The Essence Of Ahnuld
Cornball works for the 'Terminator' online

Arnold Schwarzenegger is at a precarious point in his career. At 52, he's getting too old for the action-hero roles that made him famous, despite his alleged face-tightening efforts to stop the march of time. And while End of Days, his first starring role since undergoing life-threatening heart surgery in 1997, managed to pull in a solid if not stellar $31.5 million over Thanksgiving weekend, the daggers are out for the onetime Terminator.

See also...
... by Kat Giantis
... in the Dirt section
... from December 7, 1999

Tongues around Tinseltown are wagging over whether the blockbuster star still has a viable movie career.

But, of course, there's an important factor these naysayers are failing to take into account as they write the death warrant on Ahnuld's box office prospects: In a town full of self-promoters, Schwarzenegger is the master, unsurpassed in both execution and stamina.

A tireless stumper for his projects, the so-called Austrian Oak has never met a promotional opportunity he didn't like. Which is why it's only logical that, sniffing the Internet's global publicity possibilities, he has launched his very own Web site.

At first glance, Schwarzenegger.com seems hokier than Jim Varney at a Garth Brooks concert. Rife with clich├ęs and reeking with unbridled enthusiasm, the site appears to be a warmed-over version of the old Hans and Franz sketch from Saturday Night Live.

But look deeper and one thing becomes clear: Schwarzenegger.com comes closer than any other celebrity-run site to capturing the true personality of its subject. The essence of Ahnuld fills the site and, like a steroid-filled Tony Robbins, it sucks you in and forces you to see things from Ahnuld's point of view.

Schwarzenegger's larger-than-life personality hits you right from the welcome message. Can't you just hear his distinctive marble-mouthed accent as he uses Ahnuld-centric catchphrases to tell fans what's in store? "We've gone all out to pump it up with fantastic, entertaining stuff you can't get anywhere else."

Or, "I've built this site for you, my fans -- you have given me the opportunity to achieve everything I've ever dreamed of. You've been fantastic!"

Anyone not hearing "fantastic" as "fahn-TAH-steek"? Didn't think so.

Ahnuld ends the welcome with the most overused movie line this side of "Show me the money": "There's so much to do here, I'm sure 'You'll be back' over and over again."

Did I mention the hokey part? Still, God help me, it all just works.

The site is well-designed and professionally maintained, with six sections exploring the various facets that make up the man: Actor ("Films, games, a power pack of fun!"); Athlete ("Mr. Schwarzenegger in all his muscular glory!"); Activist ("The special projects closest to his heart."); Life ("His past, his present, his future, his own words!"); News ("What's new with the man who makes the news?"); and Souvenirs ("Free give-aways, auctions, and store of collectibles!").

Each section is updated frequently, a rarity among star sites, and fans will appreciate the surprising depth to the information. Did you know that O.J. Simpson was considered for the part of the Terminator? Or that Schwarzenegger charged his staff with tracking down the exact tank he drove while in the Austrian army? Granted, it's not the diary of Anne Frank, but it beats Cindy Crawford's online baby updates any day of the week.

Ahnuld as do-gooder is a very popular theme on the site, from his work with the Inner-City Games and Special Olympics to the "In His Own Words" essay in the Life section: "All of the success I've achieved, I did not achieve all by myself -- our kids need all of our help. So I guess I'm counting on all of you too." Sure the message is over the top, but that's what makes it all so uniquely Schwarzenegger.

The Athlete section, complete with an animated flexing Arnold, includes a personal message from the star about his war on "Couch Potatoes" and a promise that if you follow his advice, "you may never be called Girly Man again."

But it's interesting that Schwarzenegger's own health crisis -- open-heart surgery to correct a congenital defect -- is never mentioned. You can find his recent cover poses from Men's Fitness and Muscle & Fitness, but no heart-to-heart talk.

Could this be because it would tarnish the carefully crafted image of the seven-time Mr. Olympia, which would in turn defeat the whole purpose of the site? Ahnuld, perhaps more than any other A-lister, is a persona, and this site is meant to show him at his best. Weakness will not be tolerated.

Ahnuld once said that he would never change, because only an idiot changes after becoming successful. Schwarzenegger.com proves that the superstar has no intention of altering his image, nor is there any reason he should. Nobody does it better when it comes to shameless self-promotion, and even though he may be clinging to the past, at least he's keeping up with the times.

While I can't guarantee "I'll be back" to the site, I must admit I was left with a distinct tingling sensation that can only be the result of being "pumped up." Go figure.

Kat Giantis writes about popular culture, even though she lives in Seattle.

Celebrity Web site reviews run each Tuesday on GettingIt.