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Jan182016

Exclusive: One Fan’s Ultimate Experience with Our Last Action Hero!

Several days ago, we came across a great photo that a fan posted in our Facebook page showing him on the set of Last Action Hero with his idol Arnold Schwarzenegger. We had to know more about this picture so we contacted Scott D. Baran and asked for the photo's backstory. It turns out that his story deserves more than a mere mention but rather his tale of high adventure deserves at least a two part special feature here at TheArnoldFans! You won’t believe Scott’s luck but with the help of a magic ticket, anything is possible.


A Retrospective of My 1992 Grand Prize Trip with Arnold Schwarzenegger

Scott D. Baran

As I dusted off my old yet cherished archive of documents, articles, and photos of my 1992 trip to visit Arnold Schwarzenegger, a flood of memories came rushing back as I fondly remember being a nineteen-year-old weightlifter who was about to experience a trip of a lifetime.  This story is unbelievable and yet it happened.  I was lucky enough to experience my “fifteen minutes of fame” and I was ambitious enough to stretch that fifteen minutes a little further by appearing in a Sunday, December 27, 1992, “Chicago Sun-Times” article regarding my trip with Arnold.  In June of 1994, I published “A Dream Experience”, which appeared in MuscleMag International.  In the February 1993 edition of “Muscle Training Illustrated”, I appeared on page 16.  I made two appearances on the “Rob Linkhart Show” which was a cable TV comedy talk show that aired on Evanston Public Access Television in Evanston, Illinois, Chicago, Illinois, and the surrounding suburbs.  It is important to mention that Arnold had generously given me permission to enjoy these opportunities so long as I provided his office with a copy for their records. It’s been over twenty years since I’ve taken the time to carefully reflect upon my amazing experience with Arnold Schwarzenegger and I’m honored to do it on the ArnoldFans.com website.  I would like to thank Randy Jennings for the opportunity to share my story with Arnold’s greatest and most loyal fans.  As unbelievable as my experience was nearly a quarter-century ago, I will finalize this story in part two, to be published next month, with a conclusion that is truly compelling, shocking, and is guaranteed to have a lasting and powerful impact.

 


I vividly remember reading a promotional advertisement for “The Fourth Annual Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic” in the back of a bodybuilding magazine.  This event was to take place on Saturday, February 29, 1992, at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Columbus, Ohio.  For $250, one could buy a Special VIP Package which included seats to the bodybuilding competition, banquet, and a training seminar with Arnold.  It also included a photo with Arnold!  What motivated me to purchase this package was the fact that a raffle drawing was to be held where the winner would receive an all-expense paid trip to California including a personal workout with Arnold and a visit with him on his movie set.  This was soon after the tremendous worldwide success of “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”, and Arnold was at the height of his success and fame.  Since Columbus, Ohio was only about an eight hour drive from Chicago, I decided that I was going to purchase the VIP Package and attend the Arnold Classic.  For some inexplicable reason, I was confident that I was going to win that trip with Arnold.  Just prior to departing for Columbus, I remember saying goodbye to my father and telling him matter-of-factly and with one hundred percent confidence that I was going to win that raffle drawing!

 

As I checked into my hotel room on Friday, February 28, 1992, at the Hyatt at Capitol Square (now a Sheraton as the Hyatt moved to a different location close by), I decided to take a quick shower.  Once finished, I remember watching a live local newscast.  The news reporter mentioned that he was in the fitness center at the Hyatt at Capitol Square awaiting the arrival of Arnold Schwarzenegger who was going to talk about and promote his annual Arnold Classic bodybuilding competition.  Needless to say, I grabbed my video camera and ran towards the elevator to take it up to the 23rd floor where the hotel gym was located! I was in such a hurry that I had put my t-shirt on backwards but I knew that time was of the essence.  I was the very last one allowed in the hotel gym before they prevented anyone else from entering with one exception.  I pressed the record button as Arnold Schwarzenegger accompanied by an older gentleman, presumably a business associate, walked into the hotel gym walking right past me and approached the news reporter and cameraman.  It is important to note that Arnold really “lights up the room” with his charismatic and energetic presence.   With there being one commercial break, the interview lasted for close to 10 minutes.  I still have the “old school” VHS tape home video footage from my first encounter with Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Within an hour of being in Columbus, Ohio, I had seen Arnold up close.  I was confident that this was going to continue to be an exciting and lucky weekend!

