Article: 20000301082

Title: Jesse II

Jesse II
HMH Publishing Co., Inc.
Playboy Interview
He blasts away at the drug war, Picasso and Steven Seagal. Hmm. Maybe the governor wouldn't make such a bad president after all
Lawrence Grobel

He blasts away at the drug war, Picasso and Steven Seagal. Hmm. Maybe the governor wouldn't make such a bad president after all

The reaction to November's Playboy Interview with Jesse Ventura was immediate. Letters, e-mails and phone calls started coming soon after the issue hit the newsstand, all asking the same question: Is there more? The answer, fortunately, is yes. Playboy Interviews are extensive and wide-ranging, and even though they run at considerable length, occasionally interesting material is cut because of a lack of space. This was true in Ventura's case---his expansive candor gave us a wealth of answers to choose from.

We could hardly be surprised that people wanted to know more. After all, Ventura's remarks about organized religion ("a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people"), overweight people ("they can't push away from the table") and the JFK assassination ("the military-industrial complex" killed him) caused a media firestorm. As a result, he was on the cover of Newsweek, and featured on the major network and cable news shows several nights running. He appeared on Sunday morning TV news shows and newsmagazines with Tim Russert, Chris Matthews, George Will, Sam Donaldson, Cokie Roberts and Barbara Walters, and even visited Letterman.

Love him or hate him, no politician in America is as outspoken and controversial as the former wrestler. Because of the unprecedented interest in the governor, we've returned to the transcript from our original interview and culled additional comments, all forthright and original, from Jesse "the Interview" Ventura.

[Q] Playboy: You've compared yourself to Rodney Dangerfield's character in Back to School. Why?

[A] Ventura: When I first won office, I didn't get no respect from the two political parties. I use that Rodney character because there you have a person who is street smart and has to do battle with Professor Barbay, who is book smart. And the professor's telling the kids how to create this business, but Rodney knows reality. All these professors in college who are supposed to be experts: If they're so good, why aren't they out in the private sector? Who are they that they can teach? In a business course I would rather get instruction from a Donald Trump, who can show what he's (continued on page 158)Jesse II(continued from page 117) accomplished in the real world, than from a tenured professor getting a guar-anteed salary from a university and who has never run a business in his life. Just like the media---they call themselves experts on elections and yet not one of them could predict my win. Now they're being questioned by the public and they don't like it. Why do you think they attack me now?

[Q] Playboy: You're talking about the local media?

[A] Ventura: Yes. National treats me good. I have no complaint other than with Katie Couric and Matt Lauer. The national media---Tim Russert, Geraldo, Montel---have been respectful, they ask fair questions. I've done all those shows and they've been terrific. It's the state media of Minnesota, mainly the St. Paul Pioneer Press. They show me no respect. They call over here and ask for Jesse. They don't ever refer to me as the governor. It's like in the military---you're not saluting the man, you're saluting the uniform. I wear the uniform.

[Q] Playboy: Which issues would you like to take on?

[A] Ventura: I would like to see more restrictions put on campaigning, where you're not allowed to start campaigning for any office until so many days before the election. Right now it's: Buy the election. Who can raise the most money? This is the one area in which I believe in socialism. If you achieve major party status, each candidate should be given an equal amount of money from the government and that's all you get to spend. Because it's now the buying of our elected officials.

[Q] Playboy: You weren't bought. Are you an aberration or a harbinger of the future?

[A] Ventura: I'm an aberration, because they are never going to change those laws. It requires that career politicians change them. It's like term limits. Eighty-five percent of Americans want term limits, yet you never see them implemented because politicians won't cut off their careers. Any public officials who will not support term limits are no longer in it for the people but for themselves.

[Q] Playboy: Isn't that the nature of politics?

[A] Ventura: We were founded upon a citizen government. You didn't have to be a lawyer or a political science major. You could be a butcher, a fireman, a teacher. You'd go and serve, and when you were done you'd go back to what you used to do. When did this become a career?

[Q] Playboy: When politicians realized, as you have, that it's fun to be the king---or at least a duke.

[A] Ventura: So what? It don't make it right.

[Q] Playboy: Your big three issues are: reforming the tax system, reforming the public school system and encouraging participation in government.

