Tally Whoa!

God giveth and the government taketh away (last year, for example, the 6.5 percent tax on furs put an estimated $200,000 in state coffers). Ever wonder how the levies and back-of-the-envelope calculations tally up? Check out these numbers generated by the Internal Revenue Service and Minnesota’s Department of Revenue.
—Beth Hawkins


Estimated state income tax to be paid by Minnesotans in fiscal 2008
$7.7 billion
Percentage of Minnesotans who filed their 2006 federal returns electronically in 2007
Value of itemized deductions claimed by Minnesotans filing federal taxes in 2005
$22.5 billion
Estimated new tax revenue generated in 2007 by extending bar-closing time from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Expected number of federal tax returns Minnesotans will file this year
Amount that Minnesota collects in required taxes on controlled substances such as marijuana
Estimated number of Minnesotans
who do not pay taxes
Amount that Minnesotans are allowed
to spend on Internet, mail-order, and out-of-state purchases before owing sales tax
Expected number of filers who will ask for an extension
Hourly rate of tax attorney Tom Brever,
a former senior trial attorney for the IRS
Estimated number of Minnesotans who underpay their taxes


Don’t Start the Revolution Without Me!

The 5-Minute Guide to Jesse’s new book


Is Jesse Ventura planning a 2008 run for the presidency? The answer is among several revelations in the former guv’s third book, which hits stores this month. Here, some other surprises about the Body’s time in St. Paul.

Suspicious minds: Ventura describes being questioned by 23 CIA agents in the basement of the capitol. The spooks wanted to know how the independent former-wrestler’s campaign actually won an election (p. 91—93).

Best buds: Ventura found time to make some new friends while governor; he put Muhammad Ali in a headlock (p. 62), caught a guitar pick flung by Keith Richards (p. 157), and talked shop with Fidel Castro (p. 111).

A coordinated plan? 9/11 conspiracy theorists will love Chapter 11. Ventura wants to know where U.S. air defense was, and why so many Pentagon members canceled flights that month (p. 199).

The showman: While teaching at Harvard, the Body played a role in a student-run burlesque show. Thankfully, Ventura, clad in a mini-skirt, decided not to participate in the final leg-kicking dance sequence (p. 249).


Mascot Melee

Nothing says early spring in Minnesota like surprise snowstorms, silt-laden streets, and, uh, baseball, right? As the Twin Cities’ two professional teams—the Minnesota Twins and the St. Paul Saints—gear up to start their seasons this month, it seems a fine time to compare the teams’ most engaging, and recognizable, stars: their mascots.





T.C. Bear


Saints’ co-owner Mike Veeck’s fiancée suggested a pig mascot, referring to St. Paul’s nickname, Pig’s Eye.Origins The Twins’ management, looking for a character kids could relate to, took pictures of different animals to a local school. The kids chose a bear.
Big, furry, porcineLookBig, furry, ursine
200 a yearAppearances275 a year
 Being an anthropomorphic version of a four-legged counterpart, a real-live pig that runs baseballs out to umpires at Saints games.Famous forDominating major league baseball’s all-star mascot home-run derby.
(He’s won it the last three years.)
Having to fend off overly friendly Saints fans who were attempting to touch the female mascot, um, inappropriately.Infamous for In 2004, while trying to show off for fans, T.C. drove an ATV into the left field wall, knocking down two banners.


Security Blanket

Preparations for the RNC get serious in St. Paul

What does the Republican National Convention have in common with the Superbowl and the Oscars? (Hint: It has nothing to do with Tom Brady or Cate Blanchett.)

All three spectacles are National Special Security Events, a designation by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that authorizes the Secret Service to provide assistance to local law enforcement. In the RNC’s case, it also means $50 million in cash for beefed-up security during the four-day event.

St. Paul, which employs about 600 police officers, will use the dough to temporarily swell its ranks by 3,000-plus employees. The city’s police department has issued a plea on its website for “public safety and/or crowd control” assistance from outside law-enforcement agencies. The efforts will be bolstered by approximately 1,000 Secret Service employees as well as 500 to 2,000 National Guardsmen.

Private security companies are making profitable deals, too. There are 349 Minnesota agencies licensed with the state’s Private Detective and Protective Agent Services board, and those in the know say it’s likely all of them will work the convention in some facet.

Think that sounds excessive? It’s not just the delegates that need protection. There’s all the schmoozers and influence peddlers to consider. One St. Paul security firm says it already has contracts to provide security for execs from three Fortune 500 companies that plan to attend.

Need a security detail of your own? The going rate for a personal bodyguard is $400 to $1,000 per day (not including incidentals such as, say, a bulletproof car). If you’re not Tom Brady, don’t worry, they’ll even pretend to know who you are.


Little Green Corvette

An American icon gets an overhaul in a St. Louis Park garage

By Joy Riggs


Inside his suburban, two-car garage, Michael Shoop puzzles over the dilemma of the day: battery placement. Eight batteries in the engine compartment and five in the former gas tank bay? How about three in front of the electric motor? The cargo space would be perfect, but his wife wants it for groceries.

Shoop’s goal is to transform a gas-guzzling American icon into what may be the country’s first all-electric Corvette. Eight months into the project, the St. Louis Park resident could write a how-to book about his trials and triumphs. Instead, he’s chronicling his progress on a blog hosted by the Sierra Club. He aims to have the cinnamon-red 1987 Corvette on the road sometime this month, and he’ll display it at the Living Green Expo at the State Fairgrounds in May.

