The Digital Journalist
Group Grope
October 2003

by Mario Tama

The antsy pack of journalists crowded the posh Pacific Palisades neighborhood street awaiting the arrival of Arnold Schwarzenegger to cast his ballot in the recall election. Schwarzenegger's flaks assured us that his car would pull directly up to the front gate where we could shoot him exiting the car and entering the lavish private home/polling station where he would cast his vote. Surprisingly, the fidgety group of 60 or so maintained a makeshift path which allowed other voters to pass into and out of the home and through which
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images
Schwarzenegger would also presumably pass. The setup became unglued several times when a local Ferrari or Jaguar would attempt to worm up the narrow street, which had now become a full-fledged media encampment. As one opulent car slowly crept through the inglorious gauntlet of cameras, ladders, and microphones, a shooter called out, "Hey buddy, sorry about the scratch!" A short time later a massive gate slid open to a driveway across the street as another shooter yelled out "Release the hounds!"

Arnold's flaks assured us he would be arriving "very soon," which in LA time I presumed meant a few days. I kept thinking that if we were in New York there would be 10 cops and 40 barricades. But as it stood there was exactly one LA cop in wraparound shades lounging by his car down at the end of the street and zero barricades as we casually trampled the cultivated bushes outside the home. A passerby made the usual "What's going on?" inquiry, to which one wisgeguy replied, "OJ's inside". Eventually two black SUVs pulled up -- with no one inside. We turned around and saw Arnold through a window already inside the garage preparing to vote. We ran to a side gate and attempted to shoot Arnold through the glass casting his ballot, but we all knew the pool pictures from inside would be far superior.

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images
As he exited the home it became apparent that he and wife Maria would walk out through the front gate to the waiting SUVs. Everyone sprinted back to the front gate, which created a huge bottleneck through which Arnold and Maria attempted to pass. Maria led the way as both she and Arnold were attacked by a frothing sea of D1's, 1D's, video cameras and microphones. I fought my way through the crowd towards the open SUV door, clamping my leg over the door edge as one of Arnold's bruisers locked horns with me and another photog. We grappled until Arnold approached at which point we hoisted our cameras over the goon's shoulder, making frames of both Maria and Arnold passing through the cyclone into the car.

Someone shouted out a question to Arnold about what he thought about voting for himself. In classic Terminator accent he replied, "It was coooooooool."

© Mario Tama