[A] Ventura: I'm not reforming the public school system; I'm just making it better. I'm not a teacher---let them reform it. I just want to give them the tools to do what's best to educate our children.

[Q] Playboy: You want to spend $600 million to build the strongest public education system in the world. What will that money go for?

[A] Ventura: Reducing class sizes, providing more money for education in general. The better educated your kids are, the better the future's going to be.

[Q] Playboy: Here's a quote from Harper's magazine: "Among the things we don't talk about in Minnesota: Our cities are racially polarized; downtown St. Paul is dying; there is no coherent plan for downtown Minneapolis other than to open more strip clubs; we suffer from urban sprawl that emulates LA's; our mass-transit system sucks; family farms are going bankrupt; and Minnesota's Iron Range economy has collapsed." Is this accurate?

[A] Ventura: No. [Holds up the front page of the Pioneer Press with a headline reading Twin Cities' Jobless Rate Lowest In U.S.] I think that runs in the face of whoever said that.

[Q] Playboy: Are the cities racially polarized?

[A] Ventura: What does that mean? Who doesn't have racial problems? Those are universal problems not limited to Minnesota in any manner.

[Q] Playboy: Is downtown St. Paul dying?

[A] Ventura: Not according to Mayor Coleman, my opponent. He says he's done a great job over there. I'll say this: There's no nightlife there. But if you look at downtown Omaha, downtown St. Paul looks like 42nd Street. You have very few cities, urban cores, that actually come to life at night.

[Q] Playboy: Are there a lot of strip clubs in downtown Minneapolis?

[A] Ventura: Not any more than anywhere else. There's more in Atlanta. I used to work for Ted Turner, and there's more of them down there.

[Q] Playboy: Darrell McKigney, president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota, criticized you for talking from both sides of your mouth, saying, "He talked about personal responsibility and said that government couldn't legislate against stupidity, then proposed more money to discourage people from smoking. He praised the private sector, then proposed building government railroads. He railed against surpluses but has proposed spending a big chunk of the current surplus."

[A] Ventura: That's inaccurate---they're putting the tobacco settlement in as tax surplus. That's windfall profit from a court case. It's apples and oranges. Minnesotans have gotten back every cent of surplus money. That was my promise. My position is to use the tobacco money for medical research. As for government railroads, isn't it government's job to provide public transportation? There is not one city in the U.S. that has built its way out of congestion. I'm looking for methods to get people to and from work besides the automobile. You can't just keep building highways. We are one of the few metropolitan areas that have no rail mass transit. As governor I have to look ten years down the road, not to the next election. I have to have a vision that goes beyond when I'm going to be here.

[Q] Playboy: In his Playboy Interview last July, Congressman Barney Frank said he's worried about the repercussions of welfare reform---"the part that says you are cut off after five years. What about the people who have kids? I don't understand punishing kids because they have lousy parents."

[A] Ventura: There's your problem---is welfare truly helping the kids? The money may get to the family, but if you've got lousy parents to begin with, how can you trust the lousy parent to ensure the children get what they need? I took heat because I said cable TV shouldn't be allowed in welfare homes. Cable TV's a luxury. We have free channels, but cable guys tell me they go into homes where there is no food in the refrigerator, yet they get all the premium channels, HBO, Cinemax, Movie Channel, all of that. They found a way to pay for that, didn't they?

[Q] Playboy: What about national and state funding for the arts?

[A] Ventura: This is capitalism---why should they be funded? How about national and state funding for sports? Or for guns? Or for rock and roll?

[Q] Playboy: The National Endowment for the Arts has helped writers continue to write.

[A] Ventura: Why can't they hold down another job and write at night? Just like actors who have to wait tables until they can support themselves, if they have the talent. Should government do that for a kid who dreams to be a race car driver? He's doing another job so he doesn't have time to drive his race car the way he knows he could and should.

[Q] Playboy: We're talking about art.

[A] Ventura: It's an art to drive a car.

[Q] Playboy: We're talking about culture.

[A] Ventura: Our culture now is cars.

[Q] Playboy: Will our race car drivers be remembered in the future, or our poets, novelists and artists?

