Over the years guests at the Shriver-Schwarzenegger home in Pacific Palisades, Calif., came to expect a number of things. First, there was the predictable chaos that comes with a family of six led by two high-profile parents. "They were a big family with everyone doing their thing," says one of Maria Shriver's friends. There might be several kids in the pool-perhaps the couple's four kids, their friends or even children of the staff-a business meeting under way, and employees such as housekeeper Mildred Baena in her black-and-white uniform, tidying up and making sure guests were comfortable. "She would come in and say, 'Coffee? Water? Tea?' " recalls the pal. "She was polite, professional and quiet." As Walter von Huene, Arnold Schwarzenegger's dialect coach and a regular visitor, recalls, "It was a busy but otherwise normal household."
But now Maria Shriver, who anchored the family while her husband spent the better part of seven years as governor in Sacramento, has reason to question everything that took place under her Mediterranean-style roof. Earlier this year, say sources, Shriver asked Baena whether Schwarzenegger was the father of the housekeeper's 13-year-old son-who was born just five days after Shriver's fourth child, Christopher. Baena said yes, a fact Schwarzenegger then confirmed. "The level of betrayal," says a Shriver pal, "is so deep and so gross." Adds a longtime friend of the couple's: "I'm sure she feels like a fool for never realizing what was going on. Mildred was their right-hand girl."
Now Shriver, 55, who has been living in a Beverly Hills hotel, has hired a divorce attorney. Still, says a source, "Maria hasn't decided if she wants to end her marriage." Rather than rush to file papers, she is spending time with friends and her kids, who joined her in Malibu the weekend of May 21.
Schwarzenegger, 63, who was gearing up for a film comeback, has put his plans on hold and, says a close source, is "very depressed." Also suffering are the couple's children: Katherine, 21, Christina, 19, Patrick, 17, and Christopher, 13. According to a family friend, the kids feel "blindsided and humiliated," not just by their father but by Baena, who worked for the family for 20 years. "She is someone [they] trusted."
Baena, who retired in January (and whose sister Miriam also worked on the staff), has gone into seclusion. Old photos, however, begin to tell a story of her complicated relationship with her employers' family. In one picture Shriver, Schwarzenegger and their kids celebrate at the baptism of Baena's son. In another, Schwarzenegger helps the little boy work on his putt-putt golf swing. In yet another he is laughing and dancing with Baena at a party. But no one who witnessed these sorts of interactions as they happened appeared to have been tipped off. "Arnold and Maria treated [their staff] like they were family," says a frequent visitor. Says Von Huene of Baena: "She interacted with Arnold and Maria in a very normal way. I would have never suspected that there was anything more than a professional relationship."
The true nature of that relationship remains hidden: Was it ongoing or a one-time encounter? When did Schwarzenegger know the boy was his? Baena's attorney Michael Saltz insists that his client never spilled her secret. "No one knew anything," he says. "She has never said one word [about the paternity] to anybody, and that includes Arnold."
Yet a source close to the actor says Schwarzenegger has "been providing for the teen ever since he found out he was the father, which was when the kid was a young child." In addition to child support, he gave Baena $65,000 to help buy a four-bedroom home in Bakersfield, Calif., where she now lives with her son. (She also has three grown children, ages 31, 29 and 27.) Saltz says that Baena never tried to extort money from her child's father and never wanted this attention. "Her life has been turned upside down. She has never asked for anything. She wanted to raise her child to be a good person and have a normal life."
That may not be possible for any of the parties involved, at least for a while. Those close to Baena are also shattered. Her sister Miriam recently told a KTLA-TV news reporter that she was "horrified" and "heartbroken" by the revelations, because she had thought of Shriver as family.
Shriver herself has been seeking comfort from her trusted inner circle, including cousin Caroline Kennedy. On May 21, as she and daughter Katherine walked on the beach, "Maria looked a bit tired," says an onlooker, "but seemed to enjoy the fresh air." Those in touch with Schwarzenegger say he is working on gaining forgiveness from his family. It's unclear if he intends to have a closer relationship with his son with Baena. Neighbors and classmates describe the boy as a "good guy" who likes video games, basketball, martial arts and quotes Schwarzenegger movie lines at school. "I believe all the children were close," a source familiar with the situation says of the actor's five kids. Even for the oldest of them, though, learning to see the boy they thought of as the housekeeper's son as a brother may take time. So will accepting their father in this new light. But as Katherine Schwarzenegger posted on Twitter recently, "RT @TheNotebook: Sometimes we forgive people cause we want them back in our lives."
- Reported by Elaine Aradillas/Los Angeles,
- Howard Breuer/Los Angeles,
- Johnny Dodd/Los Angeles,
- Jennifer Garcia/Los Angeles,
- Oliver Jones/Los Angeles,
- Ken Lee/Los Angeles,
- Elizabeth Leonard/Los Angeles.