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Schwarzenegger still a friend, says Kerry

LOS ANGELES -- As Democrats and Vietnam veterans, Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts and Governor Gray Davis of California are natural political allies. The effort to recall Davis has put Kerry in political conflict with another friend he has known longer: actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the leading Republican trying to take Davis's place.

Kerry and Schwarzenegger have a relationship that goes back nearly 30 years, from the time that the Democratic presidential contender's high school friend, George Butler, discovered Schwarzenegger and decided to make the bodybuilder the focus of a documentary film, "Pumping Iron," which launched his movie career.

In the ensuing years, Schwarzenegger would gain celebrity status with his roles in such movies as "The Terminator." The Austrian native improved his English and became a naturalized American citizen. Kerry, meanwhile, would rise from Navy veteran and antiwar activist to Massachusetts lieutenant governor and US senator. Along the way, their paths crossed constantly.

At times, Kerry would see Schwarzenegger in the company of Butler, a photo buff who has archived Kerry's life in pictures since their time together at the St. Paul's School in Concord, N.H. Later, the actor married newswoman Maria Shriver, niece of Kerry's Democratic colleague, Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts.

Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, has a vacation home in Ketchum, Idaho; Schwarzenegger and Shriver have a home nearby, and the families have skied together at the neighboring Sun Valley resort. The Kerrys routinely host the Schwarzeneggers at a New Year's Eve party whose guest list often includes actor Tom Hanks.

As he campaigned for Davis yesterday at a Los Angeles veterans center, Kerry said there was nothing personal about his opposition to the recall.

"I like Arnold a lot and I understand completely what he is doing, and he has every right in the world to do it given that other people created the recall," the senator said. "But I'm not talking about Davis vs. Arnold, but California and the [propriety of] the recall. It has nothing to do with Arnold, but [with] preserving the fairness and integrity of our electoral system."

Glen Johnson can be reached at

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