 

The amazing reality is that I won the once-in-a-lifetime trip to visit Arnold Schwarzenegger from a winning ticket that was actually given to me!  After the exciting conclusion of the 1992 Arnold Classic, which Vince Taylor won first place; I was excited to attend the dinner banquet where the raffle drawing was to be held.  Back then, The Arnold Classic (now known as the Arnold Sports Festival) was held at Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Columbus, Ohio.  Sadly, I learned of this building’s 2015 demolition while conducting research for this article.  They now hold it at the Greater Columbus Convention Center as this event has grown exponentially.  I was uncertain where the north hall, where the dinner banquet and raffle drawing were to be held, was in relation to the auditorium.  As the loyal and enthusiastic bodybuilding fans were exiting the auditorium, I asked someone if he could tell me how to get to the north hall.  “Follow me!  I’m going there now as well”, responded a man in his younger to mid-twenties.  I was nineteen at the time and we began a discussion regarding that evening’s competition, the placement of the top three bodybuilders (Vince Taylor, the late Mohammed Benaziza, and the late Sonny Schmidt), and weight training.  I have forgotten this gentleman’s name but our conversation lasted throughout the banquet dinner and much to my amazement, he informed me that he was leaving early to head back to his hotel.  I replied “They’re going to have the raffle drawing soon!  Why don’t you stick around just a little bit longer and see if you’re the lucky winner?”  He told me that he had driven for hours earlier in the day to attend this event and that he was exhausted.  It wasn’t just what he said next, but how he had said it that still amazes me till this day.  “Here’s my ticket stub.  Now you have TWO chances to win that trip!”  During the raffle drawing, they had called three ticket stub numbers three times each.  Apparently, some people unbelievably must of let early prior to the drawing.  On the fourth ticket stub number that they called out, I won on the ticket that was given to me!

 

As my ticket stub number was called, my body began to physically shake as I shouted at the top of my voice “right here!”  I had to brush past several hundred people to walk up to claim my prize.  Standing there was the legend himself known also as the Austrian Oak, Terminator, Commando, and Predator… Arnold Schwarzenegger!  He reached out to shake my hand and to congratulate me.  “Congratulations on winning the prize!  I’m going to fly you out to the movie set; we’re going to work out together, hang out together, and we’re going to have a great time!”  Arnold continued, “Wait a minute…you’re shaking like a leaf!  Relax.  You’ve won.  The trip is all yours.  I’ll be seeing you soon in California!”  I felt as if everything was a blur.  As if the crowd of several hundred people standing there was somehow spinning round and round.  It was just Arnold and I up there alone.  As determined and confident as I was that I was going to win that trip, I was nevertheless in a state of absolute shock and disbelief, perhaps it was the fact that I had won from a winning ticket stub that was given to me just 45 minutes earlier.  The fact of the matter is that there also was someone else standing up there too.  He was an older gentleman who took me to the side, congratulated me upon winning the prize, and calmly took my name, phone number, and home address.  The gentleman was none other than the legendary bodybuilding promoter, business partner, and longtime dear friend of Arnold’s, Jim Lorimer!   

 

As I departed the Franklin County Veterans Memorial Auditorium/Convention Center, I remember jogging excitedly towards the bridge on W. Broad Street that crosses the Scioto River with a stunningly beautiful view of downtown Columbus, Ohio.  Columbus has some of the most enthusiastic bodybuilding fans in not only the nation, but worldwide.  My jog turned into a fast run as W. Broad St. turned into E. Broad St.  I was excited to get back to the hotel as quickly as possible to place several phone calls back to Chicago with the exciting news.  My run had turned into a sprint as I made a right-hand turn off of E. Broad St. and towards the hotel.  Needless to say, after jogging and running approximately seven blocks and with all of the emotional excitement, I was out of breath.  I got into the hotel elevator where I noticed two other gentlemen, one of whom I recognized immediately.  It was two-time Mr. Olympia (1976 & 1981) and longtime best friend of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s, Franco Columbu!  Franco gave me a stern look and said, “Young man, you are out of breath.  You need to get into shape!” I said “Hi Franco!  I just won the raffle trip to visit Arnold on his next movie set and I was so excited that I sprinted all the way back to the hotel.”  He gave me a confused look and had absolutely no idea of what I was talking about.

