I was going to post this a few days ago, but I was working around the clock on a book project this week, which I finally sent off to the printer (I'll post about it after the weekend!)
But I did take time out of my schedule to go meet former Minnesota Governor/former WWF Superstar Jesse Ventura!
Jesse was signing this past Monday at a local BORDER'S, promoting his new book AMERICAN CONSPIRACIES. I found out about it on a whim a few days before, and decided that even though it was going to take a whole half day from working on my project, I I really wanted to meet the Governor.
Back in the mid-80s, I started watching wrestling again, having drifted away from it in the late 70s. By then Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper, Junk Yard Dog, Macho Man Randy Savage and many others were bringing wrestling into the mainstream, guided by the extremely savy owner of the WWF, Vince McMahon.
One of the standout performers I enjoyed wasn't even wrestling anymore. Sitting ringside, decked out in the most outrageous wardrobes available, was Jesse 'the Body' Ventura, providing color commentary alongside the late, great Gorilla Monsoon.
Jesse was always rooting for the bad guys, and delivered tremendously funny lines as he called the matches.
Soon afterwards, he made the leap to movies with PREDATOR, starring alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger (who, in a twist of fate, became California Governor! What's next, the Predator runs for Mayor of Detroit??)
Following various movie roles, he went into politics and was elected Mayor of Brooklyn Park, MN. Jesse then goes on to become Governor of Minnesota in 1999. What really interested me in his candidacy was that he ran as a true independent, completely unaffiliated with neither the Republican or Democratic Parties. Back then, that really spoke to me, as I was moving in that direction myself. I won't turn this post into a political rant, but to see Ventura, a former wrestler, dumbfound the establishment in the election was a huge inspiration. Shortly afterwards, he wrote his autobiography, and when he talked about trying to run for Governor with the two mainstream parties aligned against him (along with the media and so-called 'conventional wisdom'), his words spoke to me as an independent artist. 'We shocked the world!' he proclaimed to his supporters on Election Night, as the entire establishment was caught off guard!
In the years since his Governorship, Ventura's written several New York Times bestselling books, hosted radio and television talk shows. He's even taught at Harvard. Sitting in the audience that evening in the BORDERS, I realized that for the last 25 years I've been following his various careers, always amazed in whatever forum he would show up in. That's reinforced in me that one can do many things, as long as you have the passion to do it. You don't have to be just a wrestler or former Governor, and you don't have to only be a comic book creator, either.
The qualities I saw in him as he spoke were the exact same ones I've seen in him through his television appearances and writings. He's very direct, very practical. He's thought out his positions, but remains always ready to admit when he doesn't know enough about a particular issue. Qualities to admire, as far as I'm concerned. While he's been an entertainer for decades, he has no problem disappearing to his home in Baja California for half of the year, far removed from the U.S. political scene, or Hollywood, or anything else that distracts him from surfing and relaxing in peace with his wife.
He talked easily for an hour and a half, discussing his view on the many 'conspiracies' in his book. I never knew that John Wilkes Booth was part of a group of people trying (and succeeding) to kill Lincoln, but also the Secretary of State and the Vice President. This is not a secret that Ventura uncovered, but he makes the point that schoolkids are told that it was a lone gunman who shot the President. I've only had time to read the first chapters, but it makes for interesting reading.
Two things I had Jesse sign were his new book, of course (those are the rules, after all!) and something from my own collection.
I finally got my 1985 JESSE 'THE BODY' action figure signed, still in the package! One thing about me, I never give up being a fanboy for certain things I enjoy.
Ventura was really gracious with his fans that evening. Sure, he was promoting his book, but every time I meet someone I admire, especially if it's someone I've only known through their work (comics/television/movies), and they turn out to be very genuine people in 'real life', well, that's the best. Who wants to meet someone they've been a fan of all their lives and find out the person is a jerk? Jesse Ventura is the real deal.
For your enlightenment and entertainment, here are two choice video clips with Ventura. One, telling like it is about George Bush & Dick Cheney, and in the other talking trash, with Roddy Piper, on Mr. T!