Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger held an impromptu book signing at indie bookstore McNally-Jackson in Nolita this afternoon. Mr. Schwarzenegger announced the surprise signing via Twitter and in a note on Facebook leading a crowd of over 100 almost exclusively male fans to rush downtown to shake the Governator’s large hand and have him sign copies of his tome Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story.
Mr. Schwarzenegger’s arrival was preceded by a surprisingly mellow soundtrack featuring Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel and Leonard Cohen. Just about five minutes after the scheduled start of the signing, Mr. Schwarzenegger strolled in, wearing a dark suit, cowboy boots with an Americana pattern and a skull ring nearly as large as his finger. The body builder-turned-politician then sat down to autograph his autobiography at a table next to a cardboard cutout of him in his prime (i.e., flexing in a bikini).
“Thank you so much for putting this together so quickly,” whispered a publicist from Simon & Schuster, the book’s publisher.
Although the Governator’s handlers claimed the event was planned last night, bookstore staff told The Observer they were given a head’s up about the signing late last week.
“You working out? You look pumped up,” Mr. Schwarzengger said as he shook hands, signed books and posed for pictures with fans.
“You know anything about watches? This is a Legacy,” Mr. Schwarzenegger told one fan who complimented the timepiece sticking out from the cuff of his suit jacket. Apparently, the Legacy watch is a good choice for those with large forearms, as it dwarfed Mr. Schwarzenegger’s sizeable wrist.
The Governor was not supposed to pose for pictures or sign anything other than books, but he generously did both.
Reporters were allowed in a small roped off area adjacent to Mr. Schwarzenegger’s table and informed they would not be permitted to ask questions. One brave soul from Inside Edition attempted to circumvent the ban.
“You were great on GMA,” she yelled before being gently reminded the Governor was not speaking with the press.
Probably due to the crackdown on reporters, the only remote reference to the love child scandal Ms. Schwarzenegger endured last year at the signing was a fan who said to him, “What happened happened…You are doing the right thing.”
“Thanks. Have a nice day,” the Governor mumbled, before posing for yet another cellphone picture.
Outside the event, where the line of Mr. Schwarzenegger’s admirers snaked around Prince Street and more media staked out the signing, it was a different story. Another Inside Edition reporter and a cameraman interviewed fans who exited the signing and asked their thoughts on the Governator’s past transgressions.
“You can’t judge somebody,” said one man who identified himself as a member of an online Schwarzenegger fan club.
“Yes you can!” shouted another man who had been standing in the street watching the proceedings.
An earpiece-clad member of Mr. Schwarzenegger’s security team kept watch over the line, enforcing a rule that only those who purchased books could have an audience with the Governator and helping several bewildered patrons who showed up to shop at McNally-Jackson with no idea they were walking into an autograph signing. At one point, we overheard him on the phone with a colleague saying, “Find me a cigar store.”
Knowing Mr. Schwarzenegger is a big fan of fine, hand-rolled cigars, we piped in and recommended nearby Mulberry Street Cigars in Little Italy. The security staffer dispensed Mr. Schwarzenegger’s personal assistant to check out the cigar shop.
Inside, all 162 copies of Mr. Schwarzenegger’s memoir in stock at McNally-Jackson sold out before the line finished. Fans who were unable to buy books asked if they could pre-order with the store or online and still get pictures with the Governator. The security team informed them there wouldn’t be enough time, but, in an attempt to alleviate the disappointment, Mr. Schwarzenegger posed with his last remaining admirers.
One of his handlers told him he had to retake the picture because it was too blurry.
“So don’t shake,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said. “Somebody is schvitzing.”
“Don’t worry, he’ll be back,” somebody said, as the Governor and his entourage departed the bookstore.
Outside, Mr. Schwarzenegger entered his car without taking questions from any of the assembled media. Thinking that, perhaps he and his team had taken us up on our cigar store recommendation, we headed down Mulberry Street to see if we might have another shot to speak with the Governator.
When we arrived, we found Mulberry Street Cigars had the lights off and was closed for the day. It seemed both The Observer and the cigar store missed our respective shots at having a moment with Mr. Schwarzenegger.