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In one episode, ALF was feeling left out and, well, alien and all, the Tanners were trying to convince him that he was, indeed, welcome. "You're a member of our family," they said. And ALF came back with "Right, and Arnold Schwarzenegger is a Kennedy." In an ironic twist, that was the year after Maria Shriver, a Kennedy, became Schwarzenegger... and now a quarter of a century later, Schwarzenegger, who famously played an alien in Terminator has managed to tarnish the Kennedy brand in, well, Kennedy fashion. I know, it's confusing.
Just to be transparent here, I have known Maria Shriver going on 30 years now and have known Arnold for 25 of those years, personally and professionally. I love them both. When I had my embarrassing scandal six years ago and ended up in rehab, it was Arnold and Maria who first contacted me to show their love and support. A note from them professed their love and support and how proud they were of me that I admitted my problems and was a role model in coming forward.
Since then they have been nothing but supportive in my recovery process and, indeed, Maria had turned into more of a counselor than a friend, carrying with her name a long list of family members who have either died or publicly lived through alcohol and drug addiction, and yes, horrible public embarrassments. Between Arnold and the Kennedy's there is seriously not enough room here to list all of the, shall we call them events -- of these two families.
Now we have the perfect storm of scandal, and a new era of media to cover it. A former governor of the most populous state in the United States, and arguably the world's most well known movie star/hero discloses that he has had a child out of wedlock with his loyal wife, who happens to be a Kennedy. Not only is this front page in every newspaper in the world, it's the highest trending story on the Internet and every form of social media.
What happens in a perfect storm these days? It never ends. In fact, it builds so much force that it affects everybody from the Kennedys to your neighbor who likes to go to the movies. And since Arnold and Maria count as friends virtually every powerful media person in the world, it has made professional lives in every medium more than a little queasy. Indeed, Mary Hart, the grandmother of entertainment reporting, the close-to 30-year host of Entertainment Tonight, could not ignore this merger of politics, Hollywood and America's royal family, and admitted to her public that, yes, this was a very hard story for her to cover.
Thirty seconds later she was accepting a gift of what appeared to be autographed men's underwear from Mark Harmon of NCIS. Mary is leaving her job and so nothing gets in the way of Farewell Week. Not even a painful, public ugly separation of two of her "best friends."
Frankly, this is a story that is impossible to ignore. Even, it seems, for the people involved. As more sordid details emerge almost by the hour of the boy Arnold allegedly fathered with a member of the Schwarzenegger household staff, and even as women are (again) coming out of the woodwork to say they had hook-ups with Arnold, and even as Maria left their beautiful home for a hotel, and as divorce rumors swirl everywhere, everybody involved from the very beginning keep saying "please respect our privacy."
After about the third "respect our privacy" plea, Arnold went public with an apology that appeared everywhere; and in HER attempt to keep things private and within the family, Maria went on Oprah's final TV show. It's the world we live in.
Maria's mother, the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver, changed the world with her insistence that mentally challenged people should never quit or give up and should be accepted as normal no matter their station in life. The Special Olympics, which counts Arnold and Maria as two loyal torch bearers, demands that giving up is not an option.
If there is any lesson in this ugly story, it's in the family lesson. Your Dad is always your Dad, no matter what. Your Mom is always your Mom, no matter what. And if you have been raised properly, nothing your parents have done changes ANYTHING. You love your family until death do you part. It's part of the deal. For everybody.
There will be stories about whether Arnold will ever sell another movie ticket (he will) or how much the housekeeper gets and how the family fortune will be divided, but under it all this is not just "entertainment tonight."
Under it all is, honestly, a real American family that's been torn apart by some despicable behavior. Behind closed doors there is STILL a loving mom and dad trying to hold it together for their children and their children trying to hold it together for the mom and dad whom they love dearly.
That story is not sexy and will not save a sagging TV show's ratings, nor sell newspapers or magazines, but let's all thank Patrick Schwarzenegger for reminding us that despite their last names and their actions, they are still a family of people with feelings and hopes and dreams, not Alien Life Forms who we can cancel when the season goes bad.