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Governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura.

The Governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura. He's got a new memoir called, "I Ain't Got Time to Bleed: Reworking the Body Politic from the Bottom Up." (Villard).


Other segments from the episode on June 3, 1999

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, June 3, 1999: Interview with Jesse Ventura; Review of the album "Tropicalia 30 Anos."


Date: JUNE 03, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 060301np.217
Head: Governor Jesse Ventura
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:06

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.


JESSE "THE BODY" VENTURA, PROFESSIONAL WRESTLER: I will climb to the top. I will become the Number One contender in the World Wrestling Federation. The greatest in the world are here. This is the number one. This is the prime rib of wrestling. And, Jack, Jesse "The Body" is here, Jesse "The Body" is here to stay. You're going to see a lot of me whether you like it or not.

GROSS: The people of Minnesota are seeing in a lot of Jesse Ventura now that he's their governor. As he says in his new autobiography, "I Ain't Got Time to Bleed," "I'm no career politician. I'm a six-foot four 250 pound ex-Navy SEAL, pro wrestler, radio personality and film actor. I only got into politics in the first place because I have a pretty noticeable habit of speaking my mind."

Well, of course the style of discourse expected in politics is different from the style Ventura developed wrestling.


VENTURA: "The Body," the most brutal man in wrestling. The sickest man in wrestling; Mr. Money, Mr. Charisma, Mr. Show Business. You know, I don't with, like, common women. My current date is Stevie Nicks, the singer for Fleetwood Mac. That's my current heartthrob. She hangs all over these arms. She wants to touch the sweat on my body. Now, you tell me that that is not greatness?

GROSS: Well, last November Ventura became the first member of the Reform Party to win a statewide office. He defeated his Democratic opponent, Attorney General Hubert Humphrey III and Republican opponent, St. Paul mayor Norm Coleman.

Ventura proved that he can win. Now that he's faced -- now he's faced with the problems of governing. I asked him what is biggest surprise has been in office.

GOVERNOR JESSE VENTURA (I-MN); AUTHOR, "I AIN'T GOT TIME TO BLEED: REWORKING THE BODY POLITIC FROM THE BOTTOM UP": Well, I think the biggest surprise, or the biggest downside to it, is you lose your privacy completely. You have no private life anymore. And going along with that, not only do you lose your privacy, but you lose all your rights.

People can do things to me that they can't do to a homeless person on the street.

GROSS: Such as?

VENTURA: Well, such as NBC doing my life story without my permission; no input from me, nothing at all. Not accurate by any stretch of the imagination, more fiction than fact.

GROSS: You mean because you're a public figure...

VENTURA: ... because I'm a public figure I can't do anything about it. Where if they did that to a homeless person on the street, they couldn't get away with that. And I have yet to understand why, just because you become a public figure do you lose your rights as a citizen, which you do.

GROSS: What about your responsibilities though as the governor, what's surprised you about that?

VENTURA: The responsibilities are, you know, it was funny because when I ran during the campaign, you know, of course I was going against St. Paul mayor Norm Coleman, and a legendary name in Minnesota Skip Humphrey the son of Hubert Humphrey. And they kept saying well, can Jesse Ventura govern? Can Jesse Ventura do what these two people can do?

And I finally had had enough of it and said, wait a minute. I said, I've done things that would make these two guys wet their pants, in life.

GROSS: Like the stuff you do when you were a Navy SEAL?

VENTURA: Yeah. And various things I've done. And I said, why am I being questioned on my integrity and can I get the job done? I think a better question would be can they do what I've done, which I don't believe they could. And this is simply governing, and if you truly think about it and you look at what our country was formed -- our country was formed to be a citizen government.

Now, we've probably lost light of that. Now we have professional politicians. Now you're made to believe you have to be a lawyer to govern. You're made to believe you have to take political science in college and major in it to govern. Yet our country was formed with butchers, bankers, candlestick makers, whatever your trade might be that you go and you serve.

And when you're done serving you go back to what you use to do. And we've lost that, and I think that's inherently what is wrong our government today. The fact that we are now a government of professionals rather than a citizen government.

I think I bring a citizen idea and a citizen ideology back to government.

GROSS: Well, you say that your opponents would have wet their pants if they had to do the kinds of things that you do, so who are they to challenge your ability to do a political job. But the skills for running the state are really different from, say, the skills from being a Navy SEAL. I mean, you don't have to...

VENTURA: ... are they?

GROSS: Yeah, I think they are. You don't have to parachute out of a plane to run the state. You have to...

VENTURA: ... yeah, much safer running a state.

GROSS: Well, you need organizational skills. You need the skill of being able to absorb complicated information.

VENTURA: Really? Have do you know?