[A] Ventura: Depends on what your cup of tea is.

[Q] Playboy: So now we're discussing what's art. If you can do it, it's not art, right?

[A] Ventura: That's right. That's how I judge it. If I can do it, it ain't art [laughs].

[Q] Playboy: Apparently you wouldn't classify Marcel Duchamp's urinal as art.

[A] Ventura: Who's he?

[Q] Playboy: OK, how about Picasso's bike handlebar sculpture?

[A] Ventura: Picasso's terrible. He ain't art.

[Q] Playboy:Time's Artist of the Century isn't an artist?

[A] Ventura: Nope, You know why? Because his sun is a circle with lines going off it, and I used to do that in kindergarten. He has a stick guy sitting on a horse with the sun there. It ain't art.

[Q] Playboy: How about Matisse?

[A] Ventura: Who's Matisse?

[Q] Playboy: Are there any artists you like?

[A] Ventura: Peter Max. I like the colors he brings to things.

[Q] Playboy: Is Max the artist you would choose for your official portrait?

[A] Ventura: Not necessarily. I'd choose him to do the background to bring it to light.

[Q] Playboy: And who would paint you?

[A] Ventura: My good friend Steve wants to do it. He was my tag team partner under the name Steve Strong.

[Q] Playboy: And will he paint you in tights and a feather boa?

[A] Ventura: I think I'll be in a suit.

[Q] Playboy: Your fellow Minnesotan Garrison Keillor had a field day with you on National Public Radio as well as in his satirical book about you. Why does Keillor have it in for you?

[A] Ventura: You'd have to ask him. I don't listen to his show.

[Q] Playboy: Did you read his book?

[A] Ventura: No.

[Q] Playboy: Can you be amused by something like that, or do you tend to take it personally?

[A] Ventura: I can probably be amused, but what doesn't amuse me is how everyone can make money off me.

[Q] Playboy: Keillor has described you as "a great big honking bullet-headed shovel-faced mutha who talks in a steroid growl." He has called you Jesse Helms with pectorals and a stronger chin.

[A] Ventura: Well, that shows how ignorant he is. I'm as far from Jesse Helms as you'll ever see. Isn't Jesse Helms blocking the gay man from being an ambassador? I wouldn't do that. I'm extremely socially liberal; Jesse Helms is not. So it shows how ignorant Garrison Keillor really is, that he's not the highbrow he portrays himself as. He's probably closer to Jesse Helms than I am.

[Q] Playboy: Was he part of the reason you announced plans to kill state funding for Minnesota Public Radio and TV?

[A] Ventura: My idea to kill public radio isn't based upon him. It's based upon my experience in regular radio. We have to go out and earn our way. We have to get advertisers and compete in the capital market. Why should they be the exception? Why are they subsidized? Why aren't we subsidizing every radio station then?

[Q] Playboy: Did it hurt your image when you took on the woman who was in college looking for student aid? You said, "Why did you become a single parent? Is it the government's job to make up for someone's mistakes?"

[A] Ventura: Not at all. I'm asking her why she's asking the government to solve a problem that she created. No one makes anyone become a parent. I asked her, "Where's the father?" She said, "He ran off." I said, "So it's my fault you got involved with a bum?" How am I the bad guy here?

[Q] Playboy: We know your position on gun control, but since it's such a politically divisive issue, we have to press you on it.

[A] Ventura: You think taking away our guns is going to eliminate man's hostility toward man? Not true. Gun control people don't know what they're talking about. They're ignorant. They believe things without researching or understanding, like when I hear Rosie O'Donnell say, "Why should you be allowed to have a gun that shoots 20 bullets a second?" You can't. An assault weapon doesn't shoot 20 bullets a second. It's semiautomatic, the same as a deer rifle.

[Q] Playboy: She may be exaggerating to make a point.

[A] Ventura: Oh, she may be exaggerating. What happens if I exaggerate that way? I get held with my feet to the fire. She's a talk-show host out there speaking to more people than I am, and she's perpetuating a lie that half of the ignorant people out there are going to believe.

[Q] Playboy: Would you go on her show to debate her?

[A] Ventura: No. There's no point. She doesn't have any knowledge of what she talks about.

