Women Say Schwarzenegger Groped, Humiliated Them
The acts allegedly took place over three decades. A campaign aide denies the accusations.
by Gary Cohn, Carla Hall and Robert W. Welkos
Six women who came into contact with Arnold Schwarzenegger on movie sets, in studio offices and in other settings over the last three decades say he touched them in a sexual manner without their consent.
In interviews with The Times, three of the women described their surprise and discomfort when Schwarzenegger grabbed their breasts. A fourth said he reached under her skirt and gripped her buttocks.
A fifth woman said Schwarzenegger groped her and tried to remove her bathing suit in a hotel elevator. A sixth said Schwarzenegger pulled her onto his lap and asked whether a certain sexual act had ever been performed on her.
According to the women's accounts, one of the incidents occurred in the 1970s, two in the 1980s, two in the 1990s and one in 2000.
"Did he rape me? No," said one woman, who described a 1980 encounter in which she said Schwarzenegger touched her breast. "Did he humiliate me? You bet he did."
Four of the six women told their stories on condition that they not be named. Three work in Hollywood and said they were worried that, if they were identified, their careers would be in jeopardy for speaking out against Schwarzenegger, the onetime bodybuilding champion and box-office star who is now the front-runner in the Oct. 7 gubernatorial recall election.
The other unnamed woman said she feared public ridicule and possible damage to her husband's business.
In the four cases in which the women would not let their names be published, friends or relatives said that the women had told them about the incidents long before Schwarzenegger's run for governor.
None of the six women who gave their accounts to The Times filed any legal action against him.
Schwarzenegger's campaign spokesman, Sean Walsh, said the candidate has not engaged in improper conduct toward women. He said such allegations are part of an escalating political attack on Schwarzenegger as the recall election approaches.
"We believe Democrats and others are using this to try to hurt Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaign," Walsh said. "We believe that this is coming so close before the election, something that discourages good, hard-working, decent people from running for office."
Walsh said Schwarzenegger himself would have no comment.
The Times did not learn of any of the six women from Schwarzenegger's rivals in the recall race. And none of the women approached the newspaper on her own. Reporters contacted them in the course of a seven-week examination of Schwarzenegger's behavior toward women on and off the movie set.
Schwarzenegger's attitudes about women have been an issue on the campaign trail, where critics have accused him of being misogynistic, based on past statements he has made to various publications. In response, Schwarzenegger has said he respects women and that many of his comments were made in jest or simply meant to be provocative.
Schwarzenegger's conduct toward women also has been widely discussed in Hollywood over the years, notably after a March 2001 article in Premiere magazine called "Arnold the Barbarian." After the article appeared, a number of Schwarzenegger's colleagues wrote to the magazine saying that the story was inaccurate and that Schwarzenegger treated women with respect and kindness.
The earliest incident of the six described to The Times was said to have occurred in 1975 at Gold's Gym near Venice Beach. E. Laine Stockton, then newly married to professional bodybuilder Robby Robinson, said she had gone to the gym to watch her husband work out.
Stockton was 19 at the time. She said she was wearing slacks, tennis shoes and a loose-fitting T-shirt. She said she was not wearing a bra.
As she sat on an exercise bench, Stockton said, Schwarzenegger walked up behind her, reached under her T-shirt and touched her bare left breast.
"The gym is full of bodybuilders and Arnold comes and he gropes my breast — actually touches my breast with his left hand," she said.
She said Schwarzenegger then walked away without saying a word.
Stockton said she does not rule out that Schwarzenegger "may have meant it in playfulness." But she did not take it that way.
"I was just shocked, shocked to the point where I almost didn't know how to react, because it was so out of the blue and so unexpected," she said. "It just completely caught me off guard, and when I finally came to my senses, I immediately went over to Robby and I said, 'Look, Arnold just groped my breast.' "
Robinson, a former Mr. America, Mr. World and Mr. Universe, said he "tried to comfort her."
Robinson has since had a falling out with Schwarzenegger. An African American known as the "Black Prince" during his years on the professional bodybuilding circuit, Robinson has accused Schwarzenegger of racism — a charge that Schwarzenegger's campaign denies.
Robinson said he was upset by what Schwarzenegger had done to his wife, but did not confront him. "What he did was uncalled for, but I couldn't say nothing," Robinson said, explaining that he feared he'd be ostracized by the bodybuilding world.
He said he told his wife to stay out of Gold's Gym.
Robinson and Stockton are now divorced. They were interviewed separately by The Times.
