Tuesday, May 17, 2011

On Meeting Arnold and Maria

Big news in California, when the governator and the heiress go Pfffft.

When I was first in television news in Washington D.C., I anchored an early newscast at WJLA, the ABC-TV station there.  One day when I was in Baltimore with a news crew, we ran into Maria Shriver who was also on a story there with her crew.

I have it in my mind that she had some kind of internship at the time with a station in Baltimore, working on "PM Magazine," but her resume says she started with KYW in Philadelphia, so perhaps that is where she was working at the time.  In any case, she was in local news and so was I, so she bounced over to us to say hello. She said she knew me from television and I, of course, was flattered

She was very nice and unaffected.  She was only a few years out of Georgetown University and though she is painfully thin today, back then she was still carrying around a few of those extra lbs. one tends to pack on from eating meals at a college dorm.  She was not glamorous nor was she glamorously turned out.  She was a collegue and we--the crews, Maria and I--all chatted for a time, gossiping about something--I have no idea what--that was big on the news grapevine that day.

We all knew, as a Kennedy, she lived in the firmament above us, but we were all impressed with her normality.

It wasn't long before she joined CBS News and her zoom to the top began.

Not long after that, I was in Philadelphia watching a World Series game there on my day off, as the Phillies faced off against the Baltimore Orioles.  My husband and I drove to Philadelphia early and bought tickets from a scalper who must have had great connections, because we sat in boxes along the third base line just a few rows behind the Commissioner of Baseball. Near the Commissioner, sat Maria Shriver.

Silly person that I am, I decided to go down and say hello and congratulate her on her new gig, working at CBS News.  My husband told me not to, and he, it turns out, was actually thinking much more clearly than I.

I bounced down the steps, just as she had once bounced over to see me.  But when I did, and leaned over to say hello--she looked at me and her eyes glazed over, as if she were drawing a curtain across them.  "Hello Maria, it's Robin from 'JLA," I said.  "Congrats on your new job."    

She didn't sigh audibly, but she did smile a very tight smile, say "Thanks," and turn her head away as quickly as possible. It hit me that in the New York network circles in which she now traveled she was probably hounded by people--fans, groupies, stalkers, nut cases--and since I was no longer a colleague at her level, I had just joined those vast hordes of annoying people. Ooops. Sorry about that.

I have a friend who grew up with her and who now is himself a successful network correspondent and he just shrugged when I told him this story.  "Don't feel bad," he said.  "We went to kindergarten together and we now live less than a mile from each other, and she never invites me to any of her parties."

Several years after my World Series faux pas, I got a chance to interview her husband, Arnold Schwarzenegger, he of the only recently revealed love-child-with-the-family-staffer.

Arnold in Europe in another public domain photo.

I didn't really want to inteview him, because I thought he was a joke as an actor--this was a few years before his Terminator fame really took off and only a few years after he'd married Ms. Shriver.  But the producer wanted me to go, so I went.

He was beyond charismatic .  He made me feel I was the only woman in the room--maybe in the world-- and his facial features, which I had thought of as truly strange, suddenly appeared to me to have rearranged themselves into the most handsome face I had ever seen. He was also extremely smart.

I think he has some sort of mesmeric powers--like Rasputin.  I left the interview convinced he was the best looking, most talented actor in the universe. I think I'm the perfect dupe when it comes to charmers!

One coda to all of this.  During another Washington assignment I was sitting in a room, waiting for the start of a news conference and Sargent Shriver just happened to be there, waiting too. He was pacing about, and eventually he was so bored he came over to talk with us, trying to see if we were a crew from CBS where his daughter was now filling in on the CBS Early Show.

"You must be very proud," I said to him.  And he really did beam.

"Proud?" he said.  "I'm thrilled and I'm really sleepy.  I'm getting up every morning at dawn just so I won't miss a second of her.  Isn't she great?"

That was the very first time I felt jealous of her--of the unconditional love her father gave her. He was so proud. He must have adored her.

Perhaps it is only now that her father is gone, that she has been able to turn and face the reality in her marriage. I don't know.  But I don't envy what she is going through.  No one should have to go through that.


peretzklein said...

I saw the pictures of the housekeeper. What in the world was he thinking???

Robin Chapman said...

Uh, I would say thinking had nothing to do with it!

peretzklein said...

I've seen pictures of you when you worked in DC. You probably were the only woman in the room.

Don Meuler said...

My experiences meeting celebrities have been mostly favorable, so I don't have a problem approaching them. A response like Maria's might make me think twice, though.

Robin Chapman said...

It was probably my own fault. I shouldn't have approached her when we were both "off duty."