The secret that wrecked a Hollywood fairytale

In a sensational confession, Arnold Schwarzenegger admitted that for 14 years he had a secret son by a woman who had worked for the family for 20 years

Mostly he is alone, a man with time on his hands...time to reflect that he had it all and lost it. That the love story which for 25 years seemed to have all the qualities of a Hollywood fairytale has ended in bitterness and recriminations.

For three decades, Arnold Schwarzenegger towered above Hollywood, six feet three, 210lb of rock-hard muscle, and apparently indestructible.

His epic macho movies like The Terminator, Predator and Conan the Destroyer brought him $50 million a year and the admiration of fans around the world.

The man who was five times Mr Universe became Governor of California and at last became seriously accepted as someone of power and influence.

But most of all, he had the love of an adoring wife who came from one of America's most powerful families. For 25 years, raven-haired Maria Shriver, niece of the late president and of Edward Kennedy, had used her influence to open the doors of power for the man she described as "the light of my life."

Then suddenly, in 2011, those doors slammed shut. In a sensational confession, Arnold Schwarzenegger admitted that for 14 years he had a secret son by a woman who had worked for the family for 20 years.

The boy, son of his aide and secretary Mildred Baena, had always been assumed to have been fathered by her former husband, but when Maria saw him standing next to Arnold at a Christmas party she immediately realised the truth. When she confronted Arnold he begged for the forgiveness that she simply couldn't give. "Maria was absolutely shattered," a friend said.

"She couldn't believe, after all they had been through, that Arnie could do a thing like that. After all, she had saved his life."

That was in the summer of 1997, when just before his 50th birthday he was rushed into intensive care in a Los Angeles specialist hospital with a heart condition which had killed both his mother and grandmother. Maria and their four children, Katherine, Cristina, Patrick and Christopher, immediately moved into the hospital when they were told that he needed immediate surgery.

Arnold said later: "I knew that I was just a human and I was very frightened by what was happening to me. I had come to believe that I was so healthy and tough that nothing physical could harm me, and now here I was in intensive care.

"I knew that the love of Maria and my family would pull me through if anything could. Maria sat for hours holding my hand. She saved my life — I am certain of that."

When he first arrived in Hollywood in 1969, his body honed after countless hours in the gym, Arnold Schwarzenegger already knew that he might have a hereditary heart condition involving a deteriorating valve, but he said nothing to anyone.

He remembered later: "All I had to offer Hollywood was a really fit body. If I had admitted there was something wrong with it no one would have been interested in me."

Born in a village in Gras, Austria, Arnold Schwarzenegger, a policeman's son, grew up in a Spartan cottage with no modern plumbing or a fridge, and decided to seek fame and fortune through body-building.

Arriving in America at 22 he worked on building sites as a bricklayer during the day and built up his physique at night. Soon he was winning international body-building titles, which, as he had planned, led to stunt and extra work in movies.

Arnold's big chance came in Pumping Iron, a semi-documentary about his pursuit of the Mr Universe title which led to such blockbusters as Conan the Destroyer, Running Man, Terminator and Predator. By 1990 his movies had grossed a billion dollars and he was making $50 million a year. After the operation he lay weak and semi-conscious in his hospital bed, Maria holding his hand, and vowed to reassess his priorities in life. Later he said: "I realised that my wife and family are the most important thing in my life and due to their love and prayers I am alive today."

On his recovery, Arnold Schwarzenegger drastically changed his life. He planned to make only one movie a year and refused to go on location abroad.

 "I want to be with Maria as much as possible and watch the kids grow up," he said but the revelations of 2011 changed all that.

Today, Arnold Schwarzenegger is hoping that Maria will eventually forgive him and come back. "Life is nothing without her. I made a terrible mistake," he says.

But friends believe that this Hollywood love story has little chance of eventually having a happy ending.


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