Incident on Street
Another incident described to The Times was said to have occurred in 1980. A former pro beach volleyball player said Schwarzenegger touched her breast on a Santa Monica street.
The woman remembered walking down 19th Street, just off Wilshire Boulevard, when Schwarzenegger spotted her from his car.
"Come here," she recalled Schwarzenegger saying, as he motioned with his finger to the woman, then 22.
The two knew each other. She worked as a waitress at Fromin's deli, she said, a place Schwarzenegger frequented. On an earlier occasion, she recalled, Schwarzenegger had asked her when she was going on break. "We could have a lot of fun in half an hour," she remembered him saying. She said she was both a little scared and a little flattered. "I can't say I wasn't flattered. Arnold invited me to his apartment." She said she declined his invitation.
Schwarzenegger later renewed his invitation, she said, when he spotted her playing in a women's volleyball tournament at Venice Beach. "After the game, he came up to me and said, 'Now you will come to my apartment.' He didn't want to hear no." The woman said she told him, "It's not going to happen."
Now, she said, as she walked along 19th Street, Schwarzenegger conveyed a sense of urgency: "Come close, it's very important." As she drew nearer to his car to hear what he had to say, she recounted, Schwarzenegger "grabbed and squeezed" her left breast.
"If I was a man," she said she told him, "I would bust your jaw."
As tears welled in her eyes, she said, Schwarzenegger laughed. "He thought it was hilarious."
She said she went to her car and "just started crying and crying."
The woman said she told her sister about the encounter, a claim the sister confirmed. She recalled that her sibling was "completely offended."
One of the women in the 2001 Premiere article was British television host Anna Richardson, who accused Schwarzenegger of touching her breast. In an interview with The Times, she reiterated that account.
Richardson said she was interviewing the actor in December 2000 as part of his promotional tour for the movie "The Sixth Day." The interview, to be aired on her TV show "Big Screen," took place in a suite at the Dorchester Hotel in London.
Richardson said she had interviewed Schwarzenegger on previous occasions and that he had been a "perfect gentleman."
"This time around was quite different," she recalled. "He kept looking at my breasts, kept asking if I worked out," she said. "I went to shake his hand and he grabbed me onto his knee and he said, 'Before you go, I want to know if your breasts are real.' "
Richardson, then 29, said she replied that her breasts were real. She said she looked around for help from other people in the room, but nobody came to her assistance. "At that point, he circled my left nipple with his finger and he said, 'Yes, they are real.' " She said he then let her go.
The Schwarzenegger campaign provided a different account.
Sheryl Main, a Hollywood publicist who has worked with Schwarzenegger on many films and accompanied him on his worldwide travels since 1995, said she was present at the interview with Richardson. Main said it was Richardson who provocatively approached Schwarzenegger. She said that after finishing the brief interview, Richardson rose, cupped her right breast in her right hand and said, "What do you think of these?" She then sat on his lap and was immediately escorted from the room, Main said.
She contends that Richardson later concocted her story.
A movie studio secretary said Schwarzenegger grabbed her buttocks in the late 1980s.
She said the episode occurred on the Columbia Pictures lot, where she worked. She said she often accompanied her boss, who was also a woman, on visits around the lot. One day the boss asked if she would like to meet Schwarzenegger, who was in a production office.
"It was like, 'Oh, come with me, you can meet him,' " the secretary said.
When they reached the office, she said, Schwarzenegger was seated on a couch. The secretary, then in her 30s, said she sat on a couch opposite Schwarzenegger while the actor and her supervisor talked. When the conversation ended, the secretary said she approached Schwarzenegger to shake his hand and say goodbye.
He remained seated, she said, and he slipped his left hand under her skirt and grabbed her right buttock.
"He just held on. He held on and said, 'You have a very nice ass.' He said, 'I'd love to work you out.' "
"I remember thinking his hand was cold on my butt," she said.
The door was open and the secretary said she remembers seeing a couple of people outside look in — and then quickly look away.
"All I was really thinking was, 'I'd like to go.' I was trying to figure out how to get his hand off my butt and his arm away from me without making a big deal of it. I remember thinking, 'Geez, that's a strong arm.' I was just thinking, 'Let me get out of here.' "
She said she looked at the ceiling and looked at her boss, who kept repeating, "We've got to go now. We've got to go now,' and yanking my arm. My boss did the best she could to get me away."
The secretary said Schwarzenegger released her after about 20 seconds.
Later, as they left the production office, the secretary said her flustered supervisor remarked, "Oh, my gosh! I had no idea he would do that." The secretary said she replied: "Oh, well, no big deal."
