Arnold Schwarzenegger seemed to have come a long way since his “Conan the Barbarian” period. His reputation for womanizing belonged to his old Hollywood days, and the Los Angeles Times’s attempts to dredge it up during his 2003 gubernatorial bid had been condemned as irrelevant, if not outright sabotage. He served eight years as California’s governor, during which time he failed to stave off a brutal budget crisis, but was respected for his open-door policy and getting the global-warming law passed.
Yet in his first year back as a civilian, he returned to the scandal sheets. On May 9, just 10 days after his silver wedding anniversary, wife Maria Shriver announced she was filing for divorce. The same newspaper that had pursued the earlier allegations of sexual harassment soon broke the story: Schwarzenegger had fathered a child out of wedlock in 1997, six years before suddenly announcing his political candidacy on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” He had kept the love child secret until his tenure was over — and after the forced confession, his marriage was over, too.
Keeping it in the household
Although the Los Angeles Times didn’t disclose the name of the household-staff member Schwarzenegger had slept with, the clues — she had worked with the family for 20 years before retiring in January — were enough to point to housekeeper Mildred Patty Baena. Their son was born on October 2, just two days after Shriver gave birth to her fourth child with Schwarzenegger. In a sordid affair, everyone gets muddied: Baena was tarred as the other woman, Shriver as the wife who should’ve known better, getting her comeuppance for defending her husband earlier.
Shriver figured it out. Baena told Hello magazine that Shriver had heard other household members talk about the housekeeper’s son’s resemblance to Schwarzenegger. After dropping hints, “finally, she asked point blank,” Baena recounted. Instead of recriminations, “she cried with me and told me to get off my knees. We held each other and I told her it wasn’t Arnie’s fault, that it takes two.”
Now back to the career
Among the year’s political betrayals, Schwarzenegger’s ranks among the top. Still, the revelations barely paused his screen-comeback plans (in a heroic role and a cameo in “The Expendables 2”). His museum in his native Austria opened, as scheduled, on his birthday. And in a bout of obliviousness, he went for a bike ride wearing a gag T-shirt from 2010 that read “I Survived Maria.”
A new tweak to this classic tale was the children, who didn’t stay silent. Not only did son Patrick and daughter Katherine take to Twitter (Katherine would also talk to Harper’s Bazaar), but Baena’s shocked daughter defended her “superwoman” mother to Telemundo. As for the secret love child? His reaction to finding out Schwarzenegger was his dad: “Cool!”
The Yahoo! Year in Review editorial lead for five years running, Vera H-C Chan dissects news events, pop-culture idiosyncrasies, and online behavior to probe the “why” behind what’s hot online. On Yahoo!, her articles can be found in News, TV, Movies, and her Shine blog Fast-Talking Dame. Across the Net, there are remnants of contributions to a cultural travel guide, martial arts encyclopedia, movie criticism, business profiles, and A&E/features reporting.