There are certain individuals who have made an impact on the American psyche whether they intend to do it or not. In the last few years, one of those who has made such an impact in both the worlds of entertainment as well as the world of politics is a man by the name of James George Janos. The reader may know Mr. Janos by his stage name, Jesse Ventura, politician, actor, author, veteran, broadcaster, body guard and former professional wrestler who went on to serve as the 38th Governor of Minnesota from 1999 to 2003.
Ventura was born James George Janos, on July 15, 1951, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the son of Bernice Martha (née Lenz) and George William Janos, both of whom were World War II veterans. Ventura’s older brother served in the Vietnam War. His father’s parents were from what is now Slovakia, and his mother was of German ancestry. Ventura was raised a Lutheran. He attended Cooper Elementary School and graduated from Minneapolis’ Roosevelt High School in 1969.
From December 1, 1969, to September 10, 1975, during the Vietnam War era, Jesse Ventura served in the United States Navy. Not content with simply serving in the military, Ventura moved into the world of special operations, volunteering for SEALs training. He graduated with BUD/S class 58 in December 1970 and was part of Underwater Demolition Team 12.
There has been some discussion in the media regarding Ventura’s military service. He has frequently referred to his military career in public statements and debates and, in spite of accusations, has never made any effort to claim honors to which he was not entitled. Never one to avoid controversy, he was criticized by hunters and conservationists for stating in an interview with the Minneapolis Star Tribune in April 2001, “Until you have hunted men, you haven’t hunted yet.” In January 2002, Ventura, who, previously, had never specifically claimed to have fought in Vietnam, disclosed for the first time that he did not see combat. However, Ventura, who was stationed at Subic Bay in the Philippines, was awarded the Vietnam Service Medal, which was given to military personnel who took part in the contributions to the war effort in Vietnam. This has led to some confusion regarding his military background.
Showing little concern for public opinion even in these early years, near the end of his service in the Navy Ventura began to spend time with the “Dago” chapter of the Mongols motorcycle club, in San Diego. He was known for riding onto Naval Base Coronado on his Harley-Davidson wearing his Mongol colors. According to Ventura he was a full-patch member of the club and even third in command of his chapter, though he never got into trouble with the authorities. In the fall of 1974, Ventura left the club to return to Minnesota. It was shortly after this that the Mongols entered into open warfare with their rivals, the Hells Angels.
Back home in Minnesota Ventura attended North Hennepin Community College in the mid-1970s. At the same time he was continuing his education, he began weightlifting and wrestling. He was a bodyguard for The Rolling Stones for a short time before he ventured into the world of professional wrestling. It was during this time period that James George Janos began to transition into the world famous Jesse Ventura.
The world of professional wrestling
It was during this time period that James Janos began to look for a career that suited his tastes. He liked physical activity but his personality had become more flamboyant. The world of entertainment looked attractive, but he couldn’t sing or dance. That left professional wrestling.
Entering the world of professional wrestling, Jesse Ventura was given the assignment of creating his new persona. To this end, he created the stage name Jesse “The Body” Ventura to go with the persona of an over bearing beach bodybuilder, picking the name “Ventura” from a map as part of his “bleach blond from California” character. As a wrestler, Ventura generally performed as a villain and became known for the motto “Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat!”
It is interesting to note that much of his flamboyant persona was adapted from another world famous wrestler, “Superstar” Billy Graham, a charismatic and popular performer during the 1970s and ’80s. Years later, as a broadcaster, Ventura made a running joke out of it claiming that Graham stole all of his ring attire ideas from him.
In 1975, Ventura made his debut in the Central States territory, before moving to the Pacific Northwest, where he wrestled for promoter Don Owen as Jesse “The Great” Ventura. Sometime later, he adopted the more permanent nickname, “The Body”. During his stay in Portland, Oregon, he had notable feuds with Dutch Savage and Jimmy Snuka and won the Pacific Northwest Wrestling title twice (once from each wrestler), and the tag team title five times (twice each with Bull Ramos and “Playboy” Buddy Rose, and once with Jerry Oates). He later moved to his hometown promotion, the American Wrestling Association in Minnesota, and began teaming with Adrian Adonis as the “East-West Connection” in 1979. The duo won the promotion’s World Tag Team Championship on July 20, 1980, on a forfeit when Verne Gagne, one-half of the tag team champions along with Mad Dog Vachon, failed to show up for a title defense in Denver, Colorado. The duo held the belts for nearly a year, losing to “The High Flyers” (Greg Gagne and Jim Brunzell).
