Guv gone wild

Guest column

Arnold Schwarzenegger now faces his toughest challenge of his career — at least since the summer he tried to con audiences into shelling out money for “Last Action Hero.”

Convincing Californians to swallow big cuts in social service programs and huge hikes in college and university fees, not to mention his controversial proposal to sell $15 billion in bonds, won’t be easy.

Particularly when low- and middle-class taxpayers realize they’re bearing the brunt of Cahleeeeforneeeia’s woes.

The real solution is so obvious, I can’t believe cameras aren’t already rolling: It’s time for Gov. Schwarzenegger to sell himself.

I’m not talking special interests (although he seems to have already caught on in that regard) — I’m referring to Hollywood.

If Schwarzenegger were to work non-stop in the coming year, pulling down hefty paychecks for movie roles, TV appearances, product endorsements and perhaps a line of “Girls Gone Wild: California” videos – and then deposit it straight to the state treasury — he’d go along way toward getting this debt paid down.

“Terminator 4” and “Terminator 5”? Yes, but you’re focused on the obvious. As shown by the massive amount of attention the media has paid to the California recall campaign and Schwarzenegger’s election, this guy can appear in just about anything — and people will show up.

Besides, there’s a limit to how much time the Governor has for film shoots. But Schwarzenegger could easily squeeze quick TV stints into his schedule — and because he’s so rarely shown up on the small screen, would pull a hefty premium.

We’re talking a cameo in the final episode of “Friends.” A guest judge slot one week on “American Idol.” A few days on the next version of “The Surreal Life.” A new edition of Fox’s “Celebrity Boxing,” in which Schwarzenegger squares off with California state state Treasurer Phil Angelides.

How ’bout this: God appears in the form of … you ready? Arnold Schwarzenegger in an episode of “Joan of Arcadia.” Hell, for the state of our state, Schwarzenegger might even have to guest on UPN. (We all have to make sacrifices, yes?)

While all this is going on, the documentarians behind “Pumping Iron” would be at work on the multimedia blitz “Pumping California.”

And given Schwarzenegger managed to get paid for offering up commentary on he “T3” DVD, why stop at movies that he appeared in? I’d love to hear Schwarzenegger’s recorded thoughts on “Mona Lisa Smile.” Or the complete collection of episodes from “The Simple Life.”

But let’s think globally here. Schwarzenegger has already pulled down some cash by hawking product in Japan. Now, how about pushing product worldwide? Cell phones in the UK, cars in Southeast Asia, Vegemite in Australia, and McDonald’s in the US of A (I’m lovin’ it!).

Then there’s the merchandising blitz. Schwarzenegger Bobble Heads. “The Governor Repealed The Car Tax and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt” wear. AOL can even launch a $19.95-per-month web cam trained inside Schwarzenegger’s Sacramento office.

Wife Maria, meanwhile, could do her part by hosting a daily talk show – forget the talk show booking wars, here’s the only place you can catch the one and only Arnold Schwarzenegger! And the Schwarzenegger/Shriver kids? They’re off providing their voices for the Kids’ WB cartoon “Li’l Arnold.”

It still wouldn’t quite add up to $15 billion. But it would be fun to watch — and we’d still be able to afford a visit to our state parks.

Michael Schneider is a TV editor for Daily Variety.

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