 

(Fast forwarding in time just briefly) Ten months later as I was riding “shotgun” in Arnold’s H1 Hummer with Arnold Schwarzenegger at the wheel, which was the very first civilian model in which Arnold himself was instrumental to bringing to market, I relayed my encounter with Franco Columbu in the hotel elevator to Arnold himself.  He appeared to be very amused by my story as I explained how Franco had been very stern towards me and had absolutely no idea of what I was talking about as regards to winning an all-expense paid trip to California to visit Arnold on his movie set.  Arnold said, “No.  Franco would have had no idea about the prize or any of that!”  Arnold smiled and picked up his “car phone” (remember that this was in 1992) and placed a call to Franco’s office.  Arnold was told that Franco was with a patient and that Franco would call him back.

 

After I returned to Chicago after winning the raffle drawing in Columbus, Ohio, I had to anxiously wait for ten months prior to being flown out to California where Arnold was filming “Last Action Hero”.  There was nearly a two year duration of time between the release of “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” and “Last Action Hero”.  Jim Lorimer had periodically sent me letters updating me regarding some of the movies that Arnold was considering, titles including “Sweet Tooth”, “The $2 Million Tip”, and “The Count of Monte Cristo”.  As it turned out, Arnold chose the extremely creative “Last Action Hero” that for a variety of reasons, failed to live up to Arnold’s own extremely high expectations or to the sky rocket high box office earnings of his blockbusters that had preceded it.  I read Arnold’s outstanding book “Total Recall My Unbelievably True Life Story”, and Arnold wrote about his disappointment with the overall reception of “Last Action Hero”.  Arnold responded with a smash hit for his next movie “True Lies”.

 

On December 9, 1992, at 7:00am, a flood of emotions ran through my mind as I sat in seat 14 A of United Airlines flight 635Y, a Boeing 757, as it took off from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport en route to Los Angeles International (LAX) Airport.  After ten months since winning the raffle drawing, I was now going to meet the five times Mr. Universe and the seven times Mr. Olympia, best-selling author, successful businessman, and one of the very most famous celebrities in the world, Arnold Schwarzenegger!


I checked into the Guest Quarters Hotel (now a DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel) in Santa Monica, California and checked into room 84645.  There was an Arnold Schwarzenegger t-shirt on the table with a note on Schwarzenegger stationary which read “Dear Scott, Welcome to Los Angeles.  I look forward to seeing you at the gym tomorrow.”  it was a kind gesture to have a t-shirt and welcoming note waiting for me upon my checking in. 


The generosity of Arnold, his staff, and his friends was amazing and greatly appreciated.  His assistant, Lynn Marks, went above and beyond to accommodate me.  The “prize” called for one night in Los Angeles.  However, I spoke with her on the phone about a week and-a-half prior to my trip and I mentioned my strong interest and desire to visit Muscle Beach, the former Gold’s Gym made famous by “Pumping Iron”, and the current Gold’s Gym.  Venice California, after all, is world famous and is known as being the mecca of bodybuilding.  Therefore, I requested an additional day in Los Angeles.  I was more than willing to pay for the extra evening at the Guest Quarters Hotel out of my own pocket.  Lynn Marks saw to it that the extra day in L.A. was totally taken care of!  While conducting research for this article, I have been simultaneously conducting a thorough accounting of all of the expenses pertaining to this trip.  It is my intention to donate an equal amount (over a five year period) to one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s favorite and most cherished charities, “After-School All-Stars”!  I have been a high school teacher in the city of Chicago for the past fifteen years and I know firsthand how important a program like “After-School All-Stars” is in making a positive difference in the lives of school students.  I will also be donating an equal amount from the proceeds of my “A Dream Experience” article which appeared in the June 1994 edition of “MuscleMag International”.         

 

Watch for part two to be published in February!  In it, I will describe the exciting details of my grand prize trip.  Arnold introduced me to his good friend and mentor Joe Gold, to his former costar of Total Recall, Rachel Ticotin, and to Clint Eastwood!  Also, a relatively recent visit to my cardiologist would have me carefully reading and rereading chapter 21 of Arnold’s book, “Total Recall My Unbelievably True Life Story” very, very thoroughly. 

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