"
I knew I was being hard on him. Fact was, I was ticked that own election application was disqualified and I was taking out my frustration on him. How was I to know I couldn't run under a pseudonym or that most people signed my petition with assumed names themselves? “Proust?” “Yeats?” “Hugo Von Hofmannstal?” Who could know they were fake? What I get for passing the clipboard at Book Soup. Thirty-five hundred clams down the rat hole - and this lug thought he had problems.
"I'm a businessman," he said. "Bodybuilder. Real estate. Action movie hero. You know - those fun flicks where they blow stuff up?"
"A lot of your federal executive department types like 'em - inside the Beltway. Germans, too."
He seemed proud of that last bit, but I cut him off. "Get to the point."
"I'm on the road a lot. You know how it is - lonely. Oh, not what you're thinking. Sure, a guy can meet all the big-bicepped bimbos he wants, or with gleuts. But women with hypertrophied cerebrums - they're not so easy to find where everyone stays hungry."
"That’s not the way I read it in Oui."
"The hell with Oui!” Suddenly he was furious. A blood vessel pulsed ominously over his left eye. But I wasn't backing down.
“What about the naked black musclebabe? You all took her upstairs at the gym. All except the guys – not you – too embarrassed ‘cause they were too small. You give “black plowman” a whole new meaning - and there’s more on the way. ”
His eyes bulged - that blood vessel went purple. “There was no musclebabe. I paid one of the best screenwriters in Hollywood a bundle to rewrite that story for me just so I could tell it to Oui. We were trying to up the hetero content in bodybuilding at the time - and it worked. But a gang-bang? Me? Musil, in ‘77 I was coked to the gills on anabolic steroids – my cajones were little erdnüsse! I had frühstückwurst between my legs! Whip it out? I was stuffing socks in my posing straps in ‘77! Just look at my old publicity shots from back then!”
“So what happened?”
“Lou Ferrigno got sweet on a sharp chick he found in some kaffee und kuchen joint in Venice. She liked big guys – football players, body builders. Said she was working on her Ph.D. from the Graduate School of International Studies at the University of Denver and could use a little extra walking around money. So Lou asked her to come on over to Gold’s and give a seminar on Soviet and East European foreign and defense policy for the guys. Which she did – with her clothes on. Well, maybe she showed a little cleavage. The rest is what I paid for re-write."
The whole ugly, career-ending scene was coming clear to me.
“See, Musil, I'm basically an intellectual – a lot of professional bodybuilders and action heroes are, but they keep it quiet. Lou works in Diophantine geometry – he’s even published a couple of papers under the name “David Banner.” Cheeky. But God help you if the word gets out! It happened to Frank Zane, he let it happen, almost seemed proud of it - the fool! Did he think he lived in France? Yeah, he beat me in Mr. Universe in '68 - but who’s heard of him today? Sure I let out my degree in finance – but that’s not the same as admitting you’re an intellectual. Ballot box poison. My campaign manager steered that Oui article to Kaus - but if the truth of this gets out, I’m finished – bodybuilding, movies, real estate and as a California politician, all gone. “
“I see what you’re driving at.” Suddenly it hit me like a barbell on a gouty toe. Everyone who would have voted for Schwarzenegger except for the things in the Oui interview and the rest wouldn't fill the Crystal Cathedral. A lot more would probably vote for him once they read it. But if the real story got out his political opponents could paint him as an stuffy german professor. I could imagine the taunting campaign ads: "Does California need a Herr Doktorprofessor Governor Schwarzenegger?" It would not be pretty.
"I mean my wife is great, don't get me wrong. But she can't discuss Clauswitz with me. Or Rappoport. I knew that when I married her - so did she. We had a conversation on the works of Walter Gilbert - just once. It almost ended in divorce. We agreed to an "open marriage" - intellectually, see. But that's just between Maria and myself. She's a Kennedy - she understands a man with an intellectual libido that no one woman can satisfy. And I'm willing to pay for it. I don't want an involvement - I want a quick intellectual experience, then I want the girl to leave. Ann Coulter only has so much time! I need more."
"How long has this been going on?"
"On and off - since the early 1970's. Whenever I have that craving, I call Heidi. She's a madam - sends me an intellectual."
"I've heard the name."
"Yeah, you think she's a two-bit whore. Everyone does. But she understands what men need - and that some men need something exceptional - even a little kinky, not just down there, but up here. Her agency got started providing girls as temporary help for computer labs in Orange County - programmers, software engineers, even some analogue stuff early on. When the defense slowdown hit, she turned to biotech and, ultimately, prostitution."
So he was one of those guys whose weaknesses were really bright women and abstract conceptualization. Very Austrian. I felt sorry for the poor sap. I figured there must be a lot of jokers in his position.
"Now she's threatening to go public," he said.
"Heidi. She got the video of the '77 seminar. It was supposed to be destroyed when the broad turned in her thesis, but it ended up in the university archives through some filing error, and Heidi found it. Shows me expressing some multivalenced perspectives, really deadly stuff out of context. And she's been bugging her own girls all along. They want thirty million or they give the tapes to Drudge. Musil, you've got to help me! I can't have my immigrant dream die this way! I've got to get this intellectual monkey off my back."
The old call-girl racket. I had heard rumors that the boys at headquarters were on to something involving some kind of tie-in between the hookers and personal trainers who run most of this town and the big money hi-tech businesses. California fusion they called it, with a smirk.
"Get Heidi on the phone for me."
"I'll take your case, Arnold. But it'll cost you."
"Musil, landsmann. Danke! I'll make it worth your while. I've seen that dump you call home in Los Feliz. Cost you what? - $500,000 ten years ago, and now the brokers are trying to get you to sell for three mill? Nichts.. You pull this off, and you'll be living in style."
With a grin he picked up the phone and keyed in a number. I took it from him and winked. I was beginning to like him.
Next: THE SETUP
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