Off Beat

[Editor's note: A correction ran concerning this story; see end of article.]

As Told to Off Beat

When St. Martin's Press wanted a quickie unauthorized bio of Gov. Jesse Ventura, did they call Off Beat? Alas, no. Instead they found Jake Tapper, 30-year-old Philadelphia native and--until last week, when he signed on with Salon--senior writer at the weekly Washington, D.C., City Paper. "My agent up in New York City knew that I had written a lot about sports and politics and entertainment," says Tapper, whose previous claim to fame was the City Paper cover story "I Dated Monica Lewinsky," a tale of a banal Tuesday evening he'd spent with America's Favorite Intern after she'd turned the president's head but before she'd lit up the headlines. The book deal was inked in early December; by February 1 Tapper had delivered 65,000 words, which will be released in May to an unsuspecting public as Body Slam: The Jesse Ventura Story, a $5.99 mass-market paperback. The author says he has been to Minnesota several times but didn't set foot in the state while researching the book. Naturally, Ventura refused to talk to him, he reports, as did campaign guru Dean Barkley (although Tapper says he talked to Barkley's wife). Overall he conducted about four dozen interviews with journalists who covered Ventura, "the ubiquitous Professor Schier," radio producers at KSTP and KFAN, former Navy SEALs, a friend of Jesse's mom, an assistant swimming coach from high school, ad man Bill Hillsman, Norm Coleman, a Skip Humphrey adviser who spoke only on the condition of anonymity, and former governor Wendell Anderson. Despite having watched every last one of Jesse's movies while researching the project, Tapper still seems to like the First Lug. "He's such a complex man, and everything that is controversial and perhaps offensive about him comes from the same part of him that is so attractive as a candidate and a person: his utter Jesse-ness," he enthuses. "I'm sure he'll hate it, but it's not a negative book." Tapper won't reveal how much he got for writing the book. Instead he cagily refers to his intimate knowledge of his subject, allowing that it's "less than what Ventura wants the first lady to be paid." (That figure, as we all know, was $25,000.)

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

Some gruesome tales have made the rounds in recent weeks as state legislators debated how to handle Minnesota's expanding wolf population. The most vivid reminiscence involved Rep. Tom Rukavina (DFL-Virginia) and his pooch Spunky. Tipped off that her colleague might have been gilding the lily when he told of how Spunky had been snatched from the family's back yard by a pack of wolves, Rep. Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Minneapolis) challenged the story. Under questioning, Rukavina admitted that not only could he not say for certain whether it was wolves that had made off with Spunky, but the mutt was already dead when it disappeared. A few years back when the dog died, the ground was frozen, Rukavina explained. He'd covered the corpse with branches, intending to bury it in the spring. Though he has no proof, Rukavina continues to insist that two other family pets were also abducted by wolves. "This is the kind of hysteria that springs up around wolves," marvels Ginny Yingling, a lobbyist for the Minnesota chapter of the Sierra Club. Another piece of lore that seems to be gaining currency, says Yingling, is an apocryphal story about a small child killed by a wolf in Canada. What really happened, she says, is that a wolf in a Canadian provincial park had been "going into campsites and taking food and gear" and otherwise behaving abnormally. Before park rangers could follow through on plans to kill the beast, it had attacked a 12-year-old boy in a sleeping bag. "The child was bitten rather severely," Yingling says, "but he survived." This case, she notes, is the only reported attack on a human by a wolf in Canada or the United States.

 

At Off Beat our motto is "Staying informed so you don't have to." Call (612) 372-3788 or send e-mail to offbeat@citypages.com with any poop that's fit to print.

Owing to a reporting error, the Off Beat item about Jake Tapper's forthcoming bio of Gov. Jesse Ventura ("As Told to Off Beat") erroneously quoted the author as characterizing ex-Gov. Wendell Anderson as "a former pro wrestling aficionado." Tapper interviewed Anderson for his political insights. The above version of the story reflects the corrected text. City Pages regrets the error.

 
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