Fred Thompson does not want to meet the Butter Princess. Everywhere he turns at this morning's meet-and-greet at the Minnesota State Fair, he is surrounded by hundreds of star-struck onlookers, many of them "Law & Order" fans who line up three-dozen deep for a close-up with the actor who would be president. Thompson, a sometimes reluctant campaigner, is in full movie-star mode, and has his good-ole-boy charm set on high. All the women he meets are "honey" and the men "buddy." Even dressed down in khakis and a blue shirt with the sleeves rolled up, he is hard to miss. At 6 feet 6, he is head-and-shoulders taller than anyone around him. Posing for picture after picture, he reflexively stoops to fit in the frame. Some fans ask him to autograph DVDs of "The Hunt for Red October" and "In the Line of Fire," movies in which he had small but memorable parts playing powerful, world-weary men. "Run, Fred, run!" comes a shout from the crowd. Thompson lets out a long, low chuckle. All in all, he looks downright thrilled to be here.
Yet even on the best of days, there are limits to how far he is willing to go to please the people. As Thompson and his wandering retinue near the booth where the Butter Princess is holding court, most of his followers peel off to get a look at her. She is one of the fair's main attractions, and it's easy to see why. She is blonde and beautiful and all of 90 pounds--of butter. Carved that morning from a solid block, she smiles vacantly through the glass of her 38-degree display case. Inside, the sculptor, a woman bundled in a coat and gloves, is at work on another dairy masterpiece. Each day she creates a new bust, modeled after the real young women voted to the fair's royal court. The windows are crowded with people trying to get a look. Thompson hangs back; he clearly wants to move on. This is the second dairy statue he's had to endure this month--a couple of weeks earlier, he grudgingly posed next to a two-ton butter cow in Iowa--and he has lost any interest he may have had in the genre. He does his best to muster some enthusiasm. "Oh, she's got a wand," he says weakly. "That's somethin'."