GROSS: How do I know?

VENTURA: Mmm-hmm.

GROSS: Well, I think I've read enough about politicians...

VENTURA: ... but you've never did it, have you?

GROSS: No, and I'm not saying that I could. I'm just saying that I know something about what the job requires.

VENTURA: Well, wait a minute now.

GROSS: Yeah.

VENTURA: Then let's shift over. As a Navy SEAL you're going to do things that are going to require you to pay attention or what could happen to you? You could die. You're defying death on a regular basis. So you had better pay attention to details. You had better make sure you're doing it right.

GROSS: I'm just saying it's a different kind of detail than say policy analysis or urban housing.

VENTURA: Yeah, but if your life depends on one of them then another one -- my life doesn't depend on being governor. So I would say being a Navy SEAL is far more intense, far more attention to detail and intelligence than governing.

GROSS: Not to belabor the point, I just think that, you know, people have different sets of skills and just to get it out of the SEALs versus governor for second, you know, a person who is a brilliant pianist isn't necessarily a good public speaker.


GROSS: I mean, one skill doesn't necessarily translate to another.

VENTURA: Sure. But this is leadership skill. And when you look at teamwork in the Navy SEALs it's teamwork and leadership that survive a mission. It's teamwork and leadership that gets the job done. And it's teamwork and leadership that saves lives.

And the same can be shifted right over to governing. I know. I've done both.

GROSS: What are the one or two things you most want to accomplish in your four years as governor, something that you actually want to change in the state of Minnesota?

VENTURA: Oh, sure. The main thing I want to accomplish in the state of Minnesota -- like, I got asked right away what legacy I'd want to leave. And at first I said well, I'm not really concerned with that I just want to do the best job I can do. But now, I do want to leave a legacy.

I want to change Minnesota to unicameral legislation. I want to get rid of one of the Houses and go to one House rather than two House. Now, you can't do that federally. That's impossible. You don't want to do it federally because then one state would become too powerful in the United States.

But statewide, there's no reason not to go to one House. It makes for cleaner government. It eliminates conference committees, which is where all the dirty work takes place. Where all the buying, selling and trading happens. And where the caucuses have their power.

By going to unicameral everything will be debated out on the House floor, and everything will be voted up or down right on the House floor. It will put the heat on career politicians, because in bicameral legislation if a politician knows it's going to get killed in the other House, he can vote for it. Even though maybe he doesn't support it, knowing that it will get killed in the other side in the old swap me stuff that goes on with bicameral.

And so I want to change Minnesota to unicameral like Nebraska has.

GROSS: And do you think you'll be able to do that?

VENTURA: It will be tough, because it's like term limits. You know, everybody wants term limits, it has 80 percent or higher approval ratings but you notice it never gets voted upon. It never gets implemented because career politicians don't want term limits. Because that in essence cuts them off and possibly has to make them go back to the private sector where they might really have to earn a living.

GROSS: Now I understand that Tim Penny (ph), the former congressman from Minnesota has been helping you. And I wonder what you've learned about making government work from working with him.

VENTURA: Well, Tim is very bright. He went to Congress, and much like me, I think, you was listed as a Democrat. But he really was very much kind of an out of the box Democrat. He was part of the Democratic Party, but I wouldn't really call him a dyed in the wool Democrat.

And he got very frustrated there because of the whole system again. The way what the system's involved to. But Tim has come on-board. He's one of my advisers. He did -- in fact he recommended Stephen Bosacker (ph) who is my chief of staff.

And, you know, I would very much be not in the position I'm in today without Stephen. And Stephen also was Tim's chief of staff out in Washington when he was a congressman. So, Tim is also on my board of advisers. I have a group of eight advisers, two Democrats, two Republicans, two Reform Party and two private sector people who advise me.

And I try to meet with them about at least every other month, and they just tell me what they feel and give me advice, and I can take it or leave it with whatever grain of salt I want to put on it.

GROSS: What's the most boring or irritating part of being governor?

VENTURA: Not necessarily boring, nothing's really boring. That I found, because you go from one meeting to the next and they can be totally opposite and you have to be bright and on top of it all the time. The thing that I have a problem with though is the media, the media's dishonesty.

The media tends to want to tell the public that they're there simply to report the news, when in reality they're there like all of us. They're there to get ratings. They're there to make money. They're there to achieve.

And they need to be honest about it. They need to say that to the public, because I find that the media doesn't simply report the news now, they try to create it. They do whatever they can to put a spin or create news, which gives them better ratings, which in turn makes them money.

GROSS: My guest is Jesse Ventura, the governor of Minnesota. He has a new autobiography. We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: If you're just joining us my guest is Jesse Ventura. He has a new memoir called, "I Ain't Got Time to Bleed: Reworking the Body Politic from the Bottom Up."

