The Pecker Principle

From Holden:

The National Enquirer tired to suppress a twenty-year-old Playboy video of Arnold Schwarzenegger gopin’-it-up in Rio — by buying a copy of the VHS classic. Unfortunately, there are many other copies out there.

Soon after Arnold Schwarzenegger entered the 2003 recall campaign, a tabloid publisher that was recruiting him as a consultant tried to suppress a risque 1983 Playboy video starring the future governor.

The video, which had first aired years before on the Playboy Channel, shows him grabbing a scantily clad woman and making other sexually suggestive gestures.

Here’s the video.

The Enquirer paid $2,000 for its copy. You can purchase your own copy here for $8.36.

American Media Inc., publisher of the National Enquirer, paid Thomas Wells of Los Angeles $2,000 for a copy of the video under two agreements that barred him from discussing it with anyone but the company.


The Wells contracts, reviewed by The Times, were at least the second instance of American Media paying for confidentiality agreements with people who might have been in positions to embarrass the candidate over his dealings with women.

The contracts were referred to among some American Media staff as the “David Pecker Project.” [Try reading that with a straigh face.] Pecker is the chief executive officer of American Media. He had met with Schwarzenegger earlier that year to discuss a multimillion-dollar consulting deal that made him the public face of the company’s two muscle magazines, Flex and Muscle & Fitness.

In buying Wells’ copy of the video, the company prepared documents that offer a one-sentence description of the contents: “Arnold Schwarzenegger groping a woman in Australia.” (The film was actually shot in Rio de Janeiro.)

A former American Media executive, speaking on condition of anonymity because he signed an agreement not to talk publicly about the company, said the firm wanted to spare Schwarzenegger possible embarrassment during his gubernatorial campaign.

“We were protecting him,” the former executive said.


“Pecker wanted to protect Arnold, since he was very important to their two titles, Flex and Muscle & Fitness,” said a second source, who worked at American Media at the time and also asked not to be named because he has a confidentiality agreement with the company. “When we had embarrassing information about Arnold, we were to buy it up off the market.”


The videotape is titled “Carnival in Rio” and was made for a division of Playboy Enterprises. The 86-minute production is hosted by Schwarzenegger and features Rio’s raucous annual pre-Lenten carnival. He provides a travelogue against a backdrop of topless women, provocative dancing, eating, drinking and partying.

Early on, he dances at a nightclub with three women in gold-beaded thongs and matching bikini tops. At one point, he grabs a dancer’s buttocks; she immediately clasps his wrists and pushes his hands away.

“You know something,” Schwarzenegger says in the film, “after watching the [dancers] shake it, I can absolutely understand why Brazil is totally devoted to my favorite body part: the ass.”

In a later scene at a dining table, he slowly feeds a woman a carrot as the camera moves in for a close-up.