SORDID TALES by Edwin Decker

GOVERNOR HERO How Schwarzenegger would have handled the fire crisis

Governor HeroHow Schwarzenegger would have handled the fire crisis

It was said, during the recent gubernatorial recall campaign, that one reason Arnold Schwarzenegger was appropriate for the job of governor was for his extraordinary success as a major Hollywood film star.

That seems about right to me, since politics is more about image and special effects than it is function or content. And if Schwarzenegger had been in office when the shit hit the Santa Anas, and had applied his skills as a Hollywood tycoon to the crisis at hand, things might have gone differently. It probably would have went a little something like this...

Setting: Governor Schwarzenegger is in his office with three of his top aids. In the background, through the large bay window, over the mountain-rises the thick black smoke of California's raging wildfires. Schwarzenegger calls the meeting to attention.

"We have a crisis on our hands, people," he announces, "so let's get to work."

The aids murmur in agreement.

"OK then," says the Governor, in his thick Austrian accent, "the first thing we will need is a catchphrase. You know, some sort of quasi-clever line that I can keep repeating to disguise the fact that I don't know what the Christ I'm doing. Any suggestions?"

"How about, "˜Mess with me, you mess with fire'?" says the first staffer.

"Too stupid," snorts the Governor.

"How about, "˜Later for you, baby'," says the second staffer.

"Too bland," says Schwarzenegger.

Silence then.

"OK, we'll come back to that one. I'm also going to need a signature weapon. Like Dirty Harry's .44 Magnum. Suggestions?"

"How about a flamethrower," says the third staffer.

"You idiot," says another, "We're fighting fires, not setting them."

"Wait a minute," shouts Schwarzenegger, slamming his fist on the desk. "That could work. A flamethrower. Hmmm. Yes, I see it now. My stunt double will use it to set backfires. Perfect. Flamethrower it is. Now we need an obligatory love interest-somebody outspoken, somebody controversial, somebody like that California government watchdog columnist, Jill Stewart. Yeah, Jill'll be perfect. It'll be The American President meets Backdraft. As I try to save the state from devastation, she will write columns about how inept I am. Until I seduce her. Then we'll have these combustible sex scenes, followed by political pillow talk afterward. Later, after I single-handedly contain the fires, I'll stuff her head in a toilet bowl. Gee, I love being governor. How often do you get to turn a woman upside down and bury her face in a toilet bowl?"

OK, OK, perhaps the above scenario is slightly incredible (Jill would never bang Arnold). But I am still very grateful that the feces hit the flywheel before Schwarzenegger took office. Because there is no doubt in my mind that if that happened, a script would be on Hollywood's desk before the first insurance claim was ever paid. It would be a suspense/action flick, of course, about the tribulations of the heroic governor as he battled the most devastating crisis California has seen since the Rodney riots. And Arnold would surely play himself, in the most important role of his career. "Showing at a theater near you, Paramount Pictures, in Association with AnotherShittyMovie Productions, presents Arnold Schwarzenegger as, Governor Hero":

Opening Scene: A young girl is sitting on a rock at the edge of a burning canyon. The child is spellbound by the blaze and unaware of the thousand or so evicted, angry rattlesnakes that are escaping the conflagration and headed toward her. They slither forward, hissing and spitting, and just as they are about to strike, Governor Hero appears brandishing an RPO-A Shmel rocket-propelled incendiary blast projectile launcher (Also known as a flamethrower).

"Fight fire with fire, baby," he mutters proudly, deeply satisfied with his new catchphrase, and then incinerates the serpents into oblivion.

That is the movie that would have been made if Arnold Schwarzenegger were in office when the dove hit the Randy Johnson fastball. Thank God for small favors.

You know, it's a weird, stupid, insane culture we live in. And it's getting more and more insane. In recent days we've seen one man (Tommy Chong) convicted and sentenced to prison based on characters he portrayed in film. We've seen another man (Schwarzenegger) elected to one of the most powerful positions in the world, based on characters that he portrayed in film. We have historical docudramas fictionalized for entertainment. We have athletes who are expected to be role models for children they've never met. We have scripts instead of dialogue, and flashy graphics and logos instead of content-because the news is, as Perry Farrell said, "just another show." We have so much blurring of the lines between entertainment and reality; it just seems that pretty soon we won't be able to tell them apart anymore.

Or has that already happened?

Dénouement: The sun is setting and the fires are out, thanks to the masterful backfire-setting technique of Governor Hero Schwarzenegger, who now stands, flamethrower dangling at his side, gazing broken-heartedly at the incinerated remnants of a Scripps Ranch cul-de-sac. All that remains of each house is a pile of rubble, a brick chimney, a charred toilet bowl and black, crusty bedsprings.

"Oh, the humanity," he says as Jill Stewart approaches and rubs his neck. He puts his arm around her. She coos. They kiss. Then he twists her into a half-nelson and stuffs her head in the charred toilet bowl.

The end.

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