[Q] Playboy: Do you really have a sign at your house that reads: We don't dial 911?

[A] Ventura: Yep. It's in my home office.

[Q] Playboy: Guns were a part of daily life when you were a Navy Seal. If you were in a position to order the assassination of someone like Saddam Hussein or Slobodan Milosevic, would you do it?

[A] Ventura: No. I'll tell you my view on Saddam Hussein. We won't take him out. We have to have our military presence on the world's oil, which is our lifeblood. If we don't have Saddam over there, the Arab nations are going to tell us to get lost. Saddam knows it too. Why do you think he can misbehave? It is not in our best advantage to take him out.

[Q] Playboy: Osama bin Laden?

[A] Ventura: He's nothing. We'd take him out if we could get him.

[Q] Playboy: Same with Milosevic?

[A] Ventura: You make a martyr out of him if you take him out.

[Q] Playboy: You once said that if local tribes want to enforce their historic claims to hunting and fishing rights off their reservations, they "ought to be in birch bark canoes instead of 200-horsepower Yamaha engines with fish-finders."

[A] Ventura: I was just making an example. They're using a fishing rights treaty that dates back over a hundred years, when their methods of fishing were far different than they are today. I disagree with how the Supreme Court ruled, but I accept it. The Supreme Court says they can do it.

[Q] Playboy: You also questioned the notion of sacred land. How does one determine what is sacred among other people?

[A] Ventura: If we get to the point where every person is allowed to declare something sacred, then we can't build a highway or a building. We can't do anything. I could go out and tell somebody that's sacred to me.

[Q] Playboy: Do you accept that some land can be considered sacred? A burial ground?

[A] Ventura: No. I think cemeteries are the biggest waste of land going. We should cremate.

[Q] Playboy: You've also said that the military-industrial complex was responsible for the assassination of President Kennedy. Why do you feel so strongly that there was a government conspiracy to kill him? How much did Kennedy mean to you?

[A] Ventura: He was a new beginning, in some ways, that got stopped. He was of a generation that both the young and the old could relate to. Everyone alive when he was killed remembers exactly what they were doing, except for two people: Richard Nixon and E. Howard Hunt. In Hunt's case, he lied about where he was at the time. With Richard Nixon, I don't know.

[Q] Playboy: Hold on now---we know you believe in conspiracy theories and that Lee Harvey Oswald was not the sole assassin. But are you implying that Nixon had something to do with it?

[A] Ventura: I'm not insinuating; it's just things I've read, like Mark Lane's Rush to Judgment and his other book, Plausible Denial, about the trial of E. Howard Hunt in Florida.

[Q] Playboy: What about Case Closed, Gerald Posner's book, which apparently debunks the conspiracy theories?

[A] Ventura: No it doesn't. Gerald Posner's big claim is that Lee Harvey Oswald and David Ferrie were never together, and yet in front of Congress a photo was shown of the two of them standing side by side. So that debunks Posner, doesn't it? Senator Yarborough was riding three or four cars behind Kennedy in the motorcade. Why did he testify the very day of the shooting that you could smell the pungent odor of gunfire going across the plaza if the shots were fired from an enclosed room five floors up behind the president?

[Q] Playboy: Have you ever been to Dealey Plaza in Dallas?

[A] Ventura: No, but my wife has, and she told me you couldn't make the shot. Also, had John not been taken out we would have had 16 years of Kennedy presidencies. Jack would have been reelected for sure, and Bobby would have followed him for two terms.

[Q] Playboy: How much different would this country be had that happened?

[A] Ventura: Very different. If Kennedy would have pulled us out of Vietnam, 50,000 American lives would have been saved, and all the turmoil from the antiwar movement would have changed. The Sixties and its music were based upon the war, because artists generally need a cause to write about. There are just too many facts. Why did Lyndon Johnson immediately order the limousine to be cleaned? That's evidence. You want to know the one that really got to me? This is a personal one. For whatever reason, my mother kept all the Minneapolis newspapers for that weekend. After she died, I found them in plastic bags. The assassination was at noon on Friday, and the assassination of his alleged assassin was Sunday at noon. Do you know the subheadline in the Minneapolis newspaper Monday morning? And this will tell it all to you. The subheadline read: Dallas Police declare case closed. They hadn't talked to one witness or done any investigation, they had no confession---Oswald said he was just a patsy. And who allows the police to declare a case closed on a homicide? And why has the Kennedy killing been closed? The police didn't even have time to bungle this one. You've got to look at something to bungle it.