You know, the night that the made for TV movie about you was broadcast, the movie that you had nothing to do with and disapproved of, wrestler Owen Hart fell to his death in a stunt which required him hanging from a wire suspended 70 feet in the air.

I'm wondering if you think that this was a fluke or if you think this is a sign that the emphasis on stunts has gone too far.

VENTURA: Well, it's an accident -- a tragic accident. I knew Owen Hart. I know Brett Hart even better. I know their father, Stu Hart. They come from a family that is legendary in Calgary, Canada. Their father, Stu Hart, wrestled in the Olympics way back in I think the late '40s, and just a fantastic family.

And I think what's happening in wrestling now is that you have the two major bodies, the WWF and the Turner group down in Atlanta. And they push the envelope, and when a wrestler is put in a position to where he's asked to do something that he's maybe uncomfortable with; well, he will accept doing it sometimes because if he won't do it someone else will.

And if someone else does do it that could cause the wrestler to lose that position within the company which could cause him fame and fortune. And so that's the downside to this, is that in pushing the envelope like they do, there could be more tragedies. Because there's always somebody willing to do it, no matter what the fall is, no matter what -- because it's very competitive. And they're out to outdo each other to make that almighty dollar.

GROSS: Now you say in your book that you loved wrestling as a kid. Who were your favorites from your childhood? I know when I watched TV Haystacks Calhoun (ph) was just oddest person I'd ever seen. I was really fascinated by him.

VENTURA: I think as a child child my favorite wrestler was "The Crusher" from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. And I had the good fortune, he had a very long career, and I actually wrestled him when he was very late in his career and I was fairly young in my career. And that was a huge thrill in my life.

Another was Maurice "Mad Dog" Vashon (ph), who I saw as a youngster and as a teenager, and then ended up actually wrestling him. And I'm bald today because of him.


GROSS: What do you mean?

VENTURA: He pulled out all my hair. He was a tough old son of a gun. And he let you know when you're in the ring every time you got in there. There was no sleeping when you're in the ring with Vashon.

GROSS: It was during the era when you were wrestling that each wrestler became famous for their persona, and the characters just became more and more wild and flamboyant. You of course were Jesse "The Body" Ventura. Describe the persona as you saw it.

VENTURA: Well, initially when I got into wrestling it was very basic, it was good versus evil.

GROSS: The good guy versus the bad guy, yeah.

VENTURA: Yeah. You were either a good guy or a bad guy. Then when wrestling went national through cable television in about '85 through the WWF, then it became -- actually, I kind of led the way when I became a broadcaster because I was the first bad guy broadcaster who would side with the bad guys in the ring.

And I actually became extremely popular because of that, and I think that helped catapult the personality to where it was no longer good versus evil anymore. It's like what you have today, it's evolved to where it is today of personality versus personality. And every personality has its legion of fans.

And then you combine them altogether, if you have 16 of these dynamic personalities that's where you get your huge, huge fan base of pro wrestling.

GROSS: So describe the Jesse Ventura -- Jesse "The Body" personality.

VENTURA: Well, I was a copycat of my hero, Superstar Billy Graham. I got out of the military when I was 22 and went to the matches one night. I had nothing to do. In fact, I was getting ready to get out. I was home on leave, and all my friends were busy. So I went down to the Minneapolis Auditorium, they had wrestling. And I walked up; I said, "give me the best ticket you got." And the lady said, "are you by yourself?" I said, yeah. She said, "I got one in the front row."

So I ended up sitting in the front row by myself that night, and out came Superstar Billy Graham. And he was the first like muscle body builder. And at the time I was finishing my Navy career. I had gotten into weight lifting real heavy and was buffing out. I watched Superstar and thought that's what I want to do when I came out of the service.

So I went to college for a year and then trained to be a pro wrestler. And then when out and basically copied Superstar Billy Graham. Where in the end I had people saying I could do Superstar better than Superstar could. And he was very successful. He's a hero of mine today, and a friend. And I will admire him always.

GROSS: He was a bad guy wasn't he?

VENTURA: Sure. Oh, yeah. So was I.

GROSS: What was your bad guy specialties?

VENTURA: Well, you know, bleached blond hair. I was always announced from San Diego, California. Before I was Jesse "The Body" I was "Surfer" Jesse Ventura.


And, you know, that -- all you got to do is have bleached blond hair and say you're from California and the other 49 states hate you. Because they think all you do is lay around on the beach, chase women and have a good time. And kiss your biceps and all that stuff.

