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What A Fellow!

Wrestler, governor and IOP fellow Jesse Ventura shows off his feminine side at Hasty Pudding show

By Faryl Ury, Crimson Staff Writer

Strutting onto stage in a sparkling white dress adorned with feathers and a blonde curly wig, Jesse “The Body” Ventura, hairy legs and all, added “drag queen” to his eclectic resume at last night’s Hasty Pudding show.

Earning hoots and a standing ovation, Ventura—the one-time professional wrestler and former Minnesota governor—took his role as an Institute of Politics (IOP) fellow to a whole new level.

Waltzing into the spotlight as only a 250-pound man can do, Ventura delighted audiences as “Cammy O. Appearance” in the second act of the Hasty Pudding Theatricals’ (HPT) 156th annual show, As the Word Turns.

Setting the farcical tone of his role, Ventura began with a bang: “I’ve seen bad actors. My ex-boyfriend was a professional wrestler.”

Though he never stumbled despite the high-heeled silver women’s shoes he was wearing, he was comedically less graceful when speaking. After stuttering over his words, he whipped out a piece of paper, pretending to review his lines.

But his last line seemed to make the biggest impression, as evidenced by the whistles and cheers.

“Bodybuilder. State governor. Harvard fellow. Cross-dresser. Eat your heart out, Arnold,” he exclaimed.

Ventura said he was delighted with his involvement in the show.

“I thought my legs looked great. The European look,” Ventura joked after the show.

And Nicholas H. Ma ’05, the show’s producer, said Ventura’s excitement was rivaled only by the cast’s.

Earlier on, only one problem worried the Pudding cast.

“Choosing a costume. That’s always a tricky part. It’s not everyday we have such a built man. Normally it’s just scrawny college students,” Ma said.

Ventura’s drag was taken from a kick-line costume from HPT’s 154th show, Snow Place Like Home.

Ma said he felt lucky they were able to outfit Ventura as he had desired.

“While we have a number of years of costumes to look through, we don’t exactly have a number of sizes,” Ma said.

Ma said Ventura’s atypical appearance was a step towards “inaugurating a new tradition” of cameos by well-known people. The play’s authors, Michael C. Mitnick ’06 and Kiernan P. Schmitt ’06, worked with HPT’s executive board to script Ventura’s “one-liners,” Ma said.

During his first week at Harvard, Ventura mentioned his desire to be in the Hasty Pudding show, Burden H. Walker ’06 said.

Aiming to please, Walker, who works with both the IOP and the HPT, said he contacted the Pudding and the idea was met with enthusiasm.

But Ventura laid out one condition.

“He said he would have to wear a dress with a large bust size,” Walker said.

“He was referring to the time he told Playboy ‘If I were reincarnated, I would be reincarnated as a double-D bra,’” Walker said.

Fifty members of the IOP filled the theater’s seats last night. The group that cheered on the famed fellow included students, staff and IOP fellow Gary Flowers.

While years in wrestling and politics accustomed Ventura to applause and fanfare, the audience’s very enthusiastic reception caught him off-guard.

“The show was great fun, but I got such an ovation I forgot the line,” Ventura jokingly lamented. “I put my heart and soul into the show.”

Members of the IOP said Ventura’s performance showed he fills the role of an IOP fellow just as well as he plays the role of a drag queen.

“Getting out in the Harvard community and interacting with students is one of the most important things that fellows do over the course of a semester, and Gov. Ventura has done a fantastic job of doing just that,” said Fellows Committee Chair David M. Kaden ’06.

And Ventura said he is always happy to interact with students.

“I wanted to do this to be part of the Harvard experience. It’s my one chance here,” said Ventura.

“I think Jesse made a strong statement on behalf of all the women that suffer from facial hair,” said Julie L. Schroeder, assistant to IOP Director Daniel R. Glickman.

“His performance reminded me of a young Bobby DeNiro,” said IOP spokesperson Andy I. Solomon ’89.

While audience members from the IOP knew what was coming, Ventura’s appearance still took others by surprise.

“I didn’t believe it at first,” said Boston resident James H. Chew, when he first learned of Ventura’s cameo.

But at the show’s conclusion, Chew remarked, “He’s got really great legs.”

NO BIZ LIKE SHOW BIZ

Speaking to a small group of fans later on last night, Ventura shuttered at the suggestion that this was his first break into show business, reminding fans after the performance that he had started his acting career 35 years before in a high-school production of Aristophanes’ The Birds.

“I’ve done TV and films. It’s not a new career, more a resurgence of an old one,” he said.

After wrestling, he became an actor, starring in several films, including Predator with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Ventura said he came away from the performance with a greater appreciation for the female sex.

“I was so hot in the wig. I have a newfound respect for women,” he said.

Following his mother’s order, Ventura’s son was there capturing the moment on film.

“Wild. It was cool. One of the most unique things I’ve seen him so,” said Tyrel J. Ventura, the Body’s son. “Politics and cross dressing, not too far of a leap.”

“Politics and cross dressing, they go together,” Ventura added to his son’s comment. “More politicians ought to do it.”

Staff writer Faryl W. Ury can be reached at ury@fas.harvard.edu.

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