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"For a professional wrestler with a shaved head and a Fu Manchu to be elected governor of Minnesota -- all I can say is, WOW. Election Day, 1998, was the greatest day in my life. It will be surpassed only by Inauguration Day 2001."So reveals Jimmy (Big Boy) Valente to his ghostwriter Garrison Keillor in the opening pages of Me. With all the press attention focused on Jimmy and his sensational life, he has decided to set the record straight and tell his own story -- from his illegitimate birth and unhappy childhood to his Vietnam War experience, his career as world heavyweight champion of professional wrestling, and his come-from-behind electoral triumph last November. Jimmy told his story to Garrison one weekend the two spent on Maui in January, and Jimmy said, "Print it," and Viking, not wanting to alienate the big guy, will put the book on sale nationwide on March 1, 1999.
And what a story it is...Jimmy was conceived in 1954 on a ten-foot oak table at a Minneapolis country club, and given up for adoption, to be raised by Arv and Gladys Oxnard, who named him Clifford. A fearful child, persecuted by his stepsister Eunice who marked an "A" on his forehead, chased by big dogs and gangs, Clifford has a redemptive encounter with a circus freak that leads to a program of body-building and enlistment in the Navy.
Clifford enlists under the name Jimmy Valente, and is accepted into the top-secret WALRUS program (Water Air Land Rising Up Suddenly). In Vietnam, his unit vanquishes hordes of Viet Cong, assisted by Jimmy's defector buddy Victor Charlie, "The Rodent," who later comes to haunt Jimmy. When his tour of duty ends, he makes his way to Alaska, where he signs up with a wrestling promoter and creates the ring persona of "The Flower Child" (with daffodils on his head and wearing beads and sandals), a classical wrestling "heel."
From wrestlers such as The Duke of Dubuque and Svend the Yellow-Toothed, Jimmy learns the trade and, in one dramatic fall, meets his true love, Lacy Larson, and reinvents himself as "Big Boy" -- a new persona modelled on James Arness, Larry of the Three Stooges, Spiro Agnew, The Grand Exalted Potentate of the Zuhrah Shrine, and Bo Diddley, taking the best from each. By incorporating both good and evil into one character, Big Boy breaks through the old stereotypes and brings wrestling into the modern era. He assembles his "Super Team" and goes on the road for twelve years, earning millions of dollars and introducing explosives, monster trucks, chain saws, guillotines, and cruise missles into the sport.
At his peak as a wrestler, Jimmy is approached by Earl Woofner, chairman of the Ethical Party of Minnesota, anxious to find a gubernatorial candidate to break the liberal chokehold and open up politics to common sense and honesty. Jimmy throws his hat into the ring for the 1998 election and rides around Minnesota in a rented motor home, campaigning on a simple platform -- that he is not a politician, will never lie, will do his best, and that "it will be fun, doggone it" -- and he is swept to victory.
Jimmy closes his book with a glimpse of his future plans: a match to fight Mashimoto Ishi, the 800-pound "Emperor of the East," for six million dollars, and a run for President. "Al Gore, look out," he predicts, "you're obsolete. The fringe has become the center." And that's the story of Jimmy (Big Boy) Valente, as told to Garrison Keillor.
"Let me share something with you. In January, 2001, I intend to be standing on the flag-draped platform, before the US Capitol in Washington DC, placing my right hand (with the Universal Wrestling Association World Champion gold ring on the middle finger) on the Holy Bible and looking the Chief Justice straight in the baby blues and promising to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and when I lift my hand and kiss my wife Tracy and hug my daughter Amber and my son Adrian, every Senator and Congressman and Justice and ex-President and Ambassador in sight is going to be looking at me in my black headband and Led Zeppelin t-shirt and wondering how in the hell did this ever happen. It's called democracy, boys. There are more of my people out there than there are people who read The New York Times and salute when they see a suit and tie. If you can add, you know that already. But the people who run politics don't ever talk to my people and don't know how many there are. The political bosses are your $35 lunch crowd who like a nice Chardonnay with their linguini and sun-dried tomatoes, and my people are the ones having a beer in a tavern, watching some football on TV, and bitching about lousy cars, wild kids, sore backs, and lying, cheating, ass-kissing, back-stabbing, scum-sucking politicians. I am the guy who rode into town and took on the politicians and raised the flag of common sense and honesty and people are flocking to it by the millions. That's how I got elected Governor of Minnestota. I told the people of Minnesota, I AM NOT A POLITICIAN, and I beat a Democrat and a Republican who both thought they were awfully smart, but how smart is it to keep giving the same speech year after year? I came with a new message:
1) I will not lie to you.
