Maria, Maria, Maria! By now, we all know the ending of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s story: His marriage to Maria Shriver collapsed when he confessed an affair and illegitimate son with the family maid.
But his new memoir “Total Recall” is more than a mea culpa. It’s a public love letter to his soon-to-be-ex wife and a heartfelt appeal. . . . or face-saving ploy: “I still have hope that Maria and I can come back together as husband and wife and as a family with our children,” he writes. “You can call this denial, but it’s the way my mind works. I’m still in love with Maria. And I am a optimist.”
Shriver doesn’t show up until page 221 of the book, but she’s all over the remaining 425 pages: Their courtship, marriage, professional careers and political partnership.
The two met in 1977 in New York at the RFK celebrity tennis tournament. He was the star of “Pumping Iron”; she had just graduated from Georgetown. His first words to Eunice Shriver: “Your daughter has a great ass.” Sparks flew. Soon they were dating long-distance, then live-in lovers.
The upside of dating a Kennedy? Maria was as ambitious as he was. “I’d finally met a girl whose world was as big as mine.” And her parents were supportive from the start. However: “Eunice and Sarge were so forceful that the kids never got to develop their own opinions about things. . . The household was a strict hierarchy in which the parents, usually Eunice, made the choices.”
In the end, Maria’s “personality, her look, her intelligence, her wit, what she brought to the table and how much she was able to participate without missing a beat were what mattered to me. . . I got addicted to her.”
He personally designed her engagement ring (demanding “a minimum of five carats”) and commissioned an Andy Warhol portrait of Maria. They wed in 1986.
He calls her a “fabulous mother” and wife — though he was stunned when she vehemently opposed his first run for California governor. Her mother, once again, prevailed: “Eunice told her to snap out of it. ‘What happened to you?’ she said. ‘We women in our family always support the men when they want to do something!’” (Or so he says she said.)
The book ends with their separation — but they’re not divorced yet, and he thinks he’ll win her back: “All my life I have focused on the positives,” he writes. “I am optimistic that we will come together again.”
Earlier: Arnold Schwarzenegger describes breakup with Maria, 9/23/12
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