So, that was my persona. I was very psychedelic. I wore the wild sunglasses. I wore six hearings before earrings were even popular. Feathered boas and anything else that I could find very flashy and flamboyant. I remember sometimes the bell would ring and 10 minutes would be gone and I hadn't even touched my opponent yet, I was still disrobing.


GROSS: Now tell me, you had the feathered boa, the dangling earrings -- I mean, in some ways this is like real drag queen kind of garb. And something that is so opposite like the macho Navy SEAL persona. So how did you think of wearing a pink-feathered boa, and what did that -- what did that signify to you?

VENTURA: Well, it wasn't just pink. I had purple, I had red, I had yellow, I had multicolored ones. Well, to me you did what it took to irritate people. Anything you could do that was outrageous to make people angry because in the early days wrestling there wasn't, and I talk about this in the book very much, there wasn't contracts.

You were paid according to what you drew at the live gate. So it was my job as the bad guy to get enough people angry at me that they would pay their hard earned dollars to come down and see me get my ass kicked, plain and simple.

So I was successful by how many people I drew and how many people I could anger. My personal best place I wrestled was Denver. I used to average two and a half arrests every time I'd get in the ring. You know, roughly two and a half to three people would get arrested every night, you know, trying to climb in the ring and beat the crap out of me. You know, and then they'd end up down in jail for it.

But they were easy. All you had to do in Denver was insult the Broncos and call them a bunch of drugstore cowboy goat ropers. You know, which I would do. You know, I'd say you bunch of goat ropers and they hated you for it.

GROSS: So you wore the feathered boa to irritate people.

VENTURA: Sure. Oh, yeah. I mean, yeah. And just how you'd strut around the ring and throw your hair back and then of course you'd cheat. You know, any chance you got you would hide something from the referee and then the referee would come around and ask you if you pulled hair, and you'd turn to the crowd and say, "did I pull hair?" And they'd all holler and scream "yes, yes, yes." And then you'd yell at them and go "shut up!"

You know, I always interacted with the fans very much while I was in the ring. It was performing.

GROSS: Yeah, I was going to say that developing your voice was probably at least as important as developing your look. And in the WWF, I mean, being verbally flamboyant was really important. And there'd be these interviews between matches and you'd have to be really mean and crude.

VENTURA: And the interviews were even more before that. And actually you drew the crowd not with your wrestling ability, you drew it from the interviews.

GROSS: Uh-huh.

VENTURA: And as a bad guy you insulted every one. You didn't care. You -- one of the things I used to do when I'd climb in the ring, a little kid would come up with his autograph book and I'd take the pen -- the book and the pen from him and I'd stand and look at the crowd and I'd rip it in half and throw it.

And boy, they'd be ready to kill you when you did that. The little kid would stand their crying, and you now.


GROSS: Now, I have to tell you I went through a period of at least a couple of years when I watched WWF Saturday mornings while I was eating breakfast, and the whole thing seemed like a lot of campy fun to me. And it's hard for me to understand how somebody would really take it at face value and truly get upset at what one of the wrestlers said.

VENTURA: Well, let's look at it this way then, Terry. Look at how serious people take soap operas.

GROSS: Mmm-hmm. And you know it's fiction.

VENTURA: People watch "The Young and the Restless," they get into the characters, they start identifying with Victor Newman and those. And they live and breathe it on a day-to-day basis. They get angry at him when he, you know, does somebody in on the show and pulls a dirty trick on someone on the show or cheats on his wife or whatever else goes on in the soap operas.

And wrestling is no more than that. Wrestling is a live soap opera.

GROSS: Did you ever start -- nevertheless, did you ever take it personally when so many people hated you? In other words, does it ever get to you when the crowds are just expressing their hatred of you?

VENTURA: Oh, not at all. I -- one the most exciting times in my career was I was wrestling in the St. Paul Civic Center, my home state, 19,000 people, sold out. I went out for the main event. I was in the main event, and when I walked in the ring 19,000 people were chanting in unison, "Jesse sucks!"


And that was one of the highlights of my career. I mean, I did my job. That's what I was paid to do.

GROSS: Jesse Ventura is the governor of Minnesota. He has a new autobiography called "I Ain't Got Time to Bleed." He'll be back in the second half of the show.

I'm Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Back with Jesse Ventura, the governor of Minnesota and former wrestler and Navy SEAL. He has a new autobiography called "I Ain't Got Time to Bleed."

You had been a Navy SEAL before becoming a wrestler. What's the difference between the kind of body a Navy SEAL is supposed to have and the kind of body a wrestler is supposed to have?

VENTURA: Oh, much, much different. I view it this way: when I was a wrestler I could pick up buildings. When I was a Navy SEAL I could scale them.