The next phase
Shortly after losing the belts, the duo moved on to the World Wrestling Federation, where they were managed by “Classy” Freddie Blassie. Although the duo was unable to capture the World Tag Team Championship, both Adonis and Ventura became singles title contenders, each earning several title shots at World Heavyweight Champion Bob Backlund.
Ventura continued to wrestle until September 1984, when blood clots in his lungs ended his in-ring career. Ventura claimed the blood clots were a result of his exposure to Agent Orange during his time in Vietnam. Ventura did return to the ring in 1985 forming a tag-team with “Macho Man” Randy Savage & Savage’s manager Miss Elizabeth. He also participated in a six-man tag team match in December 1985 as he, Roddy Piper, and “Cowboy” Bob Orton defeated Hillbilly Jim, Uncle Elmer, and Cousin Luke in a match which was broadcast on Saturday Night’s Main Event. After a failed comeback bid, he began to do color commentary on television for All-Star Wrestling (replacing Angelo Mosca) and later Superstars of Wrestling (initially alongside Vince McMahon and Sammartino, and with McMahon after Sammartino’s departure from the WWF in 1988), hosted his own talk segment on the WWF’s Superstars of Wrestling called “The Body Shop”, and did color commentary on radio for a few National Football League teams (among them, the Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers). Ventura most notably co-hosted Saturday Night’s Main Event with Vince McMahon and the first six WrestleManias (1985–1990) and most of the WWF’s pay-per-views at the time with Gorilla Monsoon (the lone exception for Ventura being the first SummerSlam, in which Ventura served as the guest referee during the main event). Following a dispute with Vince McMahon over the use of his image for promoting a Sega product, McMahon—who had a contract with rival company Nintendo at the time—released Ventura from the company in August 1990.
In February 1992 at SuperBrawl II, Ventura joined World Championship Wrestling as a commentator. His professional wrestling commentary style was an extension of his wrestling persona, as he was partial to the villains, which was something new and different at the time, but would still occasionally give credit where it was due, praising the athleticism of Dynamite Kid and Randy Savage (who was championed by Ventura for years, even when he was a fan favorite). The lone exception to this rule was the WrestleMania VI match between Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior. Since they were both crowd favorites, Ventura took a neutral position in his commentary; even praising Hogan’s display of sportsmanship at the end of the match when he handed over the WWF Championship to the Warrior after he lost the title. The praise of Hogan’s action was unusual for Ventura because he regularly rooted against Hogan during his matches. Hogan and Ventura were, at one point, close friends. Ventura, however, abruptly ended the friendship after he discovered, during his lawsuit against Vince McMahon, that Hogan was the one who had told Vince about Ventura’s attempt to form a labor union in 1984. Ventura was released by WCW President Eric Bishoff for allegedly falling asleep during a WCW Worldwide TV taping at Disney MGM Studios in July 1994, though it’s been speculated the move may have had more to do with Hulk Hogan’s arrival shortly before.
The political world of Jesse Ventura
Leaving professional wrestling, Ventura looked for his next world to conquer. One of the few places to raise cane similar to what he did in the ring, Ventura entered the political arena. He first entered politics by running for Mayor in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. To everyone’s shock he won the office, serving as Mayor 1991 to 1995. Four years after his mayoral term ended, Ventura was the Reform Party candidate in the Minnesota gubernatorial election of 1998. In his race for governor he pledged to not seek large sums from special interest groups.
Though the political experts said he could not do, Ventura ran a low-budget campaign centered on grassroots events and unusual ads that urged citizens not to “vote for politics as usual”. Ventura’s campaign was successful, with him narrowly and unexpectedly defeating both the Democratic and Republican candidates.
As governor Ventura went his own way just as he had in every other field he had entered. Ventura oversaw reforms of Minnesota’s property tax as well as the state’s first sales tax rebate. Other initiatives taken under Ventura included construction of the Hiawatha Line in the Minneapolis–Saint Paul metropolitan area, and cuts in income taxes. In 2003, Ventura left office having decided not to seek reelection. After leaving office, Ventura became a visiting fellow at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government in 2004. He has since also hosted a number of TV shows to include Conspiracy theory with Jesse Ventura on Tru TV. He has also written several very popular books about conspiracies and government improprieties.
