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Orlando Weekly's personals section wasn't always what it seemed to be

That time, it was personal

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A mortifying confession: Back in the late 1990s, Orlando Weekly was so desperate to cultivate its personals section that the occasional employee was forced into being the photo ad of the week. I myself did such duty, and the evidence here shows exactly how desperate we were. Because even in those more innocent times, no alternative publication with genuine options would have staked the fortunes of its matchmaking operation on a listings editor who looked like the last guy to leave .38 Special.

Imagine my chagrin when I was informed – after the issue went to press, natch – that I would actually have to go on a date with whomever responded. Which is why I ended up spending two memorable evenings with agreeable lonelyhearts. (Only two, you scoff? Hey, our circulation was a lot of lower back then. Don't shame.)

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One was a dark-haired, kind of empty-eyed young woman who declared an affinity for funny movies, "like the one with that guy in it." She ordered some sort of "con pollo" dish and asked the waiter to hold the chicken.

The other was a delightfully acerbic Paula Poundstone type I really could have seen myself becoming buds with – except that we happened to run into a local activist of my acquaintance, who spent about 15 minutes explaining his political philosophy to her in his absurdly squeaky voice.

"I'm kind of a Wobbly," he divulged.

"And me without my mace," she muttered.

The takeaway? Beggars can't be choosers. Staffers shouldn't be ringers. And take anything you hear on a blind date with a grain of pollo. Because if you responded to an Orlando Weekly photo ad 20 years ago, chances were, the call was coming from inside the house.

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