Rebel, role model, actor, wrestler, mayor, governor: Jesse Ventura has been many things to Minnesotans, whose reactions to him over the years have run from near-idolatry to eye-rolling and disgust.
But admiration -- for Ventura's wrestling career and movies, as well as his politics -- drew many of the 50-plus people who came to the Mall of America to have Ventura sign his new book, "Don't Start the Revolution Without Me!"
"More or less, I'm a wrestling fan, but I also understand how important he is in the history of Minnesota," said Tim Pulkrabek, 31, a Burnsville student who grabbed the first spot in line 21/2 hours early.
It's a history Ventura might not be done making, if, as he hinted Thursday, he goes after the Minnesota Senate seat held by Norm Coleman, whom he defeated in 1998 for the governor's chair. "I may go down and file," he said, if only for the sake of voters tempted to, as he put it, mark their ballots in the "none of the above" category. If he does, he pledged not to spend more getting elected than he'd earn as a senator.
Earlier this spring, Coleman and DFL hopeful Al Franken discounted the possibility Ventura would run, saying he was angling to push his book.
Ventura's book also toys with whether he should run for president, envisioning a scenario in which he kicks off his campaign at Wrestlemania and snags Robert F. Kennedy Jr. as running mate. But he now downplays that, saying that whoever wins the election this fall "is going to spend all four years cleaning up the mess."
As for the possibility of Gov. Tim Pawlenty becoming vice president under Republican John McCain, "I would be terrified, because that would make (Lt. Gov. Carol) Molnau the governor," he said.
Ventura remains the kind of blunt-yet-magnetic figure who can get the crowd to applaud both in favor of keeping foreign disaster aid money at home and against building a fence between the United States and Mexico.
Yet his distaste for the Minnesota news media has not abated: At the mall, Ventura conducted a Q&A with the crowd, but refused to take most questions from reporters.
As governor, "I liked how he was straightforward, and he admitted he didn't know everything," said Diane Carter, 47, a former Minnesotan who voted for Ventura.
"He's definitely tapped into his fans," said Jen Hobbs, his book publicist. "He's been out of the public eye for a couple of years now, and it's a really good comeback for him."
Ventura, who now divides his time between Minnesota and a remote corner of Mexico, wrote his book as a travelogue of a drive he and his wife, Terry, took to Baja California.
He muses on his time in office, sprinkling in classic Jesse anecdotes, such as asking the Dalai Lama if he'd seen "Caddyshack," and the time he questioned Fidel Castro about JFK's assassination.
At the mall, the former governor, clean-shaven and dressed in jeans and a jacket, smiled and signed Jesse Ventura wrestling posters, T-shirts, bobble-heads and action figures, along with books. As he did, he gave fans nuggets of advice on everything from speaking out against the government to moving to Mexico.
"He tells it the way it is," said Jean Foster, 71, of St. Cloud.
Chris Walsh, 20, a student at Augsburg College, showed up for a different reason. "To be honest with you, it's because I'm a fan of 'Predator.'"
Sarah Lemagie • 952-882-9016