Out of Characters

In the parlance of journalism, feature is a catch-all for any longish story that doesn't necessarily have a time peg. At City Pages features are a place where characters are drawn, from Jesse the Body to Bear in the Woods Bly to Saint Mary Jo to the guy who thinks his body has been inhabited by Vlad the Impaler. It's where human enterprise is saluted, from metal scavengers to pinball wizards to repo men to the kid who sells rocks in the alley behind his home. It is a place for first-person narratives by a department-store Santa, a phone-sex operator, and a worker on the turkey-evisceration assembly line.

Three of the finest feature writers to have published work in these pages are still turning out work for the paper. Josie Rawson, a published poet and current City Pages associate editor, is a superb prose stylist, as anyone who has read her story on the camp for kids who have been scarred by fire or her profile of John Holtby, who was scarred by the mental-health profession, can verify. Both pieces make you simultaneously want to laugh and cry. Elsewhere, the rhythm she captures in a conversation among carny vets reveals an ear for dialogue that's as sharp as her eye for detail--virtues enriched by a profound empathy for her protagonists.

Longtime freelancer Brad Zellar likewise isn't afraid to lay his heart on the page. His affinity for offbeat maestros--souvenir peddler Ray Crump, for instance, and the wacky posse that is the Shriners--have prompted some indelible features, while his first-person account of life as an insomniac is a tragicomic tour de force that prompted at least one book offer.

And finally there's Dara Moskowitz. While you might not expect a weekly restaurant review to provide a forum for feature fodder, during her tenure at the paper, Moskowitz has virtually reinvented the medium--and delectably so.


A rock band calling themselves White Lie played at Boyd's in December, bringing with them some of their big friends from Milwaukee. Wrestlers Jesse Ventura and the lovely biceptual Adrian Adonis joined in on the three-night stand, with Ventura making a new kind of stage scene one night by singing "Cocaine." No body slams were reported at any of the gigs.

Martian Colour, January 7, 1981


One particularly successful bad guy now living in north Minneapolis is Jesse Ventura....There is a touch of the dope-smoking hippie in his character: He wears wire-rimmed sunglasses, psychedelic wrestling tights, and sports a menacing beard and thinning, long, bleached-blond hair.

Sheldon Anderson, October 8, 1981


Jesse "The Body" Ventura should have a 12-inch dance single in the stores any day now--"The Body Rules" b/w "Showdown With Mr. V." The only hope here is that it comes close to the quality of the Crusher's single ("Do the Crusher") released nearly 20 years ago.

Jeff Pike, December 19, 1984


But his ring persona pales beside the Jesse one might encounter on the street, or, say, at Runyon's Bar. At six-foot-five, 260, Jesse is visible from all corners of any room. On an average evening he'll be wearing a wig of purple dreadlocks, shades, six earrings, glitter specks on his cheeks, a black leather biker jacket, and a gleaming sequin sunk deep into the dimple of his chin.

"I feel sorry for those punkers uptown," Jesse says. "People pick on 'em. Hell, I've always dressed exactly as I pleased. And nobody picked on me....I'd like to publicly criticize the Twin Cities radio stations for not playing my record. The people want to hear Jesse the Body and they're not gettin' it! TWIN CITIES STATIONS, WISE UP AND GET WITH IT!"

Bruce Rubenstein, March 27, 1985


Out in the parking lot ten minutes later, Ventura suggests that a photographer get a shot of the license plate on his 1990 Porsche Carrera 4. UDT (for Underwater-Demolition Team) SEAL, it reads, encased in a plate holder adorned with the words, "Mess with the best/Die like the rest." Asked how fast the sports car could go, Ventura eagerly takes the bait. "You know that high stretch of road leaving town out of Two Harbors? I've had it up to 140 up there." With his massive arms folded over his chest beneath an insouciant smile, the bald-headed candidate looks like an unholy cross between James Dean and Mr. Clean.

In political circles Ventura's campaign has been treated largely as an afterthought to the serious business of the election; at best he's referred to as a spoiler who could cost one of the others the election. That Ventura personally and the third-party movement in general have a constituency of their own--one which has grown from near-obscurity a decade ago to prime-time status today--barely seems to register.

Britt Robson, September 30, 1998


Once you penetrate the theories of the four Mothers, the three brains, and the two consciousnesses, you reach the one and only Robert Bly--a weird, high-energy emanator, a Lutheran born to repression, as he has said of himself, and a Capricorn born to concealment, brooding through the years and, in the storm of civilization, turning over a new leaf.

Zeke Limehouse, March 23, 1983


Tip jars were legalized back in 1979, possibly because no one could imagine that such a dull and pointless pastime would ever lead anyone to ruin. The idea is simple: You pay money, usually a dollar, and receive a little folded slip of paper, fished from a cookie jar by the cashier. You open it up, look at it, and discover that you haven't won anything.

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