ST. PAUL, MINN. — Yes, he was a wrestler. A pink-boa wearing, atomic-elbow throwing, bad-guy wrestler.
The state - and the nation - still seem to be getting over it. But walk into the gold-gilded office of the new governor of Minnesota and it's clear James Janos - a.k.a. Jesse Ventura - has a new persona.
Dressed in a tweed jacket and a black collarless shirt, he looks dignified - even if it's not the Brooks Brothers look most governors sport.
He's gracious, extending his 6-foot-4-inch frame and bear-paw-size hand to greet visitors. Sitting behind a large desk, rocking perhaps a bit nervously, he talks about changing the governorship.
First, he ordered three grim oil paintings of former governors removed from his wall. "They looked like the three stooges," he says smiling. "But they weren't funny."
His two philosophies will also change things. First: it's "KISS or 'Keep It Simple, Stupid,' " he says.
Second: "There's no such thing as a dumb question." He's already toured every state department, asking questions. His Navy SEAL commander "drilled that one into my little tadpole brain" in demolitions training - when lives were at stake.
Many people think this man is endangering the state by being in its top job. One critic calls him a lightweight who, along with Sonny Bono, Clint Eastwood, and others, has turned pop-celebrity power into political power. He won't be able to lead, the critic says, just follow the people's whims.
But Ventura is proud of being a man of the people. He says he'll be accessible and have a "look-em-in-the-eye attitude. I'll tell them what's up and what's down."
So far, even critics agree he's chosen a top-rate staff and advisory team, relying often on private-sector people with some government experience.
Sure, he snapped at a reporter last week for poking fun at his singing voice. And he's already come under fire for planning to do movies and books while in office.
Will he succeed? One man in Ventura's office put it best: "The nation's watching. They're looking for him to fail. But if he makes it, they won't be able to ignore him."