Cover image for Me : Jimmy (Big Boy) Valente
Me : Jimmy (Big Boy) Valente
Keillor, Garrison.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Viking, 1999.
Physical Description:
152 pages : illustrations ; 20 cm
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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.

Author Notes

Humorist Garrison Keillor was born Gary Edward Keillor in Anoka, Minnesota on August 7, 1942. He began using the pen name Garrison at the age of thirteen. He received a B.A. from the University of Minnesota in 1966 and paid for his tuition by working at the campus radio station.

In 1974, he wrote an essay for the New Yorker about the Grand Ole Opry, which led to his live radio program, A Prairie Home Companion. Stories from Prairie Home were collected and published, but his debut as a novelist was in 1985 with Lake Wobegon Days. His other novels include WLT: A Radio Romance, The Book of Guys, Wobegon Boy, Me by Jimmy (Big Boy) Valente, and Good Poems, American Places.

He has also written the children's books Cat, You Better Come Home, The Old Man Who Loved Cheese, and The Sandy Bottom Orchestra. He won a Grammy Award for his recording of Lake Wobegon Days and was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 1994. Keillor received a National Humanities Medal from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1999. In September 2007, Keillor was awarded the John Steinbeck Award.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

It all started with a running gag on Keillor's radio show, A Prairie Home Companion, spoofing Minnesota's governor-elect, Jesse "The Body" Ventura. Who better than Keillor, the self-branded Minnesota boy of "Lake Wobegon" notoriety, to parody this gloriously cartoonlike political animal from his own territory? This satirical autobiography of professional wrestler Jimmy "Big Boy" Valente made a preemptive strike on Ventura's own rumored book deal, beating him to publication. As with most Keillor material, it translates more gracefully as audio than in print. Keillor's timing and delivery are specifically honed to spoken presentation, sharpened by his years doing radio (and aided in places by impersonator Russell as the voice of Valente). Born Clifford Oxnard, Valente is adopted as a child and tormented by the bullies of tough South Minneapolis. He becomes a Navy "Walrus," serving in Vietnam before returning as a 300-lb. hulk to conquer the spandex-tights world of professional wrestling. Taking a challenge from his hero, Arnold Schwarzenegger, he ultimately runs for political office. Despite his skill, Keillor recklessly throws himself headlong into the material and has trouble sustaining his sharpness for the durationÄthe joke starts to wears thin. Based on the 1999 Viking hardcover. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Keillor's barely veiled satire of fellow Minnesotan Jesse "The Body" Ventura's improbable gubernatorial run received mixed reviews in book form: some thought the tale was deftly timed, while others found it instantly stale. But the multitalented author (Wobegon Boy) is best-known as a radio host, so an audio version should be a bonusÄin theory. However, the story of young Clifford Oxnard's transformation into Jimmy (Big Boy) ValenteÄthanks to bodybuilding and a stint in the elite Navy Walrus unit (read: SEALs)Äcontains rather infrequent laughs. Keillor's appropriately biting take on Valente's political career ("I'd like to see any governor match me in merchandise sales") comes too little, too late. Moreover, the audiotape suffers from an incongruous tone: Keillor's droll, public radio voice doesn't sound appropriate for his character, even though the tape is billed "as told to." And when Tim Russell performs Valente's voice to animate verbatim quotes, the cartoonish quality just adds to the incongruity of this effort. Recommended only where Keillor is popular.ÄNorman Oder, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.