Ventura, Jesse (1951—)

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Ventura, Jesse (1951—)

With his surprise election as Governor of Minnesota in 1998, former professional wrestler Jesse "The Body" Ventura (whose real name is James Janos) captured the attention of the nation. Representing the Reform Party, Ventura parlayed his gift for gab, his celebrity status, and public disgust with "politics as normal" to become an instant icon. Within days of his election, Ventura was the talk of the nation—appearing on countless talk shows (where he announced that he should now be dubbed "The Mind"), becoming the subject of both serious news analyses and numerous jokes, and morphing into a Doonesbury character. The A&E cable channel quickly put together an episode of Biography, two networks started work on TV movies, and Ventura found time to pen a political autobiography called Ain't Got Time to Bleed.

Ventura's diverse resume includes time as a Navy Seal, TV broadcaster, radio talk show host, and a very successful stint in professional wrestling. Ventura was named the "The Body" due to his impressive physique, but when a blood clot forced his early retirement from the ring, it was his ability behind the microphone as a color commentator, coupled with a penchant for boas and outrageous costumes, which earned him an impressive fan base and won notice by Hollywood producers. Ventura acted respectably in roles in Predator (1987), The Running Man (1987), and Batman & Robin (1997). As typifies late twentieth century American popular culture, the road to politics was only a step away.

—Patrick Jones

Further Reading:

Gray, Paul. "Body Slam." Time. November 16, 1998.

Lentz, Harris M. Biographical Dictionary of Professional Wrestling. Jefferson, North Carolina, McFarland & Company, 1997.

Tapper, Jake. Body Slam: The Jesse Ventura Story. New York, St.Martins, 1999.

Ventura, Jesse. I Ain't Got Time to Bleed: Rebuilding the Body Politic from the Bottom Up. New York, Villard Books, 1999.