Back in my early 20’s I had an encounter with Arnold Schwarzenegger that kind of rocked my concept of reality. I was working for an espresso catering service in Los Angeles and was regularly hired to show up at parties or events, assemble a whole gourmet coffee bar, and serve fancy espresso drinks to the guests. This particular evening I was hired for a party at Schwarzenegger’s grand home tucked against a hillside in the Pacific Palisades.
A bulky Austrian security guard let me through the gate, I parked and went down by the tennis court to assemble the bar as the sun set. Maria Shriver was friendly and accommodating and their gaggle of blond children swooped in on me repeatedly requesting more hot chocolate with more whipped cream (as any healthy child would).
As the party filled in I kept an eye out for Schwarzenegger. I have always been a huge fan of T2 and I was excited to see, and possibly encounter, this iconic man in person. He finally limped into the party with a cane, as he was in the middle of filming Terminator 3 and had apparently hurt his leg on set.
Eventually he made his way over to me and ordered a decaffeinated espresso. Two of his female assistants were standing nearby. Both of them appeared to be in their mid 30s and overtly attractive in a tanned, push-up bra and crop top sort of way.
As the machine whirred and cranked out the espresso, Schwarzenegger looked me over and said point blank “you’re hot!”
“Oh thank you” I said.
“You’re young and hot!” He said. Then, indicating his attractive assistants, “They are my assistants and they wish they were young and hot like you.”
“They look pretty beautiful to me,” I said.
“No they are old,” he continued. “They wish they were young and hot like you!”
The assistants kept their faces in forced friendly expressions as the conversation took an unexpected turn. At this point, Schwarzenegger launched into a series of yo mama jokes about his attractive female assistants’ mothers.
“Her mama’s so fat she has to get out of both sides of the bed! Ha ha ha,” we weren’t laughing, but he continued… “her mama is so fat when she is standing on the street the cops pull over and tell her to break it up! Ha ha ha!” He proceeded with several more yo mama jokes at his assistant’s expense.
I glanced sympathetically at the women. We shared knowing looks. Schwarzenegger was so self-absorbed he couldn’t see that we weren’t enjoying his humor. He thought he was entitled to openly ridicule his female assistants and compare their “hotness” to me. He didn’t know we weren’t into it, and it wasn’t funny.
I’ve noticed this often happens when a person is cloistered in fame, wealth, or being the “boss”. Because they are so used to people laughing at their jokes due to their power position, they aren’t aware when they aren’t being funny. Because others depend on them for money, they can get away with sexist or belittling behavior.
I was not offended by Schwarzenegger, the whole thing was so ridiculous. I was just very surprised. This is how a man of great fame and power gets away with talking to women who are working for him? Does he know how this might be affecting them?
Not long after that evening, Arnold became the “Governator” of the state.
*You might also enjoy this post: Playing Tracee on The Sopranos
**I’m @arielkiley on Instagram