The anchormen called it a bolt from the blue, Tuesday's news that Arnold Schwarzenegger had fathered a child during an affair with his housekeeper. Some dubbed him The Sperminator; others The Marriage Terminator; everyone professed astonishment that California's perma-tanned Last Action Hero could turn out to be such a copper-topped villain.
Or nearly everyone. For while a gob-smacked mainstream media was coming to terms with the implosion of one of Hollywood's foremost power couples, a scandal-mongering celebrity biographer called Ian Halperin was celebrating a remarkable journalistic coup.
Seven months ago, while publicising an unauthorised biography of Schwarzenegger, Halperin predicted that California's then governor would separate from his wife Maria Shriver within the next 12 months. "Believe me," he told a radio host, "over the years, Arnold has done things that make Tiger Woods look like the Virgin Mary."
Halperin's book The Governator portrayed its subject as a serial sexual predator and alleged that during his 24-year marriage, Schwarzenegger had embarked on extra-marital liaisons with, among others, Total Recall co-star Rachel Ticotin and former child actress Gigi Goyette.
Yet although Halperin interviewed 700 people while researching the book, and boasts a track record for unearthing celebrity scandal that has earned him the nickname "Hollywood's Nostradamus", its publication met with silence from major news organisations.
"I'm a New York Times bestselling author," he told The Independent yesterday. "Normally, when my books come out, I get invited on all the major TV networks. This time, no one wanted me, except a couple of small radio stations. It was incredible: I'd turned up amazing stuff, but Schwarzenegger seemed to have shut me down. There was total news blackout."
Halperin adds that in his original manuscript, he detailed Arnie's affair with Mildred "Patty" Baena, the housekeeper said to have given birth to his illegitimate son roughly 10 years ago. But the entire passage revealing their relationship was expunged by his publisher, Rupert Murdoch's HarperCollins.
"It seems funny now," he said. "I actually identified Baena in the original manuscript, and went into detail about their affair and her child. But the lawyers struck it out. They were worried about a libel suit."
Yesterday, as rumours emerged that Schwarzenegger was the father of at least one other illegitimate child, Halperin predicted that we "have not even seen the tip of the iceberg". Further juicy revelations are likely to emerge when Shriver's lawyer files her divorce papers, he said.
"I know of numerous other women who say they had children with Schwarzenegger. I didn't write about their claims, because I was unable to corroborate them. I still don't know if they're true. But these women will start to appear from the woodwork."
To Halperin, the US media's failure to hold Schwarzenegger, 63, to account fits into a troubling pattern. While Fleet Street frets over the apparent ruthlessness of muck-raking tabloid hacks, their American counterparts suffer from the opposite problem.
Recent years have seen John Edwards come within weeks of mounting a serious challenge for the White House, despite the fact that he had been cheating on his cancer-ridden wife. Although his illegitimate daughter was photographed by the National Enquirer, major newspapers for months chose to ignore the story.
Last year brought the revelation that the serial infidelity of Tiger Woods had been suppressed by executives at publishers American Media, who agreed in 2007 to spike a tabloid report about his love life in return for an "exclusive" interview about his workout regime for their glossy title Men's Fitness.
Schwarzenegger's foibles have long been rumoured in the entertainment community. When he announced his intention to stand for Governor of California in 2003, his campaign was almost derailed by a string of women who claimed that he had groped or made inappropriate sexual advances towards them. At the time, journalist Wendy Leigh alleged in Britain's Daily Mail that a former flight attendant called Tammy Tousignant had given birth to his illegitimate son, Tanner, in the 1990s.
No US news organisation followed up the allegation. And while Tousignant yesterday denied that the boy (whose name is shared with Schwarzenegger's character in Total Recall) was the ex-governor's son, her lawyer said that a paternity test had been carried out.
Halperin, among others, now believes troubling questions must be asked about who really controls the US media. Shriver, he notes, is a scion of the Kennedy dynasty, which recently managed to have an unflattering TV drama about the family, starring Katie Holmes, dropped by The History Channel.
"It's a matter of justice," said Halperin. "America deserves to have a free press which isn't controlled from behind the scenes. I feel bad for the taxpayers of California. They are only now learning how this man behaved, on their dime. And who knows how many other cheating politicians are still out there?"
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