As Oscar Wilde so sagely observed, "There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about." To that timeless adage, feel free to add the following codicil: "If one is to be talked about, it's always more fun if what's being said is weird as all shit."
The truth behind those words was brought home to us recently, when Orlando Weekly learned that a scurrilous rumor about this column has been flying through the halls of one of Central Florida's top entertainment conglomerates. To identify said conglomerate would be pointless, so don't try and pry it out of us. (Think "courtroom trial." Think "felt up by fiberglass.")
According to the gossip that has a certain Small World buzzing, the title of the column you're now reading, "Dog Playing Poker by Steve Schneider," is a nine-syllable fraud. Somehow, the employees at a not-to-be-named magic factory their heads no doubt dizzy from months of takeover attempts and on-site tramplings have decided that "Steve Schneider" is a brazen alias, a group pseudonym for an ad hoc consortium of writers who work slavishly to bring you the best darn satire since Will Rogers jumped the shark. There is no Steve Schneider, the story goes; just an anonymous brain trust armed with a pocket thesaurus, a basic grounding in Freudian psychology and waaaaay too much time on their hands.
To such a wild and paranoid fantasy, only one response seems appropriate:
Our pals with the monorail are totally and completely correct. The cat is out of the bag, the horse has left the barn, the Olympic gymnast has been caught at the Athens airport with a colon full of performance enhancers ... pick the metaphor you prefer. And now that the beans are up and the jig has been spilled, it only seems fair to identify the industrious individuals who have spent the last two years of their lives propping up this paper's experiment in surreptitious groupthink. Here they are Team Schneider, in all their undisguised splendor.
Brian St. John: A UCF poli-sci major with a mile-wide sarcastic streak and a 24-hour hard-on for public policy, Brian is responsible for generating the topical material that keeps Dog Playing Poker as fresh (and deeply suspect) as today's headlines. Manning our political desk requires him to comb the international press for stories and details other "columnists" routinely miss, as well as staying glued to C-SPAN in the hope that Bill Frist will someday come down with an incurable case of the giggles. "Staying on top of current events isn't just solid citizenship," says Brian. "Little by little, it's earning me a Waverunner." This intrepid fact-finder lists his remaining hobbies as competition Boggle, macrobiotic cooking and cruising for trim at anarchist meet-ups.
Trey Powell III: Without the street cred our proud soul brother Trey so freely lends, Dog Playing Poker wouldn't enjoy half of its remarkable popularity in the inner city. Brought to us through a diversity program we got one year instead of Christmas bonuses, this street-corner activist/self-professed notary public is Dog's lifeline to the often-puzzling universe of nonwhite concerns and customs. Remember a reference on this page to Kelly Ripa "pimping her ride"? Yep. It was one of Trey's. More recently, he had the sad duty of informing us that Rick James had died, though it took us a good few minutes to realize he wasn't talking about Rick Springfield. "Props" to Trey for his patience, yo!
Herbie Slater: A professional funnyman with two decades of comedy-club experience under his hopelessly overtaxed belt, the ever-cheerful, profusely sweating Herbie is the walking laugh factory we rely on to punch up Dog's tireless social crusading with jokes about the human genitalia. He's been divorced four times, and he's endowed with an ill-advised piercing he'll gladly show you after seven Coronas. Yes, even at the most unexpected of moments, this shrewd people's comic can always be counted on to bring the funny. More than any other member of Team Schneider, Herbie ensures through his consistently fine work that Dog Playing Poker will never be recognized by those humorless fuzznuts who hand out the Pulitzers.
Emily M. Fairlawn: Living proof that a feminist perspective and a sense of humor aren't mutually exclusive, Emily prevents the Dog bullpen from degenerating into an irrevocably hormonal boys' club. A passionate pro-choice viewpoint and a boundless ability to ape chick-lit syntax are the tools she brings to bear as she preserves this page's relevance to female readers far and wide. And from what we can tell, she's lovin' every minute of it. "Someday, I will strangle these insufferable mama's boys," Emily says. "Every last one of them." Hey, Emily: You write columns pretty good for a girl!
Eric Ledbetter: All Noelle Bush. All the time.
Rounder: With so much black tape being ripped from so many strange sets of eyes, you've likely surmised by now that there's an actual dog behind Dog Playing Poker. That's Rounder, a beagle/dachshund/Log Cabin Republican mix we found wandering Church Street one lonely afternoon. We promptly brought him back to Orlando Weekly headquarters, where he could thrive under this company's compassionate "no kill, no compensation" policy. More than a simple mascot, Rounder is the Punxsutawney Phil of Dog Playing Poker. We read him every gag being considered for print; if he responds by vigorously licking his left testicle, the joke stays. If his head instead goes to the right, out the reference goes like yesterday's couscous. A burst of flatulence means we fob the idea off on OrlandoCityBeat.