“My question, Mr. Ventura, is: Can you autograph my ticket?” asked a nervous man, standing in front of a microphone. “My daughter’s been a fan of yours for 15 years.”

Jesse “The Body” Ventura (a.k.a. governor of Minnesota/ex-pro wrestler/ex-U.S. Navy Seal/ex-radio host) flashes a grin from ear to ear. Sporting a clean-shaved head, salt-and-pepper moustache and a black, pin-stripped suit, his reply booms across the auditorium. “Fifteen years? I haven’t wrestled for at least 15 years!”

On stage he’s in his element, but the governor’s is also on a mission – trying to build on the $7.6 billion in trade Canada enjoys with the twin-city state. On Wednesday his quest has led him to Comdex Canada 2001 in Toronto where he delivered a keynote address.

“Canada and Minnesota have nurtured the bonds of friendship and co-operation for well over a century – and today, we’re reaping the benefits of a strong and health relationship,” Ventura said, projecting his voice with ferocious intensity.

He went on to explain how similar Canadians and Minnesotans are. “Earlier today, I stopped by the exhibit hall and had a chance to meet people in both Minnesota’s and Canada’s high-tech industries,” Ventura said. “I left with the overwhelming sense that opportunity is not only knocking – but pounding at the door of both Minnesota and Canada.”

During his speech Ventura called for free trade between the Americas, and for “permanent normal trade relationships with China.” He also called for barrier-free systems to connect people together – including those living in the most remote areas of the world.

Hailed as a “special guest”, the celebrity threw quips to the audience while describing Minnesota’s wonders. Periodically deviating from his prepared speech, the practised entertainer included one-liners that were well received.

With his speech over, the floor was opened for questions. Although Ventura tended to dodge pointed, economic questions with one-liners, he did analyse professional sports and, yes, pro wrestling.

Although the 50-year-old entertainer conceded he’s technologically “illiterate” and said little to address the concerns specific to IT professionals, his opening remarks seemed to sum up his purpose at the Toronto convention. “I used to wrestle in the old Maple Leaf Gardens. I always enjoyed performing here.” The line of people waiting for his autograph afterward seemed to prove it.

Comdex Canada is online at http://www.key3media.com/comdex/canada2001/.

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