2) I will not make promises I cannot keep. I only promise to do my best.
3) I will accept no campaign money from big business and special interests and I will put government in the hands of you the taxpayer and voter.
4) It will be fun.
And I took them to the cleaners. I walked out on the balcony of the Jimmy for Governor headquarters suite at the Holiday Inn and stood at the railing and raised my fists and yelled, GOVERNOR OF MINNESOTA, BABY! The morning after I was on every network news show in America. I was the King of American Politics, people were talking about me wherever I went. My wife Tracy was photographed for People magazine and I was on the cover of Time. Jay Leno wanted me. David Letterman called. Name one other gradute of Nathan Hale High School who can say that!"
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About the Author
Hometown:St. Paul, Minnesota
Date of Birth:August 7, 1942
Place of Birth:Anoka, Minnesota
Education:B.A., University of Minnesota, 1966
Read an Excerpt
THE BABY IN THE BLIZARD
The day of my conception was a pellucid June afternoon in Minneapolis, 1951, and the location was a ten-foot oak table in the Founders Room at the Minikahda Club, where my parents had just nailed the Heffelfinger Cup clay-court mixed-doubles championship 6-4 6-2. They tossed down a couple gin slings and slipped upstairs and there, on a table where no Jews or Negroes and only one Norwegian had ever sat, they spread themselves out and created a new life. There is a photograph of the two of them taken a half hour or so before, in their tennis whites, holding a silver loving cup at courtside, my father's foot up on the rail of the judge's stand, my mother clutching a racquet to her bosom, and they look so gifted and radiant and incandescently happy, it's obvious why they did what they did and put me up for adoption. Their lives were too wonderful to make room for a child right then, especially since they were not married.
He was a brokerage executive married to someone else and she was engaged to his best friend, the heir to a major grocery fortune, and they enjoyed their carnal moment together on the oak table and then dressed and my father washed his face and resumed his marriage.
My mother was twenty. She was home for the summer from Mount Holyoke. Her father was the eldest son of a railroad tycoon, and they lived in a red-roofed Creole mansion overlooking Lake of the Isles and she golfed three times a week at Minikahda with the Dayton girls and swam and played tennis. She was slender, long-legged, boyish, and her blondhair was cut daringly short. She was a hell-raiser in general. My father, who perished while duck-hunting in 1953 when his waders filled with water, had observed her the week before dive stark naked into the club pool at 1 A.M., on a night when he sat at poolside in the dark, brooding and drinking. On a dare from her friends, my mother walked out of the ladies' dressing room and onto the deserted terrace, dropped her robe at the foot of the diving board, strode to the end of it, and did a perfect half-gainer into the water. My father stood and helped her up the ladder. She thanked him and found her robe and wrapped it around her. "Let's play tennis sometime," she said.
She might have sought out an abortionist and had me pinched off, but she was in the midst of a terrifically entertaining summer and it was easier to ignore me: She was small and didn't look pregnant until her sixth month. In the fall she returned to Mount Holyoke for her senior year, where she majored in French and was a fencer and in the drama club, and in December, she and her two best friends took the train to New York to see Come Back, Little Sheba, and there, one night at the St. Regis Hotel, she looked at herself naked in a mirror and realized she had to confront the fact of my existence.
She telephoned home in the morning and confessed.
She wept. She pleaded for forgiveness. She lied. She told them she had been forced by a friend into having sex and that she could not divulge his name because she had promised not to. She told them that she loved her fiancé and could not bear the thought of causing him pain.