"I was sort of embarrassed in front of her. It just felt strange."
A day or two later, Schwarzenegger called her boss' office, and the secretary said she answered the phone. "He figured out it was me and he said, 'Oh, you still haven't come to work out with me.' " She said she did not respond and simply put her boss on the line.
Six or seven years later, the secretary recalled, she walked past Schwarzenegger on a studio lot. "No recognition. No looking," she said.
Now 47, she has been in and out of the entertainment business. After a long period of unemployment, she said she now has another secretarial job at a movie studio and does not want to risk losing it by being publicly identified. She also declined to provide the name of her boss on the Columbia lot.
She has, however, recounted the story numerous times through the years — initially as a warning to other women with whom she worked. Yet the secretary said most women she knows in and around the entertainment business were untroubled by the incident.
"I was like, 'He's disgusting, he's revolting.' They said, 'No, he's hot.' The attitude of women was more upsetting than he was."
She also told the story to a friend, Michael Collins, a freelance writer and a director of the Los Angeles Press Club. In an interview with The Times, Collins said that she recounted the episode to him eight months ago — well before the recall race. "She never thought he might run for governor," he said.
'This Is Disgusting'
In late 1990, Schwarzenegger was in the San Bernardino County town of Fontana, shooting "Terminator 2: Judgment Day." According to a female crew member, Schwarzenegger harassed her on several occasions.
She recalled encountering the actor in an elevator as she headed downstairs to the pool of the hotel where the cast and crew were staying. On each occasion, she said, she was wearing a terrycloth robe over a black, one-piece Speedo swimsuit.
"At least three times — if not more — he would end up in the elevator with me, groping me and trying to take my robe off," said the crew member, now 41 and still working in the movie industry.
"He would pin me against the corner in the elevator" and try to take off her robe and pull down the straps of her suit, she said.
The incidents did not last long, she said, because the elevator ride was short.
The woman said her response to Schwarzenegger's actions evolved with each incident. "The first time, you're like, "Oh, my God! I was groped by Arnold Schwarzenegger!' The second time you're like, 'This is disgusting.' The third time you're like, 'Get the away from me.' "
She said she told her boss, who advised her, "Just stay away from him."'
After that, the woman said, she would check the hotel hallway before entering the elevator. She said if Schwarzenegger got into the pool, she would get out.
"What could you do? He was the highest-paid actor in the world. I was a peon," she said. "The only thing you could do is stay away from him."
The crew member said she told her husband about the elevator confrontations in 1992 or 1993. "I heard this story a long time ago," her husband confirmed.
The couple spoke with The Times only after repeated assurances that their names would be kept confidential. "I'm a professional in the film business," she said. "I fear retribution."
Another woman, now a wife and mother in her 30s, said she also fell in Schwarzenegger's "sight lines" while working as a crew member on "Terminator 2" in Fontana.
She said Schwarzenegger was sitting in a director's chair, surrounded by three or four other men, waiting for filming to start. It was either late afternoon or early evening, she said.
"I was walking on the set and Arnold called out, 'Come here, you sexy devil,' and reached out and pulled me on to his lap," the woman recalled.
She said he then whispered in her ear: "Have you ever had a man slide his tongue in your [anus]?"
"I didn't know how to react," the woman said. "It was bizarre. What he said was so specifically sexual, it was bizarre.
"I remember looking around and seeing this bank of smiling faces and feeling alone," she continued. The men standing at Schwarzenegger's side, she said, "were in total support mode — of him, not me. It was kind of like everything he did was OK, and isn't it funny and isn't it swell? It was like they were proud of him Nobody said, 'What are you doing? Leave her alone.' "
After the incident, she said, she continued on her way. "I didn't fall apart," she said, but added: "It's embarrassing and degrading when you're doing a job."
She did not report the incident, she said, because she was a low-level crew member. "You're in an environment where you just go with the flow." The attitude on the set was: "Isn't it flattering that Arnold is paying attention to you?"
The woman said she recounted the incident at the time to a family member. In an interview with The Times, the family member confirmed being told about the encounter and said, "Arnold thought it was kind of fun to toy with her. It embarrassed her."
The woman said she wished she "wasn't so spineless," but feared that she would be shunned in Hollywood if quoted by name.
"There's an unspoken rule in the industry," she said. "What happens on the set stays on the set."