[Q] Playboy: In your gut, do you feel that Lyndon Johnson had something to do with it?

[A] Ventura: I've always thought that after the fact he certainly did, when he became the power. Maybe he didn't before it happened. But after, certainly, him and J. Edgar Hoover.

[Q] Playboy: It was pretty chaotic then. Nobody really knew what they were doing.

[A] Ventura: Everybody knew what they were doing.

[Q] Playboy: And no one slipped up? How could there have been no leaks?

[A] Ventura: Because nobody truly knows. Everybody does their job. I have a friend who was involved with arms for hostages and didn't know it until it broke on TV. Didn't have a clue. This person was given a job, performed it, and had no idea what the big picture was.

[Q] Playboy: When you were in the Seals, you had no clue what you were getting involved in?

[A] Ventura: Possibly. You're given a job. You're told you're going to deliver this from point A to point B. You do it, you're done, end of story.

[Q] Playboy: Barney Frank feels that President Clinton is afraid of the military and that he lets it get away with abusing people. Are most politicians afraid of the military?

[A] Ventura: I'm not.

[Q] Playboy: You have a degree of confidence that allows you to do what you've done in your life. A lot of people aren't quite as independent as you are.

[A] Ventura: Why?

[Q] Playboy: Fear? Insecurity? Anxiety?

[A] Ventura: Then conquer it.

[Q] Playboy: Is it so easy to conquer?

[A] Ventura: Yes.

[Q] Playboy: Because you have done it?

[A] Ventura: Who was it who said that the only thing to fear is fear itself? Teddy Roosevelt?

[Q] Playboy: Franklin.

[A] Ventura: Whichever. Close enough. One of the reasons I chose to be a Navy Seal was that I had a fear of heights. Well, you're not going to become a Seal if you fear heights.

[Q] Playboy: Is that the only thing that you feared?

[A] Ventura: Pretty much. Height was my biggest obstacle. But becoming a Seal was more important than that fear. You had to jump out of airplanes, rappel out of helicopters---you better not fear heights, you just do it. Just do it!

[Q] Playboy: Why are the Seals more efficient and better trained than any special Marine or Air Force or Army units?

[A] Ventura: Because we always evolve back to the water, our birthplace. Water's the most dangerous. If you're comfortable in the water you can be comfortable on land or in the air. We'll take our opponents into the water, and then the advantage is ours.

[Q] Playboy: This is what they teach you?

[A] Ventura: It's something you know; don't have to be taught it. I'm very comfortable in water, it's a second home to me.

[Q] Playboy: Do you have any fears today?

[A] Ventura: Yeah. I fear that my children will die before I do. I don't think there could be anything worse in the world.

[Q] Playboy: What are the ways you've been able to bond with your son, Tyrel?

[A] Ventura: I always treat him as an equal. We're as much friends as we are father and son, much the way I was with my dad. Like all little kids, he has a fascination with guns and violence, and I wanted him to understand that a gun's only purpose is to kill. So I taught him what I know by patrolling on the river with him. We had a lot of fun doing that.

[Q] Playboy: And did you do anything like that with your daughter, Jade?

[A] Ventura: No. Maybe it's harder for me to relate to a daughter, because I'm a pretty macho guy.

[Q] Playboy: Have you or your wife had the sex education talk with your kids, or have you left it to the schools?

[A] Ventura: Oh no, we take care of that at home. My wife did it more with our daughter, and I did it more with our son. It was man-to-man, woman-to-woman. It's more comfortable that way for the children.

[Q] Playboy: Would either of your children be open with you about any early sexual activity?

[A] Ventura: I don't ask. The only thing I tell them is that it's inevitable and to make sure they practice safe sex, because today's sex can kill you. When I grew up, sex couldn't kill you. It could, but not to the level it can today, with AIDS. When I grew up just about everything could be cured with penicillin.