Well, that's the change. You know, I made the change. When you're a Navy -- when you're in the teams you do physical pull-ups and running and swimming and things that are functionable to do carry out the missions that you have to carry out. I went into the teams -- or in the training wing 190 pounds, and I graduated weighing 212. And I'm six-foot four.

And so I was very thin with no fat, and, you know, lean and a swimmer-type build. And then my last year in the Navy, when I was getting ready to get out, the last six to mine months I started pumping iron hard. And then I changed the look of my body by bulking up and eating.

I used to eat a dozen raw eggs a day for 60 consecutive days at one point. You know, to build protein and get big and large. And, you know, the biggest I ever was 278 pounds. The differences are completely different.

If I were to go better today to being a team member in the Navy I would probably try to lose down to 220 pounds. You know, I wouldn't want to carry the weight that I do today.

GROSS: Did your doctor have anything to say about cholesterol levels when you were bulking up?

VENTURA: Well, actually my mom was a nurse and she got worried about it when I eating a dozen raw eggs a day. And I went in, after doing that for 60 days, I took a cholesterol test and I was like 90 points below what they even consider dangerous.

And the doctor said, well you don't have to worry about it you're training so hard. You know, you're forcing the blood through your veins. And when you're training hard you don't have to worry about stuff like that.

GROSS: When you were first trying to break into the world of wrestling and you were sending out your early photos, what did the photo look like and what kind of image were you casting yourself in before you had actually started to do it professionally?

VENTURA: The exact image you saw. I had already bleached my hair blonde, it was down to my shoulders and I was posed in a most muscular pose where your traps are sticking up. And I had an American flag behind me, I was wearing yellow tights and looking pretty good.

GROSS: Would you describe your first match.

VENTURA: My first match was in Wichita, Kansas against Omar Atlas. And it was very exciting, Omar was the good guy, I was the bad guy. And I went out and threw Omar -- at that time throwing someone -- see, in the early days of wrestling there were rules. And I think that's what they've lost track of today.

Today's wrestling has no rules. You can go out there and do anything. In the earlier days of wrestling there were rules, and rules actually worked to help you. Because if you cheated and broke a rule and did it behind the referee's back, oh, the people became unglued and angry.

But today, there's no rules. I mean, they can throw -- in those days if you threw someone out over the top rope it was an automatic disqualification. And that's what I did to Omar that night. I got disqualified, I threw him over the top rope out to the cement floor.

GROSS: Now was that planned in advance, was that part of the choreography?

VENTURA: I don't know.


GROSS: Oh, right. How would you know?


VENTURA: It just happened in the passion and the heat of the action.

GROSS: Well, let me say you actually do talk about it in your book. In your book you say that Omar was told by the promoter, I guess, that if -- why don't you describe it.

VENTURA: Well, he was told that if the match was bad to hit me with two drop kicks and pin me, but if the match was good I would throw him out over the top rope. And Omar made the call. It was a good match for my first one, and he said, "amigo, throw me out over the top." He's a consummate professional, because a professional will do that.

You don't worry, you worry about what will draw money. And by getting disqualified you keep the heat on the bad guy. By beating him -- by beating the bad guy, then he doesn't have heat on him anymore. So you want to -- everybody wants to make money. That's how you feed your family.

GROSS: Have you ever gotten thrown over the ropes?


GROSS: Does it hurt?

VENTURA: You're darn right it does. Body slams hurt. When people -- see, the thing I don't like is when people use the word "fake." Because wrestlers -- I'll give you an example, do you recall a year or so ago Dennis Rodman wrestled -- the first time? Now, he's the premier rebounder in the NBA, one of the real tough guys who gets under the boards and bangs bodies.

Well, Dennis wrestled and I talked to him after Chicago came to Minnesota to play the Timberwolves, and I asked Dennis, I said, "Dennis, how did you like your venture into my business?" And he told me, "you know what," he said, "the day after I wrestled I was so sore I couldn't even get out of bed." He said, "I have never hurt like that in my life."

And I said, "Dennis," I said, "one time in my career I wrestled 63 consecutive nights in a row without a day off" -- 63 with at over two months every night in the ring. And Rodman -- Dennis looked at me and said, "Jesse, there's no way I could do that. No way." And you're talking about one of the great athletes of the NBA here.

So when people say "fake" and all this stuff I get offended over that, because let me pick you up and body slam you one time and you tell me if it's fake when you hit the mat.

GROSS: What's -- maybe you could describe the choreography of the body slam and how you can slam someone or get slammed without getting hurt.

VENTURA: Well, you get slammed, it jars you -- you play football and you don't always get hurt. I mean you tackle someone on a football field you don't get hurt all the time. You block someone on the football field you don't get hurt. If you're doing it with the correct technique you're not going to get hurt.

