Schwarzenegger plans low-key start

Governor-elect to skip usual inaugural festivities

November 17, 2003|By Mitchell Landsberg | Mitchell Landsberg,LOS ANGELES TIMES

At 11 a.m. today, Arnold Schwarzenegger will place his hand on a Bible and take the oath of office as California's 38th governor. It will be a simple, no-frills ceremony, his advisers say.

There will be a few brass bands. Seven thousand or so invited guests. A five-story camera riser groaning with the weight of an international press corps. Live, national television coverage. Every living former governor of California, with the sole exception of Ronald Reagan. A Hollywood contingent expected to include Rob Lowe, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Arnold, Danny DeVito and Linda Hamilton. A few Kennedys.

Not to mention Vanessa Williams singing the National Anthem.

"The charge was: simple but dignified, and we are sticking to that," said Marty Wilson, a Sacramento publicist who coordinated the inaugural events.

Aside from the unprecedented media interest, the inaugural doings will be fairly low-key by California's historical standards. There will be no inaugural ball, a marked contrast from the events that ushered in the back-to-back administrations of Govs. Pete Wilson and Gray Davis, not to mention the dance-until-you-drop affair of Gov. George Pardee (1903-07), which lasted until 4 a.m.

Nor will Schwarzenegger's inaugural address, timed at a crisp 10 minutes to fit neatly in the typical time between TV commercials, remotely compare to some of the oratorical excesses of the past, such as the 22-page, 90-minute speech that kicked off the administration of Gov. James "Sunny Jim" Rolph in 1931. Schwarzenegger's speech will hold few specifics and emphasize Schwarzenegger's broader vision for the state, say two aides who have seen it.

"It really is just a ceremony," said Marty Wilson, who also coordinated the inaugural events for Pete Wilson (no relation) in 1991 and 1995. An extravagant celebration would seem inappropriate, he said, given the state's fiscal ills and the unusual nature of the recall that led to Schwarzenegger's election.

"Governor Schwarzenegger feels that would send just the wrong message," he said.

As it is, the inaugural events fill a three-page schedule. Live television coverage was expected to begin at 6 a.m. today, when TV networks are scheduled to begin broadcasting from the Capitol, primarily for early risers on the East Coast.

Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver, were scheduled to arrive at the Capitol at 10:25 a.m., with the swearing-in to begin promptly at 11.

Two dozen dignitaries were invited to sit on the dais with Schwarzenegger. Among those expected to attend were Davis and former Govs. Wilson, George Deukmejian and Jerry Brown, representing nearly three decades of California governance. Brown and Davis are Democrats; Wilson and Deukmejian, like Schwarzenegger, are Republicans.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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