[Q] Playboy: Have you been honest with your children about your early experience with drugs?

[A] Ventura: It hasn't come up a lot, but I don't hide it.

[Q] Playboy: During your radio talk-show days, did you wear a hemp hat and sample chocolate-covered hemp seeds on the air?

[A] Ventura: Yeah. John Birrenbach, whom I call Hemp John, sent me some hemp T-shirts, a hat, tennis shoes. I've got all sorts of clothing made out of it. I support industrial hemp.

[Q] Playboy: How do the seeds taste?

[A] Ventura: Lousy. I wouldn't buy them. They have no taste and no effect.

[Q] Playboy: Would you sign a bill authorizing farmers to grow industrial hemp?

[A] Ventura: Already did. But we're fighting the feds. You've got this federal jurisdiction, this federal crap, that takes power from the states. They and their phony war on drugs are costing our farmers. Our farmers could set aside land to grow hemp and produce alternative products that could help their industry, but the government would rather wage this despicable war on drugs.

[Q] Playboy: You were on the cover of Hemp Times. Is the legalization of marijuana still something you support?

[A] Ventura: I'll put it to you this way: If we legalized pot we could build all the pro stadiums we'd need, and probably a bunch of schools, too.

[Q] Playboy: What about drinking? Did you ever have a problem?

[A] Ventura: No, I've never been an alcoholic. We drank a lot in the Seals, and when I was young, but after I started wrestling I didn't drink at all. When I drink, it's to get drunk, and that's about once or twice a year.

[Q] Playboy: So, how much beer can you consume?

[A] Ventura: One time three of us went up to my friend's cabin in the winter. We drank 114 beers over the weekend. That's not bad, considering I don't drink much. That's almost two cases apiece.

[Q] Playboy: On your radio show you advised those who drink not to drive. How often when you were young were you behind the wheel drunk, driving your drunken friends home?

[A] Ventura: On occasion, not a lot. That was in an era when society kind of laughed it off.

[Q] Playboy: How crazy did it get?

[A] Ventura: [Smiles] Ever race a train? To the stop?

[Q] Playboy: Who won?

[A] Ventura: Obviously we did. Ever throw a rod on a 1964 GTO?

[Q] Playboy: Part of your devil-may-care attitude stems from your belief in fate, doesn't it?

[A] Ventura: I believe in fate. I believe that people are destined to do certain things and that you're destined to die on one particular day and you will.

[Q] Playboy: What age do you think you'll live to?

[A] Ventura: That ain't my job to figure out.

[Q] Playboy: Do you feel you've fulfilled your destiny yet?

[A] Ventura: You have different destinies. They change. I say that because of things that have happened in my life. Like when I became mayor. I wouldn't have become mayor had Disney not canceled my TV series, Tag Team. It had been bought up for seven shows; we were a midseason replacement. I had temporarily moved to California and they had already spent over $2 million on the sets. We had six scripts written, and the night before we were to go to work they pulled the plug on the whole thing. So I came back to Minnesota and that's when I ran for mayor. Destiny played a role there. I was destined to run for mayor, which in turn created my destiny to become governor.

[Q] Playboy: Rocky Maivia, a wrestler in the WWF, says, "Vince McMahon genuinely cares about this business. Ted Turner couldn't give two pieces of monkey shit about it." Your opinion?

[A] Ventura: That's a bit bold. For Ted, wrestling is just one of many businesses. Vince cares more because it's his only business. I'd rather work for Vince, because with him you know where the buck stops. With the Turner organization---and I've worked for both---you have no idea who's calling the shots anywhere. You don't know who's the boss down there. It's total chaos.

[Q] Playboy: When did wrestling change from pretending to be real to acknowledging that it's fake?

[A] Ventura: When Vince McMahon broke away. He wanted to get out from underneath the athletic commission, so he went public in a trial and said yes, wrestling is entertainment, and therefore we should not be governed by an athletic commission. He did that so he could have the freedom to run his business. It was a brilliant move on Vince's part, but it exposed the business.

[Q] Playboy: Let's move from wrestling to one of Hollywood's famous kickboxers. Did you get to know Jean-Claude Van Damme before he was fired from Predator?