Her family swung into action. A conference was called, emissaries were dispatched to the fiancé's family, negotiations were begun, and by the second week of January, a deal was struck whereby I would disappear, the wedding would take place in April, the groom would be indemnified by a sum of $200,000 for her loss of virginity, and the family would post bond of a half-million to assure her faithfulness for the first ten years of marriage.
I was born in January 1952, in a third-floor maid's room at her family's mansion, in the midst of a Minnesota blizzard, born premature, a puny four-pounder, bald and bug-eyed, too enervated to wail, and was carried by the chauffeur to the black Chrysler and gently laid on the back seat and was driven through the drifted streets of Minneapolis to University Hospital, where I lay and baked in a glass drum for two months, a feeding tube stuck into the top of my skull, a free-floating object in the world, available to anyone for the asking.
I knew none of this until November. A man can learn much about himself by getting elected governor. After November, the press went to work and dredged up the adoption papers and paid off a clerk at county welfare and tracked down my poor old mother and found her in an alcoholic daze at the Minneapolis Club and pumped her for details, and talked to her friends. The day before yesterday that vile guttersnipe Jeff Lundberg of the Minneapolis Star Tribune phoned to ask corroboration and comment on it.
That is why I have rushed this book into print.
I want to be the first to tell my own story.
And I want it told 100 percent truthfully, minus those cruel lies that the press tosses in, such as the totally erroneous notion that I was named Josh.
1. I was never named Josh. I was once Clifford Oxnard and now I am Jimmy Big Boy. At no time was my name Josh. I am prepared to sue the knees off anyone who states otherwise.
2. I do not live in terror of a man known as The Rodent. He is a deeply troubled man and I am fully prepared for him whenever he should make an appearance.
3. I never promised the good people of Minnesota a one-thousand-dollar tax refund for every man, woman, and child. I only promised the refund if the money was actually there. It wasn't. Had I known the money wasn't there, I wouldn't have promised it. It's just that simple.
4. I do not wear a signal ring on my left hand and use it to receive messages from the planet Ballarat in the Creon galaxy, though I did once meet someone at the World's Largest Corncob near Walnut Grove, Minnesota, who said she was from there.
5. I do not earn $100,000 a year from the sale of Jimmy (Big Boy) beer. The money I earn is not from the sale of the beer but from the licensing of my name to American Beer Corp., which manufactures the beer. Furthermore, I have a licensing agreement for Governor Jimmy- and Love the Gov-brand action toys, board games, children's clothing, animated feature films, and a planned theme park south of Minneapolis, for which I will be paid a sum in the mid seven-figures plus royalties. There is nothing in the Constitution that prohibits a governor from licensing his name and likeness. If people don't like it, they can go get their own licensing agreements.
6. "Big Boy has a collection of German expressionist art in his home in Poplar Bluff worth an estimated $2.5 million." Not true. My success in wrestling permits me to maintain an excellent lifestyle but I do not collect German expressionism. Period.
7. I never said I would favor the legalization of steroid use by high school athletes and the sale of hard-core pornography in convenience stores. I only said I thought that we should look into it. There is a difference.
8. I have not "run away" from a match with my nemesis of International World Wrestling, the dreaded Mr. Mashimoto. Au contraire. I am actively pursuing it.
9. I have not ruled out a presidential try in 2000. In fact, I have decided to go ahead and start organizing my campaign. I will be in the race. You can count on it.
These lies were invented by the malicious and despicable Jeff Lundberg of the Star Tribune, a hermaphroditic pinhead who needs someone to pick him up by the ears and shake some sense into him. I do not brake for Jeff Lundberg. If I were walking along a cliff and saw him hanging by one hand from the edge, I would get out a nail file and do his nails for him. If I saw him choking on a piece of meat, I would give him a reverse Heimlich.
In this book, I will tell you the truth about Jimmy (Big Boy) Valente as only I can tell it. My childhood as an adopted kid. My reincarnation as a teenager. My Vietnam war experience in the elite Walrus unit of the U.S. Navy. My career as world heavyweight champion of professional wrestling. And my come-from-behind election as governor in 1998.
You gotta love it.