Arnold Schwarzenegger's new tell-all memoir, Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story, is the former Governator's first step on the road to image rehabilitation, as he tries to repair a reputation badly tarnished by his extramarital dalliances and separation from wife Maria Shriver.
Hey, the guy kept on going after being shot, burned and crushed in the Terminator movies. Fixing his image should be no problem.
But the reviews suggest Total Recall is nothing of the sort, with Schwarzenegger offering no scandalous details about the affair with his housekeeper that resulted in him fathering a now-teenaged son. And despite the ongoing allegations of sexual assault that have dogged the 65-year-old Schwarzenegger for years, it sounds like there are no new confessions of inappropriate behaviour to be found in the weighty tome's 646 pages.
Arnie surely knows how best to market himself, but with all due respect to the man who could probably still terminate us without breaking a sweat, here are the five ingredients that make a truly good celebrity memoir.
It's not a tell-all if you don't tell all, duh. From rock stars who detail their backstage drug shenanigans to actors who reveal their sexual kinks, a good tell-all needs to have gritty, gooey details we've never heard before. Schwarzenegger apparently spends one vague paragraph talking about the affair with his housekeeper. We were kind of hoping he'd have said to her, "Your clothes. Give them to me. Now."
Readers want the scoop on the wild and inappropriate behaviour, but they also want to know about dark times, the stints in rehab, the contemplated suicides, and how the famous person dealt with these. We all have to handle crap in our lives, and knowing celebs are not above this can make us feel more like them. Until we return to our dreary, low-paying, fame-free jobs.
Apologies when needed
Apologizing for bad behaviour is a tricky line to walk. You don't want to come across as insincere or weak -- sometimes we do bad stuff just because we feel we need to, and maybe apologizing for that is disingenuous. But when people have been truly wronged, you've got to look them in the eye and tell them you're sorry. And it's great for your image, too.
Who am I? How did I get here? Am I happy with what I've become? Another complaint coming from reviews of Total Recall is Schwarzenegger spends a lot of time telling readers what he's accomplished, but doesn't turn a critical eye inward. Without this, a tell-all is just a really long resume.
If the hero at the end of a novel hasn't learned anything from his adventures, it's not much of a story. So it goes with celebrity memoirs as well. Aside from the dirt, the humanity, the mea culpas and the navel-gazing, we need to know what the famous person has learned from all these experiences, even if the book only covers part of the celeb's life. It doesn't hurt to also let readers know there's still more to come. Or as Arnie says in Predator when he pins a bad guy to the wall with a machete: "Stick around."