[A] Ventura: Yes, and I liked Jean-Claude, though he can be a whiner. For all his toughness and being the karate man of the world, when it comes to getting dirty, gritting your teeth and getting the job done, I'm not sure that he would always stand back-to-back with you. He complains so much: "Oh, it's so hot. So hot." It wasn't that Jean-Claude couldn't do the part, but I think he thought he was going to be karateing us in the jungle and everyone would see his handsome face. He didn't realize he was going to be stuck inside this predator suit and no one was going to see his face.

[Q] Playboy: What about Steven Seagal?

[A] Ventura: I don't think he's all he claims to be. Didn't he claim to be a CIA man? I think he has a credibility problem. He has illusions of grandeur for himself. There's a famous story, which I shouldn't tell: There's an old wrestling stuntman who knocked him out. Seagal was bragging how he was a lethal weapon and could kill anybody with his pinkie, and this wrestler---who won't talk about it because he wants to keep working---put him in a sleeper hold to where he wet his pants.

[Q] Playboy: Do you still harbor a fantasy to act with Robert De Niro?

[A] Ventura: Yeah, I'd love to. I'm a big De Niro fan. In fact, I scared him once at La Scala restaurant in Malibu. I walked over to say hello to him and he had this look of fear, because I'm 6'4" and 270 pounds and look like a gorilla.

[Q] Playboy: At your inaugural festivities, Hunter S. Thompson had a sealed package delivered to you. What was in it?

[A] Ventura: I'll tell you when you find out what was in the sealed package at the Simpson trial. That's Hunter's and my business. There were no drugs though, if that's what you're thinking. Warren Zevon brought it to me. I never met Hunter, but he wanted to send me a message, and he did. It was an interesting one, and probably fairly accurate.

[Q] Playboy: Which political figures have you admired over the years?

[A] Ventura: Not too many. My father didn't like politicians or generals, so they were never high on our list at home. Eisenhower, I don't remember enough. Kennedy was in too short a time---though I am obsessed with his death and the big lie we've been sold. LBJ, I didn't particularly admire. Nixon, nothing there. Gerald Ford served on the Warren Commission and pardoned Nixon. I admired Jimmy Carter, but he was too honest for the job. He was an outsider and they destroyed his credibility in office. Ronald Reagan did a good job---I don't know if I admire him, but I've been compared to him in the way he managed and how he put the best people in their positions and allowed them to do their jobs. As for Bush and Clinton, nothing exceptional. I admire them all for doing that job. Look at how that job ages them: They come in for four years and age 20.

[Q] Playboy: You met with President Clinton and Al Gore to discuss education, tobacco money and Internet sales taxes. What was your impression?

[A] Ventura: The president is very charismatic. He has some remarkable qualities about him. I understand how he achieved success. He's done a good job.

[Q] Playboy: Did you get a sense of why some call him Slick Willy?

[A] Ventura: Who knows why? He's very much like Vince McMahon Sr., who was a promoter on the East Coast when I wrestled. He could totally screw you in a payoff for a wrestling match, and you'd be so angry. You'd go in to meet with him and he'd never raise his voice. He'd talk softly to you. He'd give you no more money and you'd walk out feeling good. Ten minutes later you'd realize that you didn't accomplish what you went in there to do. I think President Clinton is much the same. A very angry person can initially approach him, and the president is good at calming him down and giving him nothing and sending him out the door feeling good until an hour later when he realizes he got worked.

[Q] Playboy: Do you agree with Hillary that there is a right-wing conspiracy in this country?

[A] Ventura: I don't know. Politics is all a conspiracy. There are conspiracies against me right now. Sure there are. To make me look bad, so that never again will an independent third-party governor get elected. There are people out there right now who have that on their agendas.

[Q] Playboy: Your wife has said she feels like you're the Flying Wallendas. "Put one toe wrong, and you're going to end up in the sawdust, because there's no net." Do you feel that way too?

[A] Ventura: Terry's a Virgo and a German Lutheran, so she always will take the side of caution. I am much less cautious. I'm more "Let's spit in the wind and see what happens."

[Q] Playboy: Terry said in Mirabella that your relationship began in lust, turned to love, then to hate, then back to love. What made her hate you?

