The Beverly Hilton’s International Grand Ballroom was radiantly transformed on Tuesday into Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s celebratory GOP headquarters. As curious commoners were banished to the hotel’s lobby bar, a sea of well-dressed Schwarzenegger supporters mingled within the heavily guarded ballroom.
At least one of Schwarzenegger’s friends, former “True Lies” co-star Tom Arnold, helped set the stage for what could have been confused for a movie premiere as he mingled in the lobby while slowly making his way into the gala.
A steady stream of well-dressed Schwarzenegger supporters – functionaries and friends alike – poured through security with their “all access” passes and filled into the ballroom. Set up around the party’s perimeter, a battalion of television, radio and print media waited for the governor’s victorious entrance to the red, white and blue balloon-covered center stage. On and around the ballroom floor, scores of photographers patiently waited with their long-lens cameras.
Anticipating Schwarzenegger’s 10 p.m. arrival on stage, Monterey Park City Council Member Benjamin “Frank” Venti, a registered Democrat, sipped on a glass of white wine as he explained his ardent support for the governor.
“Democrats do not always have to be stupid,” Venti said with Monterey Park’s mayor, Betty Tom Chu, flanked at his side. “Some of us at least read and understand the issues.”
And as far as Venti and Chu are concerned, Schwarzenegger came along after ousted Gov. Gray Davis and “pulled California out of the hole.”
Content with Arnold and tired with his party affiliation, Venti said, “Democrats have been sad, pathetic, disgraceful and wrong. They disregard the troops and use damaging rhetoric in order to further their political cause.”
Leonard Lanzi, president of the gay and lesbian organization Los Angeles Log Cabin Republicans, took a much calmer stance in his compliment of the governor.
“Arnold is a thoughtful and bright collaboration builder,” he said in commending the governor’s manners. “As gay Republicans in California, we have something to celebrate.”
In fact, Lanzi and his Los Angeles chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans are quite happy with Schwarzenegger. Lanzi said the governor headlined a July fundraising event for the group and helped to raise more than $100,000.
The Rev. Wendell J. Davis Sr. of McBeth Ministries – an organization that represents 164 African American Baptist Churches – also eagerly anticipated the governor’s entrance.
“I represent one of 20 black pastors that supported the governor,” he said, citing issues like education, housing and prison reform as key “black issues” that Schwarzenegger has promised to address.
Davis acknowledged his organization is in the minority when it comes to supporting Republicans, but stressed the importance of issues over party affiliation.
Davis also said he takes comfort in knowing Shriver positively influences her husband.
“When he goes to bed at night, he basically has pillow talk with a Democrat,” he said, referencing Shriver’s perceived political stance as a Democrat in disguise.
And when Schwarzenegger took the stage just after 10 p.m., Shriver was there to introduce her husband to a flurry of roaring on-lookers and flash-frenzied media. She introduced her husband as a man on “common ground” with a “common cause.”
“His soul is in the center, and his heart is in the right place,” she said as functionaries like Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and San Fernando Republicans President Gary Aminoff stood behind her on stage. Actors Arnold and Lou Ferrigno also stood on stage as not just friends, but supporters.
And then the governor took center stage to deafening applause and blinding flashes. Steams of confetti filled the ballroom and the waiting balloons dropped from the ceiling like it was New Year’s Eve.
“I love doing sequels, I just love it,” Schwarzenegger said in the opening of his brief victory speech. Schwarzenegger thanked his supporters and vowed to earn the trust of all Californians who did not vote for him in the first place.
“I’m going to continue with my mandate to build a brighter and better future for California,” the governor said, reading from his prepared remarks.
Speaking on the importance of “addressing the issues as diverse as California,” the governor briefly ended his remarks. Lyrics of a song, “Let the Sunshine In,” loudly rang as supporters clapped and confetti continued to fall.