During his time as governor, Ventura wrote a number of politically themed books. He continued to write several other books after leaving office. In April 2008, a book authored by Ventura, titled Don’t Start the Revolution Without Me, was released. In it, Ventura describes a hypothetical campaign in which he is a candidate for President of the United States in 2008, running as an independent. In an interview with the Associated Press at the time of the book’s release, however, Ventura denied any plans for a presidential bid, stating that the scenario is only imaginary and not indicative of a “secret plan to run”. On MinnPost.com, Ventura’s agent, Steve Schwartz, describes the book thus: “[Ventura is revealing] why he left politics and discussing the disastrous war in Iraq, why he sees our two-party system as corrupt, and what Fidel Castro told him about who was really behind the assassination of President Kennedy.”
American Conspiracies is a book Ventura wrote with Dick Russell, published by Skyhorse Publishing in 2010 which discusses conspiracy theories related to several notable events in United States history.
63 Documents the Government Doesn’t Want You to Read was written by Ventura with Dick Russell and published in 2011. The book describes documents that Ventura claims the government does not want the public to be informed of, although he stated the documents were not stolen and were only on the public domain.
Ventura also wrote DemoCRIPS and ReBLOODlicans: No More Gangs in Government, which was released in 2012. The book expresses Ventura’s opposition to the two-party system and calls for political parties to be abolished.
Ventura currently divides his time between Dellwood, Minnesota and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. He has been married for 38 years to his wife Terry, has two children, a boy and a girl.
Discussions with Governor Ventura
This writer has been the host of The Ken Hudnall Show for over 20 years, interviewing hundreds of individuals. Jesse Ventura made several appearances on the show answering questions on almost every topic. The following are a few excerpts of those interviews which show Jesse Ventura’s views on the world.
Ken Hudnall: Governor Ventura, you have come out with a new book entitled 63 Documents the Government Doesn’t Want You To Read. Can you tell us something about the book?
Governor Ventura: After the last book, American Conspiracies, my writing partner Dick Russell and I took some heat. So we decided to write a book that would not point fingers, so to speak, at anyone. Instead, we went to source documents to make our case. Remember, if a citizen says something contrary to what the government says they are considered a conspiracy theorist. However, here we were presenting the documents. We actually began research on the book 3-4 months before the Wikileaks story broke and we are ecstatic at the publicity. All of the documents discussed in this book are in the public domain; it has been the ineptness of the media that has resulted in them not being brought out. This ineptness of the media actually gives me a job.
KH – I recently ran into representative of the Veterans Administration in a parking lot and I was carrying a copy of your book 63 Documents the Government Doesn’t Want You to Read. I got a lecture for consorting with a conspiracy theorist.
JV – Well in many cases, the government’s position on matters is a conspiracy theory as well. They don’t prove anything; rather they say take our word for it. Well they have lied so often that the Government has no credibility with me. I am tired of believing stories without any proof. This has been used to cover-up a lot of despicable things. In fact the most despicable was the cover-up regarding the death of Pat Tillman. What won’t they do and how low will they go?
KH – The true story still hasn’t come out, but no one seems to care.
JV – Most people don’t realize what is taking place to this government formed by our forefathers. This government was based on a Constitution and a Bill of Rights. Now, a President and Congress can pass laws that supersede the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. That was not supposed to happen. Why do we let them get away from that? We don’t have Habeas Corpus back in this country. The Press is not doing its job of keeping people informed of what Washington is doing. This removes a major protection for the people.
KH – Tell us a little more about 63 Documents the Government Doesn’t Want You to Read. You talk about the Northwood Conspiracy – I wrote a book about that topic and got in trouble for it. I have been told that the program outlined in the Northwood Conspiracy, calling for our own troops attacking our own cities and killing our own people with the blame placed on another country to influence public opinion was submitted to President Kennedy by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Others say that this was a hoax and that it never happened. What is your belief?
JV – Oh, I believe that it was definitely brought forward to the President and fortunately President Kennedy ignored the plan. Remember, a month later he fired the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. My question is how could these people not be arrested for treason? I got in trouble on FOX News when I made the comment that we’ve been practicing terrorism for over 50 years and calling it foreign policy. But when you look at all the things we have done in the name of National Security, much of it could actually be called terrorism by other countries.