Nancy Tafoya, who was also on the set of "Terminator 2," recalled her own encounter with Schwarzenegger. Tafoya — who was serving as a legal guardian for 13-year-old actor Eddie Furlong, her nephew and one of the film's key characters — said she was talking with a group of people when Schwarzenegger came up behind her and yanked her long, black hair.
Her head snapped back, she said. Although she was not injured, Tafoya said she was "shocked." The people around her, she said, started laughing.
Tafoya said she was never touched in a sexual manner by Schwarzenegger, but she saw him push his body against a female crew member.
Tafoya said she was about 15 feet from Schwarzenegger when he approached a woman wearing jeans, a shirt and tennis shoes.
She said Schwarzenegger walked across the room and faced the woman. "Then he grabbed both sides of her knees and pushed them apart and started moving his pelvis into her," Tafoya said. "It lasted about 10 seconds." She said the woman laughed nervously, and Schwarzenegger walked away.
"I thought that was incredibly offensive, and I didn't know who I was more annoyed with — him or her," said Tafoya, a social worker. "But when I looked at her, I thought the woman didn't have much choice, because it happened so quick."
Walsh, the Schwarzenegger spokesman, said that the campaign was talking to senior crew members on the "Terminator 2" set to investigate the various incidents cited by The Times.
"We talked to members of the production crew who were in a supervisory role and they said they were not aware" of the alleged improprieties, Walsh said.
Some of the dozens of people interviewed for this article stressed that the culture on movie sets tends to be rowdy and permissive. Often, the tone is set by the star, they said.
In Schwarzenegger's case, they said, his sense of humor and language is often outrageous — but not mean-spirited. Many of his colleagues find him to be charming.
"He's fun, extremely intelligent and very professional," said stuntwoman Simone Boisseree, who worked with Schwarzenegger on four films. "I like him as a human being and think he's a decent guy."
Another stuntwoman, Chere Rae Bryson, came away with a different impression after working with Schwarzenegger on the 1990 movie "Total Recall." She said he often used vulgar words for vagina and clitoris during her contact with him during the filming.
"He was crude, boisterous and disparaging around women," she said. "In the makeup room, his language was so bad I turned around and walked out."
Bryson said Schwarzenegger seemed to have toned down his behavior when she worked with him on a second movie, "Collateral Damage," released in 2002.
"People do change as we get older," said Bryson, who was also an actress and Playboy bunny. "All of us, at one time or another, have displayed behavior that I'm sure we're not proud of. Hopefully, he's evolved from that."
Bryson said Schwarzenegger was also on his best behavior whenever his wife, Maria Shriver, was present. The couple were married in 1986. "When Maria was around, he was a gentleman," Bryson said. "When she wasn't around, he was the opposite."
One woman who says she was deeply offended by Schwarzenegger's words was a waitress at the now-defunct Bicycle Shop cafe on Wilshire Boulevard in West Los Angeles, where the actor used to hang out with about half a dozen friends on Sunday mornings in the late 1980s.
"They always sat in my section," she said. The group was friendly and chatty with her, she said, and took their lead from Schwarzenegger. They tipped well, too. "There was definitely harmless flirtation with all of them," said the woman, who also worked sporadically as a TV actress.
One Sunday, she said, she was pouring coffee at the table when Schwarzenegger beckoned her to his side.
"I bent down to listen to him," she recalled. "He said, a little louder than a whisper, 'I want you to do a favor for me.' I thought, OK, maybe he wanted more bread. And he said, 'I want you to go in the bathroom, stick your finger in your [vagina], and bring it out to me.' "
She stood upright. "I was thoroughly disgusted" but said nothing to Schwarzenegger, she recalled. "There was drama in the silence of it," she said. "He looked up, and it looked like I was threatening [him] with the coffee pot."
Everyone at the table then glanced over at the restaurant owner, Andre Driollet. He wagged his finger at the waitress, she said, apparently fearful that she was going to dump the coffee on Schwarzenegger.
"I was so appalled, and when Andre looked at me [as if] to say you better not, I immediately went to him to tell him what happened," she recounted. What Schwarzenegger had said "was above and beyond what was acceptable. I think he should have had hot coffee poured in his lap."
Driollet, who according to a relative is living on a boat in the Caribbean, could not be reached. In an interview with The Times, a friend of the waitress said she told him of the incident long ago.
The waitress said she told Schwarzenegger at the time: "If you're ever some place and some woman throws hot coffee on your head, it will be me." He laughed, she said.
"He thought it was the funniest thing. And then the whole table laughed because, if Arnold laughed, the whole table laughed."
Times researcher John L. Jackson contributed to this report.