Politics Aside, Sacramento Gets Into a Party Mood

Times Staff Writer

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger starred Monday in a glitzy and historic inauguration that was part political debut, part Hollywood premiere.

Although only 7,500 handpicked guests -- and several hundred journalists from around the world -- had passes to witness the event up close, hundreds of other Californians massed on the Capitol's western flank, some crushing up against a chain-link security fence, some gathering half a football field away to watch the ceremony on a giant screen.

By the start of the program, the crowd on the sidewalks was five deep. Fathers hoisted children on their shoulders. Some onlookers climbed trees. Others griped about being stuck in the cheap seats, far from the action.

Samantha Guzman, 43, hopped a bus downtown to catch the show. "If I can just hear his voice from here, I'll be happy," Guzman said, hovering outside the security barrier. "I already saw him drive by in his limousine. He rolled down the window, waved and gave me that gorgeous smile."

At least she could hear the music, an eclectic program that mixed mariachis with Japanese taiko drumming and orchestra tunes from the "Sound of Music."

Precisely on schedule, the Schwarzeneggers took the stage beneath a large white canopy at 11 a.m. The governor, well-tanned as usual, wore a gray Prada suit and blinding white shirt. His wife, Maria Shriver, wore a cream-colored Valentino ensemble.

Schwarzenegger's in-laws, Sargent and Eunice Shriver -- members of the famed Kennedy political clan -- were also on hand, as were the Schwarzeneggers' impeccably groomed and rarely seen children, Christopher, 6; Patrick, 10; Christina, 12; and Katherine, 13.

Christopher, with blond, shoulder-length hair and a dark blue blazer and tie, proved that life as a politician's child can be challenging. Throughout the program, he alternately squirmed, yawned, stretched and puffed his cheeks in and out, though he did become briefly enthralled with the interpreter translating for the deaf.

Monday had dawned gray and misty in Sacramento, sending panic through the hearts of inauguration organizers fearful of rain. By late morning, however, a patch of blue sky had opened above the Capitol, providing a bright overhang to the day's prime event -- the oath of office.

At 11:20 a.m., Schwarzenegger stepped forward on the dais and placed his hand on a 1911 Bible he had purchased shortly after immigrating to the United States. Standing ramrod straight, he was sworn in as the state's 38th governor by Chief Justice Ronald M. George. As Gov. Schwarzenegger delivered a 12-minute speech, scores of state government Web sites replaced the photograph of his ousted predecessor, Gray Davis, with a picture of the new man in charge.

And with that, the transition was complete.

After the ceremony, the new governor began what could be called the "let's do lunch tour," stopping in at three consecutive feasts, each featuring strudel and other temptations reflecting Schwarzenegger's homeland of Austria.

At the first, with legislators and other statewide elected officials in the Capitol rotunda, Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson (D-Culver City) offered a comedic greeting that played off Schwarzenegger's movies.

"You know, governor," quipped Wesson, "this is the first time I've been asked to give a toast to a Republican governor. And I have forgotten what I'm supposed to say. So I hope in a short period of time, I will have 'total recall.' "

With guests raising glasses filled with Evian water, Wesson then offered a native Austrian toast -- "Zum Wohl," or "to your health."

After offerings of roasted chicken with mango salsa, Yukon potato souffle and fire-seared eggplant fritter, the governor was hustled off to his next celebration, at Sacramento's venerable Sutter Club. There, a dozen California Highway Patrol officers stood beside a burgundy awning, shooing away reporters to clear a path for celebrities, wealthy donors, Schwarzenegger family members and politicians.

When a voice from the crowd -- a voice belonging to Linda Mahawk, a blues singer from Dixon -- piped up, "Oh, my God, he's going to walk right by us," onlookers craned their necks to see. It wasn't Schwarzenegger, but a friend, actor Rob Lowe.

Lowe was followed by former Gov. Pete Wilson and a stream of celebrities, each of whom sent the entertainment press into a frenzy. "Tia!" they yelled at Tia Carrera. "Over here! This way!"

Actor Tom Arnold was one of only a few celebrities who paused to offer thoughts on their pal's first day as governor: "He was a little emotional," Arnold said, "he was almost sweating. I didn't know a terminator could sweat."

Shortly after 1 p.m., the new First Couple showed up, arriving in a fleet of four SUVs with a CHP escort. Schwarzenegger headed promptly for the door, but Shriver stopped to answer a question from an Access Hollywood reporter: How did it feel looking out on that crowd?

"It's a great day for Arnold," his wife replied, "if you think about Arnold's life and where he came from. I wish his mother was here to see it."

As the somebodies of Inauguration Day partied, the streets outside buzzed with commerce and political commentary, much of it related to allegations that Schwarzenegger groped and humiliated women over the last three decades.

Activists with the group Code Pink, whose members had protested at numerous Schwarzenegger campaign stops, paraded the sidewalks in outlandish clothes and bright pink wigs, accompanied by a 20-foot-tall female puppet with the message "We're Watching" draped around her neck.

Down the block, three members of a Berkeley Unitarian church impersonated bodybuilders, doing deep knee bends while holding cardboard barbells scrawled with political statements.

Among them were "More $ for Education," "Yes Renewable Energy," "No Capital Punishment." Church member Hal Carlstad said he hoped the Kennedys would influence Schwarzenegger's actions.

"But I really don't have much confidence that he'll help people at the bottom of society," added Carlstad, 78. "What does he have, four Humvees? Eight Humvees? What kind of example does that set?"

Mingling with the protesters were merchants hawking Schwarzenegger souvenirs. Among them were two buddies, Denny Freidenrich and Craig Kincaid, selling $20 T-shirts with the message "Arnold's the One!"

"Good morning!" Freidenrich, of Laguna Beach, yelped at the passing crowd. "Buy a shirt! Deficit reduction!" Declaring sales brisk, he whipped out a photo of Caroline Kennedy wearing one of his shirts, and said Shriver had requested one.

On sale elsewhere were "Hasta la Vista, Davis" shirts, Schwarzenegger buttons bearing the message "I'm Baaaaack" and oil portraits of the new governor by local artist Robert Lindsey, a longtime fan.

Perhaps the most popular character strolling the sidewalks was Schwarzenegger impersonator Lyndall Grant, 49, in a dark blazer, Ray-Ban sunglasses and heavy makeup simulating the governor's tan.

As passersby gawked, the square-jawed Grant, who has been playing Schwarzenegger at corporate functions and other events for six years, gave interviews, waved and generally had a great time.

"I think this is fantaaastic," Grant said, using a word frequently uttered by the new governor. "Just fantaaastic."


Times staff writers Gina Piccalo, Shawn Hubler, Carl Ingram and Joe Mathews contributed to this report.

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