Open Letter to Arnold Schwarzenegger
I've always been a huge fan of yours. And I mean that sincerely. You inspired me to pick up weights after years neglecting my body. You see, Hollywood didn't treat me as well as you. After spending 3 years in Hollywood in the mid-70's I came back home a broken man, human wreckage.
I'd arrived from France with my heart on my sleeve, ready to Save The Planet by using film. I can't even begin to tell you how many of my ideas were stolen, in exchange for a line here, and a smoke there. It left me hollow inside, like a burned out shell, suspicious of everyone and everything.
I landed back in Connecticut in 1976 after trying desperately to get myself a SAG card. But back in those days, there were few options open for someone as out spoken as I was about the state of the planet. So I was sent packing with my pride hurt.
I got a job in a health food store and started learning how to rebuild my body. I'd been a champion swimmer as a child, but the water off the Connecticut shore was not very appealing. I was lucky enough to have access to a neighbor's pool, so I started doing 25 yard laps for two hours a day... I learned about nutrition the hard way, by realizing what a diet of tomato ketchup, coffee and French fries for three long years will do to someone.
Then one day I read about you, on TV maybe, in a magazine article, I don't know, and discovered body building wasn't just a freak sport anymore. My dad would always sit in front of the television and make fun of muscle men, so I had always been afraid to work out with weights, because I didn't want to become like them. But I quickly realized my father had been wrong. That re-building my muscles could re-build my whole being.
I found your book, I bought it, and I immediately sent away for the 130 lbs free weight set from Weider, the exact same set you used in your book. I remember my mom describing how the UPS man had to struggle getting it out of the van and into our garage. I still have the weights from that set today... The bench rusted away years ago. I had to let the garbage man take it away for fear it would collapse under me. I have a new Weider bench now, may my green buddies forgive me, I bought on sale at Wal-Mart. I never got big, but I got healthy!
In the 80's Stan Lee, the founder of Marvel Comics, publisher of the Conan comic books, had his studio in Westport where I live. He shared a floor with another illustrator, a good friend of my sister. One day Stan and I started discussing the making of Conan into a movie on the steps of the Museum of Cartoon Art in Rye, New York (It's gone now...) You had just done the Jayne Mansfield Story on TV. Stan had second thoughts about you... I spent 10 minutes standing up for you, telling him how you "were" Conan, how you were born to play the part.
I loved Conan... I certainly hope you don't let that Governor thing get in the way of making "Conan King"! The final scene of Conan sitting on the throne sets up the last episode of what should be a trilogy... Conan in his elder years, after years of long rule, still holding on to his Kingdom, despite all the challenges. That's the vision I got watching the final shot. Remember me when you film it... I want a small soothsayer part!
One afternoon in Century City, circa 1975... I was walking around looking for some offices, I forget which ones, when I met a young woman, a very aggressive and determined young woman. She was coming out of a building and we struck a conversation. I told her what I wanted to do. I wanted to use films to send out an environmental message to the world. I wanted Hollywood stars to walk the talk. That woman was Bonnie Reiss, and as she walked away from me she said: "That's what I'm going to do". And she did.
First came the Environmental Media Association, and then Earth Communications Office. Then Thom Beers started producing all the environmental programming for Ted Turner, and now he's producing Monster Garage on the Discovery Channel. It seems like Hollywood is finally gearing up for a fuel change.
Motor City never built a limousine in its life. They're all made by custom body shops scattered all throughout Southern California. Last year a team of brilliant Japanese engineers built an electric limousine prototype that goes 190 mph and has a 300 miles range on one charge. It's called the KAZ, and we featured it in Electrifying Times. We are now networking the entire limousine industry in America. We can do this Arnold, we can change the face of transportation! Detroit had 20 years to make up its mind. It chose to ignore the plight of the earth and continue to burn oil, a substance too precious today to let go up in smoke. We need what's left in the ground to make plastics!
There is an association called the National Electric Drag Racing Association. They were written up in WIRED magazine a couple years ago. These amp heads, as they like to be called, are this close to going head to head with internal combustion engines on the quarter mile. Already, prototypes like the tZero clock 0-60 in 3.6 seconds, better, faster than any high priced muscle car on the road today. Electric car engineering is a dream come true for the street racing culture. Instant torque it's called. It means all the power goes straight to the wheels, instantly. There's so few moving parts in an electric car. There is virtually no maintenance, nothing to wear or break down. It's the future! GM is lying to the American people!
I was horrified when GM bought Hummer, because a few months prior in 1997, an entire contingent of the electric vehicle press had been treated to a joy ride in the Hybrid Hummer prototype at EVS-14 in Orlando, and then to a private showing of Terminator 3D at Universal Studios. I was convinced by the good will and the excitement of the Hybrid Hummer team that Hummer was going to recruit you to become its spokesperson. And then the whole dream collapsed like so much fairy dust when GM swooped down and transformed a perfectly brilliant military vehicle into the next suburban Stepford Wives SUV craze.
Unlike most people, people like Arianna Huffington who failed to grasp the opportunity, I don't blame you for this. You're Arnold, you're entitled. I don't think your intent, with life long friends like Bonnie Reiss, was to put a Hummer in every family garage in New Canaan. You love cars. I love cars. Jim Motavalli loves cars, and he found peace being both a syndicated automobile columnist for the New York Times AND the editor for E magazine, the largest environmental periodical on newsstands today! So why shouldn't we?
It's something we share with Jay Leno! Jay's been in the pages of Electrifying Times, sitting on an electric motorcycle. Jay had Tom Cruise on his show with the electric Lexus 2054 Chaz Haba built for Spielberg's Minority Report. We don't hate the automobile. It's part of who we are as Americans! It's part of our history. The automobile made this country what it is! It's Route 66. There is now a plan under foot, which I seeded with a letter to the editor in Route 66 magazine, to put electric charging stations all along Route 66 so travelers can rent an electric car in Chicago and drop it off in Los Angeles, which would make it the longest tourist attraction in the world! Today with algorithmic charging you can recharge a battery pack in 10 minutes where it once took 8 hours! Imagine going down Route 66 with a car so quiet and smooth, you can listen to the breeze. But GM wouldn't consider a convertible version of the EV1. They wouldn't hear of it. They made it on purpose so you couldn't even stick your elbow out the window! That's not good design, that's not all-American ingenuity, that's sabotage!
We have a big decision to make. We have to decide where our allegiances lie. Do we love the automobile so much we want it to keep up with the times, or do we bow down to the GM God and wreck the planet for all future generations? I'd say our decision is pretty clear. Since GM, FORD and Chrysler wouldn't go ahead with the next generation of automobile propulsion, then let's just do it ourselves in Sunny California — sanctified by the New York Times on the cover of Wednesday's October 22nd Cars section:
Maybe Michael Moore, Ted Nugent and Kid Rock can soothe the End of Detroit. But we need to build ourselves some 21st Century kick-ass clean vehicles! We asked for it, we got it. That's show biz!
Illustrations courtesy December
2003 Issue 15, Wildcats 3.0, Wildstorm Comics, imprint of DC Comics
pencil: by Dustin Nguyen ink: by Richard Friend