I read an item about Arnold Schwartzenegger today on Page 6, something about him trying on a watch with a huge face, (which I’m sure he can handle),and then something about his recent shoulder surgery, but it made me think of one of the funniest stories of my career, when I met Arnold many years ago at SNL, and then wound up writing some jokes for him to do on the Mike Douglas show.
Growing up, I had always been a big fan of body building. I never had the genetics to succeed at it, but I read the magazines, and was fascinated by the sport. I was also fascinated by unusual names so when a friend told me about a young guy named Arnold Schwartzenegger, I thought it was a joke. I think his last name translates to mean something like ” Black-Black”!
I soon found out that it wasn’t a joke, and I became a big fan. He was absolutely immense and his nickname was “The Austrian Oak”! As time went on, I got married and I used to say to my wife, “Please don’t ever let Arnold Schwartzenegger insult you, because I’d hate to have to fight him.” It was kind of a standing joke between us.
A couple of years later, when SNL was new, I went to one of the early shows with a girl named Kathy Jonas, the daughter of famed comedy manager David Jonas, best known for managing Freddie Prinze Sr., and Alan Zweibel. As we walked in, in those days you had assigned seats. I don’t think they do that anymore. Anyway, we walked to our seats, and who was sitting in MY seat? None other than Arnold Schwartzenegger. I almost fell down. I was wishing my wife was there to share the experience with me. I recognized him from his photos in the magazines.
Anyway, I gathered up my courage, walked over to him and said ” Excuse me, aren’t you Arnold Schwartzenegger?” To which he said, “Yes.” I said, ” Well I’m sorry to tell you, but you’re in my seat!”
He jumped right up and was so apologetic. He was so kind and humble and apologized profusely. And I was thinking, “Life is so bizarre. (Or at least MY life is so bizarre!) I just asked Arnold Schwartzenegger to get out of my seat. And he did!!!
I told him I was a comedy writer and a big fan of his. I think Pumping Iron either just came out or was about to come out, and he said he needed some comedy material to do on the talk shows. We exchanged information, but didn’t connect for a while.
Then after Pumping Iron came out, I heard he was doing some kind of book signing at a bookstore in Westchester, not far from where I lived. I went over to see him, and we spoke again, and once again exchanged information, and this time I wound up writing for him for an appearance he did on the Mike Douglas Show.
Somewhere in my memorabilia, I still have a letter from him on his Golden Oak Productions letterhead. At least I think it was called Golden Oak. I have a feeling that was the precursor to Oak Productions which he created in 1985.
It’s going back a long ways! I wasn’t carrying a camera in those days like I do today, so I don’t have a photo of us together, because there was no such thing as small digital pocket cameras in those days. Cameras were huge, needed film, and lights, and definitely did not fit into anyone’s pocket. But even without a photo, it’s an experience I’ll never forget.
It makes me want to search my house to find it, but that’s probably just because I’m in the midst of a huge project and my ADHD is telling me to divert my attention to something less important! (LOL)
In more recent years, I had another connection to Arnold. Back in 2004, David Pecker, the billionaire who owns American Media and many magazines and newspapers under that vast umbrella, bought Muscle and Fitness and Flex magazines, and went into an association with Arnold, who was supposed to be an advisor, and editorial contributor. I was asked to write some humorous remarks for David to say at a big press event entitled “The Arnold Classic”, announcing their association, and this was part of what I wrote for David to say, in which he was comparing himself to Arnold:
“And in terms of comparing our experience in the world of fitness. Basically, I am to the world of bodybuilding what the legendary Luciano Pavarotti is to the world of pole-vaulting.
I am to the world of fitness, what the great Mike Tyson is to the world of speed-reading, … what George Bush is to the world of cliff-diving, what Al Sharpton is to the world of modern dance, and what the legendary violinist Itzhak Perlman is to the world of porno films.”
That’s all folks!