“If we’re able to pull it off, we’ll have something that looks pretty snazzy,” Shoop says. “My wife and I will be able to tool around and do our grocery shopping at the cost of about one penny per mile.”

According to Shoop’s calculations, the car should keep up with freeway traffic and have a range of roughly 50 miles before the batteries require recharging. Its 240-pound electric motor will provide the car with at least as much muscle as a traditional engine. It’ll have some serious pickup power, too.

Shoop anticipates criticism from Corvette enthusiasts over his alterations. But he says it will be worth it, if he’s able to reduce emissions, eliminate fuel-system-related repairs, and promote electric cars as an affordable alternative.

“I can’t wait for the day,” Shoop says, “when I can drive past a gas station and wave.”

Steer Clear

South St. Paul gives livestock the boot

When Alpheus Stickney proposed a stockyards in South St. Paul in 1886, he assured the locals that westerly winds would sweep away the odors. It didn’t work out that way. But when the business quickly grew into the world’s largest livestock operation, eclipsing even the yards in Chicago, most citizens simply turned up their noses and accepted the prosperity.

On April 11, the auctioneer will start the final bidding in the mostly empty auction house. The last of the sheep, goats, and hogs will be herded into trucks and sent to slaughter. The stockyards will close forever that afternoon. The operator, Central Livestock, is moving its business outstate, where the costs are lower and the cattle are closer.

City administrators plan to mark the day with tours and a memorabilia auction. But at 4 p.m., the locals will turn their back on the past and fête the future: They’ll break ground on a business park that is expected to attract light industry and office workers. The barns will be razed, the pens broken down, and the wind, finally, will carry off the last of the smell.


Gray Matter

A team of veteran actors mount a new play about aging



Photo by Ann Marsden

They are old, there’s no getting around that. Charles Nolte is the eldest at 84—the same age as Charlton Heston, with whom Nolte appeared in his Broadway debut, Antony and Cleopatra, in 1947. Shirley Venard, a former Guthrie company member, will only say she’s “over 60,” and the acknowledged baby of the group is retired Pioneer Press critic Roy Close, a tender 63. All told, the combined experience of everyone involved with Exit Strategy, a play about aging that opens this month at Mixed Blood Theatre, amounts to more than 300 years on stage.

The script of Exit Strategy was written by Close and Bill Semans, founder of the erstwhile Cricket Theatre. And as far as they can tell, it’s the first professional play written, directed, produced, and acted by folks over age 55. Or, as Semans jokes, “the only cast in town with a good chance of dying before opening night.”

But the piece isn’t about nostalgia. There are no Hallmark moments, no clever grandmas spouting wisdom On Golden Pond—style from rocking chairs. Just two senior citizens on fixed incomes petrifying in front of the television, until a stranger comes along and convinces them to live a little. Nolte and Venard, in the lead roles, talk about sex, death, and bodily functions—just like anyone else. Exit Strategy is a play about old people that nonetheless contains a “not suitable for children or the easily offended” note on its marketing materials.

“We all have a lot of life left,” says Semans. Venard says she is busier now than she’s ever been. Semans directed the sleeper hit Herman, U.S.A. not long ago. Nolte made his acting name as a ripped, athletic type, and still has a heroic handshake. He shared the screen and stage with Lee Marvin, Tony Curtis, Kirk Douglas, Orson Welles—and then began the career for which he’s known: teaching theater for nearly three decades at the University of Minnesota. But acting has increasingly become a young person’s game. Thus the play, which was written with Nolte and Venard in mind. “It’s about taking chances in the seventh and eighth innings of your life,” says Semans. Staying in the game, because there’s no reason not to.

That ’70s Show

The U updates The Wiz to reflect modern times


When The Wiz premiered on Broadway in the 1970s, it broke new ground with its all-black cast. This month, the University of Minnesota mounts the first production of the Wizard of Oz adaptation in Minnesota—and the artistic team behind the production is a Who’s Who of local African-American talent: directors Dominic Taylor and T. Mychael Rambo, musical director Sanford Moore, and choreographer Uri Sands.

But the team has faced some daunting challenges: How do you make a dated musical seem relevant in the 21st century? And further, how do you produce The Wiz at a school that doesn’t have enough African-American actors to fill all the roles?

Early on, Taylor and his fellow artists decided they’d have to re-imagine the piece. Considering their cast and audience, the directors decided to tinker with the details so it would resonate, in particular, with students. “Now it’s a story about a black girl from Kansas who is swept away by a tornado and lands at Oz U, an all-white college,” Taylor says. Instead of Munchkins, there are gophers. The witch is a “drill and kill” professor. The radical idea behind the production—an all-black cast—has been nudged in the direction of a more contemporary notion—diversity: the Tin Man is Asian, the Lion is white, the Scarecrow and Dorothy are young black women. By editing the casting and context, the directors hope to add new cultural dimensions and depth to The Wiz: Dorothy struggles to adjust to her new environment at an all-white school; the Tin Man wonders how he can retain his heritage in his new community.

“We’re looking at the complications of the collegiate experience,” Taylor says. “How much of your own culture do you need to keep with you when you enter the culture of college?”