And that's what it's about. Is picking someone up, slamming him to the mat and the person, as you hit the mat you want to hit it with as much of your body as you can. You want to flatten out as much as you can so that your entire body absorbs the shock of hitting that mat. If you don't hit it correctly, absolutely -- there's -- every wrestler is a chiropractor. You should see.

Everybody has to pop backs in and all that stuff. You spend your whole life in pain when you wrestle. That's one of the reasons why, you know, you see, you know, wrestlers take steroids and things like that because the business pushes them so hard that they have to use anything they can to stay on top of it to make money.

GROSS: When -- say you're standing up on the ropes and that you're jumping on another wrestler, do you kind of like stomp on the floor to make it sound like the impact is louder than it is?

VENTURA: Let me ask you this, if you climbed up on that ring rope, right?

GROSS: Mmm-hmm.

VENTURA: And you were going to jump off on me, would you lead with your knee?

GROSS: No way.


VENTURA: Yeah, but if you hit me you'd be OK, right? But what if I roll out of the way?

GROSS: Right.

VENTURA: It's also self-protection.

GROSS: Uh-huh.

VENTURA: You want to deliver the blow, but you want to deliver it with self-protection not hurt yourself when you do it. Because if you jump off and lead with your knee and that guy roles out of the way, you're going to bury your knee right in that mat. So naturally you try -- you cushion. It's called self-preservation. You got to wrestle the next night too.

GROSS: My guest is Jesse Ventura, the governor of Minnesota. He has a new autobiography. We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: My guest is Jesse Ventura, former wrestler now the governor of Minnesota.

You told us a little bit about who your heroes were when you were young - who your wrestling heroes were. Who have been your political heroes over the years? Who have you admired?

VENTURA: I don't think I've ever really had a political hero. My father was very vocal. He disliked all politicians. And, you know, he would make that very vocal at the dinner table a lot at night. So I was kind of sordid and twisted and never really cared for politicians a whole lot.

When I grew up I -- my hero of heroes was Muhammed Ali. You know, he was the hero that I have admired my entire life. But because he's a man who stood up for his convictions, even though I'm a veteran, Muhammed chose not to be but he gave up everything in belief of his convictions. And I greatly admire anyone who will do that.

But in politics I really don't have a hero, I don't think. I don't think there's anyone I can name. I think my hero today would be Governor Angus King from Maine. He's the other independent governor who's four years ahead of me. So he's been where I am and done that, so when I need to consult someone I call Angus.

GROSS: You know, the problem people always assume that an independent governor would have is that he has no particular sway with either Democrats or Republicans in the Legislature and it's going to be very difficult to get anything passed. Are you having troubles like that?

VENTURA: They posture that way. But, see, being an independent means you're a centrist. Like I'm fiscally conservative but I'm socially liberal, which puts me as a centrist in the middle. Which is where I think 70 percent of people really are.

Well, what happens during the process is you've got the far right, the Republicans; you have the far left, the Democrats; but when it gets to brass tacks time where do they end up? Central. They have to compromise. They have to come to the middle. So they end up coming right where I sit.

So I end up getting the credit for it, it's great. Because I can sit as a centrist and a commonsense point of view, and the far right and far left have to come to me eventually. They have nowhere else to go when the compromise has to be met between the two caucuses.

GROSS: Now a lot of people say politics is about the art of compromise. And I'm wondering how much experience you feel you've had with the art of compromise coming from the wrestling world where it's about winning and losing, and also about -- like you said, for you being the bad guy and getting people to really hate you and stirring up crowds. You know, compromise is a really different way of looking at the world.

VENTURA: Yeah, but let me tell you this, when you've dealt with Vince McMahon there's no politician -- there's not a politician in the world that's anymore savvy then he is. And even more so than him was his father, Vince McMahon Sr.

He was the kind of guy who you'd be so angry you'd walk into him and you yell and holler, he'd speak very softly to you. You'd walk out, you would have gained nothing but you felt good.

And then an hour later you're angry because you realize, boy, did he swerve me. And so in dealing with those type of promoters I find that in the private sector where I've dealt they are just as -- it's just as big of a shark world as anything in politics. I feel I'm fully qualified to deal with these people.

GROSS: And Vince McMahon is the head of the World Wrestling Federation.

VENTURA: Right, but I actually worked for his father, Vince Sr., before him.

GROSS: Uh-huh. Uh-huh.

VENTURA: Who was even more smooth. Vinny Jr. ain't nothing compared to Vinny Sr.

GROSS: Garrison Keillor, who hosts the public radio program "A Prairie Home Companion," wrote a satirical book based on you about a wrestler who becomes a governor. And I'm wondering if you've read the book.


