Nov 13, 2012


Arnold needs no last name.  He almost single-handedly took bodybuilding out the realm of Muscle Beach physical culturists and Italian sword-and-sandal movies and created the genre of Man-Mountains. His superlative physique and distinctive Austrian growl have been parodied innumerable times, on Saturday Night Live, on Seinfeld, on Tiny Toon Adventures).    It's hard to leave a room temporarily without being tempted to use his signature line from The Terminator, "I'll be back."

Already a Mr. Universe and nearly a Mr. Olympia, the 21 year old Mr. Schwarzenegger moved to the United States in 1968 with his best friend Franco Columbu, to become an actor.  He posed for a lot of fitness magazines, including the gay-coded Tomorrow's Man.  In the 1970s he was the subject of more conventional semi-nude paintings by Jamie Wyeth.


I had a friend in the 1980s whose bathroom featured what looked very much like a nude photo of Arnold, clipped from a fitness magazine.  It's not the black and white flexing photo that's available everywhere; this one was in color, and showed Arnold standing on a hillside.

His first starring role was in Hercules in New York (1969), which nobody saw.  His accent was so bad that his lines were dubbed.

I saw him (and Franco) in Stay Hungry (1976), about a young man (Jeff Bridges) drawn into the world of bodybuilding, and in The Jayne Mansfield Story (1980), where he played Mansfield's muscular husband, Mickey Hargitay.

But his break-out role was Conan the Barbarian (1982), an invocation of the Conan of heroic fantasy novels and comic books as a Man-Mountain.  He is a warrior of the Hyperborean Age who battles an evil snake cult -- but, contrary to expectations, he gets captured and rescued as often as he does the rescuing.  And he has a male companion, Subotai (Gerry Lopez), with whom he has a bond as strong, if not stronger, than that with his girlfriend Valeria (Sandahl Bergman)..

Who would have thought that a Man-Mountain could be so easily queered?  And did I mention the beefcake?

Conan the Destroyer (1984) also gave Conan two companions, a comic-relief thief (Tracey Walter) and a fierce warrior (Grace Jones).  This time he does a lot of rescuing, but there's no fade-out kiss.

No heterosexual interest in his naked cyborg in The Terminator movies (1984, 1991), but he does buddy-bond with the young John Connor (Edward Furlong).

Then he started playing Man-Mountains who get girls, in Red Sonja (1985), Commando (1985), Predator (1987), and Total Recall (1990). But there were still muscles to look at.

The former governor of California is certainly no gay ally; he has been very clear about his opinions of "girly-men" and gay marriage.  But during the 1970s and 1980s, he was the "first crush" for many gay boys.