[A] Ventura: Hate's probably too strong a word. But in any relation you're going to get angry with each other. A lot of it's immaturity. A relationship grows in maturity. Right now we're very mature. The anger came when we were both much more immature.

[Q] Playboy: Have you ever lusted in your heart?

[A] Ventura: Hey, you can look all you want. It's that old thing: You can look at every new car, just don't stick the key in the ignition. That's human nature. If a gorgeous woman walks by, as a man you always look. And wonder. Sure. There's nothing wrong with that.

[Q] Playboy: Ever feel tempted?

[A] Ventura: I learned in the Seals never to put myself in a compromising situation. I don't go to bars and didn't when I was on the road wrestling. I went to my room and watched television.

[Q] Playboy: Did you and Terry ever fool around in this office?

[A] Ventura: No. I can do anything I want, but we've never had the opportunity. Not saying we wouldn't.

[Q] Playboy: How do we get to know who a politician really is? Including you?

[A] Ventura: You don't.

[Q] Playboy: Is there a public and a private Jesse Ventura?

[A] Ventura: Yes.

[Q] Playboy: How different is one from the other?

[A] Ventura: Could be a lot different. Depends on what eyes you see him with.

[Q] Playboy: How smart do you think you are?

[A] Ventura: I'm very street smart. I can read people fairly well.

[Q] Playboy: And you believe that if you decided to run for the presidency you could get elected?

[A] Ventura: Right. Everyone says I can't, but I believe sure I could. This is America. And I proved it here. If you look at one California poll, I have an 80 percent recognition rate already, so I don't have to buy name recognition. Look at what I spent on my election: $600,000, of which half was state subsidy money, which all candidates got. So in reality I only raised $300,000. The Democrats and Republicans spent $5 million to $6 million apiece.

[Q] Playboy: Have we entered the Age of Jesse Ventura?

[A] Ventura: It's a possibility, if I wanted to exploit that. But I don't want that job.

[Q] Playboy: Are you going to deny yourself right into office one day?

[A] Ventura: The more I say it the more they keep pushing me.

[Q] Playboy: If you were elected president, how long do you think you'd live?

[A] Ventura: Before they'd kill me? I'd be concerned.

[Q] Playboy: Would this be the most dangerous thing you could do---get elected without the support of either major political party?

[A] Ventura: Maybe. But right now my job is to finish being governor for the next three years.

[Q] Playboy: Some people are starting to compare you with Harry Truman.

[A] Ventura: Well, I hope I never have to deliver the bomb on anyone. I suppose it's because I'm Midwestern, and Harry was from Missouri, the show-me state. We both say what we feel. I can say what I want without worrying about being reelected.

[Q] Playboy: What about in three years, if you decide to run for reelection?

[A] Ventura: I will simply say to the people: I will do the job another four years if you want me to. If you have someone who can do it better, elect them. Career politicians go out and say, "No one can do the job better than I have, that's why you need to reelect me." Like this cartoon on my refrigerator at home: an old crusty politician standing at the podium shaking his fist, saying, "Reelect me so I can go back and fight for term limits."

[Q] Playboy: Since you thrive on attention, won't it be hard to leave office?

[A] Ventura: Sure, but I've had attention my whole life. I'll continue to have it.

[Q] Playboy: We've talked for three days. Is there anything you've said that you're concerned about?

[A] Ventura: You asked a lot of questions that bring out the Jesse and the anger sometimes, but I want you to make sure that you write that I love this job, that I take it very seriously, that I'm a positive person. I think I'm a good leader and if you talk to my staff you'll find that I treat them very fairly. I never come in in a bad mood and I don't ever take it out on my staff when I get angry. I'm loyal to them and they're loyal to me. I don't want a spin put on this that somehow I'm a maniac tyrant who comes in to work every day and has people doing push-ups.

[Q] Playboy: Do you think that you've made many mistakes?

[A] Ventura: Not too many. My mistakes are when people ask me a question and I give them an answer, rather than saying, let me think about it, and get back with a prepared answer. I don't work that way.

[Q] Playboy: Our final question: What do you think about being interviewed in Playboy?

[A] Ventura: It's an honor.

Illustration by David Levine