GROSS: One of the things that Garrison said when I interviewed him about your book was, "how can you not be astonished and amused at this man's ability to stand up and say things that a lot of people secretly think and wouldn't say. This is what we elect performers for, they go out onstage and they say things right out in the open that we don't dare say because we're very nice people."

Do you think that's true?

VENTURA: It might be. But -- and I take that as a compliment. You know, Mr. Keillor's very successful at what he does. He's a very bright man. And I haven't read his book because I preferred to write mine. His is imagination, mine is truth.

GROSS: I'm wondering if you think that it might be true that you say things that people secretly think and wouldn't say; what might those things be?

VENTURA: Well, on many issues I -- one of the speeches -- the greatest speech that I attribute in the film world is by Jack Nicholson in the film "A Few Good Men." When he's on the stand and Tom Cruise demands, "I want the truth." And Jack Nicholson says, "you can't handle the truth."

And if you listen -- I listen to that speech about once every two weeks. And I listen to it because what Jack is saying is the truth. That the public and many people can't handle the truth, and when you give them the truth -- and the media can't handle the truth all the time. And yet they question the people that provide the freedom.

Just like Jack says in his speech. And, you know, and I find that to be very, very profound, Nicholson's speech. And I listen to it quite often, like I said, because I think that that's very true of my position.

The fact that I will tell the truth and the fact that many people when they hear the truth can't handle it. They would rather be told something that is untruthful but something to where they can somehow deal with it.

GROSS: The title of your book, "I Ain't Got Time to Bleed," is taken from one of your lines in the film "Predator."

VENTURA: Mmm-hmm.

GROSS: And, you know, particularly after the shootings in Littleton some people have said it's really time for the media to stop making so many violent movies and there should be more government pressure on the media to stop making such violent programming. And I'm wondering your thoughts about that, is there too much violence in the media?

VENTURA: Well, my thoughts are it's time for parents to start parenting. It is not government's job to raise your kids. It's not government's job to tell you what your kids should watch on TV. It's your job as a parent. And it's easy to use a scapegoat and say that violence in the movies causes it, video games cause it, this causes it, that causes it. It's called lack of parenting and lack of getting involved and loving your children that causes it.

And you need look no farther than in the mirror. Like I was criticized over this book. They said how could you say the things you say when you are a role model to so many young people. And I said because I tell them the truth. Because at age 18 and 19, sure I did things. No one at 18 or 19 makes a decision based upon that you might be a role model 25 years later.

But I do tell the truth. And I believe the truth should always be told, and it's what the young people are demanding from us. Not hypocrisy, but the truth.

GROSS: Now I think you said after the shootings in Littleton that it showed that people should be allowed to carry weapons to protect themselves. Would that...

VENTURA: ... no, I didn't say that. What I said -- I got asked three times by the media...

GROSS: ... uh-huh...

VENTURA: ... they came up to me -- and I'm the kind of person -- see, this is one my faults in politics. I'm the kind of person when I get asked a question I try to answer it. And that can lead you to trouble. And so what happened that particular day was the third time they asked me how I felt about the conceal and carry law being withdrawn from the Colorado floor; it was due to be debated, and in light of what the tragedy that happened they pulled it from the floor.

Which I could understand. It was the wrong time to discuss a situation like that. And it was the wrong time for me to comment on it. I should have not commented. But all I simply stated was this: that had there been a licensed conceal and carry person, and that doesn't mean a kid. It doesn't mean a child. I mean a licensed conceal and carry.

Had there been one in that building, there is a good chance lives could've been saved. Because rest assured what you had here was an act of complete cowardly terrorism, of innocent people being unmercifully assassinated and killed in cold blood. Well, you're not going to -- you can't deal with people like this by talking to them. That's out of the question at that point.

And that's all I stated, was had there been someone there, just like when that guy went crazy on the New York subway. Well, imagine if somebody was there, a law-abiding person, that could stop these people before more carnage is done.

Because let's remember something, the police come after the fact. The police -- you go up to a 30 year police veteran and ask them how many crimes he's stopped in progress and he'll probably be lucky to tell you one or two. And if you ask him, well, how did that happen, he'll say sheer luck. I happened to turn left on this street and it happened.

You know, police come after the fact. So the point I'm making is people somehow believe the government can protect you. The government cannot protect you. The government comes after the fact.

GROSS: You know what really confuses me? I know that you don't hold government in the highest regard and that you'd like to see less of everything...

VENTURA: ... oh yes I do. I'm very patriotic.

GROSS: OK. Because I always wonder when people don't really like government and they want much less of it why they would enter it in the first place.

VENTURA: To make much less of it. How are you going to do -- you can't change the system on the outside, Terry. You can only change it from the inside. You can complain all you want on the outside of the system. That's not going to change it one bit.

