SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger visited the state Senate on Monday for the first time in almost three years, but it wasn't to demand a deal on the state's overdue budget.
The Republican governor instead ventured upstairs to honor Joe Weider, the muscle magnate who launched Schwarzenegger's celebrity career in the United States nearly four decades ago. Weider, 84, entered the Senate on a wheelchair, trailed by a coterie that included "Rocky" star Sylvester Stallone.
The state Senate issued a resolution recognizing Monday as "Joe Weider Day," at Schwarzenegger's request. Weider financed and promoted Schwarzenegger's career from the time the governor was a fledgling Austrian bodybuilder through his current life as a politician.
Weider, a Canadian native who lives in Woodland Hills, founded an empire of bodybuilding and fitness magazines that celebrated muscle-bound athletes and offered training tips. In 2003, he sold his magazines, which included Muscle & Fitness, Men's Fitness and Shape, for $357 million to American Media Operations Inc.
In 1968, Weider provided Schwarzenegger with an apartment, car and weekly salary so he could promote the young Austrian bodybuilder in his magazines, Schwarzenegger said in his autobiography, "Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder." Weider also established the Mr. Olympia contest that helped make Schwarzenegger famous.
The last time the governor visited the Senate was to congratulate former Senate President Pro Tem John Burton on his departure in August 2004 after the two leaders became friends. The governor acknowledged that Monday's rare appearance in the Senate was again personal.
"This is a very special thing for me because Joe Weider, who we are recognizing today, is a man who has been kind of a father figure to me and a mentor of mine," Schwarzenegger said.
Weider has remained a strong benefactor. The magazine mogul has given Schwarzenegger's political causes more than $325,000 since 2002, including $50,000 to his ballot-issues committee in May.
After Weider sold his magazines, the governor privately signed a $5 million deal with American Media in 2003 to be executive editor of Flex and Muscle & Fitness, two magazines that still bear Weider's name on the cover and run pages of advertisements for supplements.
The deal landed Schwarzenegger in trouble in 2005 when critics charged that the governor was benefiting by the sales of supplements while vetoing a 2004 bill to regulate those same products. The governor canceled his contract that year but kept roughly $1.5 million in payments.
Schwarzenegger signed a bill banning high school athletes from using specified supplements in 2005. But the bill's author, former state Sen. Jackie Speier, said the governor has remained unflinchingly loyal to the bodybuilding community.
"The governor is pretty clear about where he stands on things," Speier said. "He appoints his buddies to the chiropractic board and he's honoring Weider."
Muscle & Fitness featured the governor on its July cover and ran a lengthy article to commemorate his 60th birthday this month. The magazine features another story on Schwarzenegger in its August issue.
Though resolutions are often overlooked - the Senate issues approximately 2,100 each year - the Web sites of Flex and Muscle & Fitness posted a news flash Monday informing readers about "Joe Weider Day."
Stallone, Schwarzenegger's acting friend and onetime partner in Planet Hollywood restaurants, said he came to Sacramento at the governor's request.
"Joe Weider is probably one of the first influences I ever had in my life when I was a 12-year-old boy reading his ads," Stallone said.
Two-time Mr. Olympia Franco Columbu was also on hand. Like Schwarzenegger, the "Sardinian Strongman" was featured in Weider's magazines.
The governor appointed Columbu to the state Board of Chiropractic Examiners in 2006. A former Weider editor, Richard Tyler, was appointed by Schwarzenegger to the board and became its chairman in March. The obscure panel drew legislative scrutiny after it violated open meeting laws this year.