The only way to change the system is to become part of the system and change it from the inside.

GROSS: Do you think you're going to want to stay in politics?

VENTURA: No. I absolutely won't. Because I'm a firm believer, like I said, that people should come from the private sector, serve and go back to what they used to do.

GROSS: You're not going to go back into wrestling, but maybe other aspects of performing?

VENTURA: Who knows? I may retire. I will do this term and I will do -- I haven't decided if I'll do a second term, but I will never serve more than two four-year terms because I don't believe anyone should be allowed to serve more than we allow the president.

GROSS: Do you ever watch wrestling anymore?

VENTURA: Not very much.

GROSS: No time or no interest?

VENTURA: Both. Both.

GROSS: How come you're not interested anymore?

VENTURA: Because I don't work in it and I don't make money at it. And because I'm more interested -- if I have a choice between that and the NBA basketball, I'll watch basketball.

GROSS: Well, Jesse Ventura, I want to thank you very much for talking with us.

VENTURA: Thank you, Terry, it was my pleasure. And hopefully we'll do it again.

GROSS: Jesse Ventura is the governor of Minnesota. His new autobiography is called "I Ain't Got Time to Bleed."

This is FRESH AIR.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

Dateline: Terry Gross, Washington, D.C.
Guest: Governor Jesse Ventura
High: The Governor of Minnesota, Jesse Ventura. He's got a new memoir called, "I Ain't Got Time to Bleed: Reworking the Body Politic from the Bottom Up."
Spec: Politics; Government; Lifestyle; Culture; Jesse Ventura

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Governor Jesse Ventura

Date: JUNE 03, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 060302NP.217
Head: Brazilian Pop Music
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:50

TERRY GROSS, HOST: Sometimes listening to a new CD takes an unexpected turn. This happened to music critic Milo Miles when a new box set became a door to Brazilian and American history.


MILO MILES, MUSIC CRITIC: Late last year Brazilian PolyGram released a five CD box called "Tropicalia 30 Anos." It was the first time that several key albums by the founders of modern Brazilian pop music, called MPB, had been halfway easy to find in the United States.

The collection includes the second albums by superstars Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil. Another singer, Gao Costa (ph), becomes her mature self. The debut of the fascinating rock band Ospotantes (ph) and finally, the collective manifesto album called "Just Tropicalia."

Insiders have muttered reverently about these albums for ages. Serious fans of Brazilian pop, or even world music in general, should own the box. And that's all the consumer guiding and regular reviewing I'm going to do here, because "Tropicalia 30 Anos" has a curious effect that goes beyond being a simple good collection of music.

Since four of the albums were released in 1968 and one in 1969 the set might suggest a time capsule, but it's nothing so sterile and inert. Instead, I'll argue that "Tropicalia 30 Anos" is the real doorway to the '60s that American culture has been struggling to open recently with no success.

Everything from political rhetoric to overexposed vintage rock on the radio to dreadful television shows have made the 1960s seem completely unreachable. The period's symbols, sounds, personalities and events have become no more palpable then tales of Camelot or the Alamo. Some preserved reporting from Vietnam breaks through but that's about it.

In Brazil the Tropicalia movement of 1967 and 1968 was a spontaneous combustion of youth, mass media and expanded consciousness. The tunes used electric guitars to play ancient folk songs. The lyrics mixed florid poetry and vulgarity. The performers dressed in exuberant costumes that were at once political statements and walking art.

The music was supposed to be about establishing a new authentically Brazilian identity, yet it owed everything to the Beatles and American soul. Yes, it's a remarkable parallel to the cultural upheaval in this country going on at the same time. Though the Brazilian government cracked down much harder and effectively muted this bunch of folk rock and hippies for years after 1969.

But because the sounds they made in their moment of freedom haven't been trumpeted and trounced, praised and damned until they are totally hollowed out their particular vitality can still hit hard. You hear youth and know they are new creatures in a new universe. You hear modernity that is a chaotic carnival of choices not just a cold, alienated encroachment on romantic humanism.

Listening to these albums, events in America from the same period come closer, seething with promise and fear simply because people elsewhere were going through the same changes in their own way.

"Tropicalia 30 Anos" opens a captivating window into the past of Brazil. Who knew it would work as a mirror for Americans as well.

GROSS: Milo Miles is music editor at

I'm Terry Gross.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

Dateline: Terry Gross, Washington, D.C.
Guest: Milo Miles
High: World Music critic Milo Miles reviews a new 5-CD box set of modern Brazilian pop music, "Tropicalia 30 Anos."
Spec: Entertainment; Music Industry; Lifestyle; Culture; Milo Miles

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Brazilian Pop Music
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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