Masterpieces Galore, but Where Were Those Poker-Playing Dogs?

Art Snob Bureau: We used to wonder what it would be like if museum artworks came to life after closing time. Last week, we found out.

Jesus’ apostles climbed down from a Salvador Dali painting and played Scrabble. George Segal’s sculptures danced the twist. And other well-known characters strolled around half-covered in paint (the side that the public doesn’t see was left blank).

No, this wasn’t a hallucination (although we’ve been known to publish a few of those too). Off-Kilter was simply backstage at the Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach, an annual event in which actors pose in life-size replicas of famous works of art.

As usual, we were amazed--but not because special effects make the canvases seem eerily two-dimensional. We were just stunned that the pageant’s directors continue to stage paintings by the likes of David Hockney and Pablo Picasso, but leave out C.M. Coolidge’s masterpiece, Dogs Playing Poker.


Clearly they are out of touch with the art world. According to, an online purveyor of art prints and posters, the card-playing canines (officially titled “A Friend in Need”) rank seventh on the nation’s bestselling art list.

Other favorites include a poster of assorted chili peppers, a Cinzano liquor ad illustration and “Starry Night” by some guy named Van Gogh.

Name Game Revisited: In response to our item on strange names given to children born in the 1960s, reader Roger J. Gorski mentioned a woman whose parents dubbed her Crayola Blue. And the San Francisco Chronicle found humans named Cinnamon Eclipse, Parsley, Leaf, and twins called Flower Star Flower and Star Flower Flower.

In a related story--100% true--officials in Venezuela are considering changing their country’s name. We recommend something stately, such as Playa del Fernando Lamas or maybe Fredzuela, but they’ll probably go for something trendy like Cinnamon-Eclipse-Land or El Republico de los Perros Jugando a la Barajas (the Republic of Dogs Playing Poker).


Quote of the Day: From Dan Quayle, as recounted in the New York Times: “If God is in this, I will be the next president of the United States.”

We bet most comedy writers feel the same way.

Random Facts Bureau: More irrelevant information:

* New Zealand has named Ken the Cockroach its official Y2K millennium bug.

* The Abraham Lincoln penny celebrates its 90th birthday Monday.

* International Clown Week begins Sunday.

Weird Products Bureau: Cashing in on the publicity surrounding the final words of Columbine High School victim Cassie Bernall (she reportedly said “Yes, I believe in God” in answer to a query from her killer), Family Christian Stores has introduced a line of coffee mugs, backpacks and leather chokers inscribed with her statement.

According to a report in the Bergen County Record, the company also had a display at a Christian retailing convention that featured a bowl of free golf balls emblazoned with Bernall’s last utterance.


Best Supermarket Tabloid Headline: “Love-Struck Rhino Tries to Have Sex With Volvo--While Terrified Family Trembles Inside!” (Weekly World News)

Unpaid Informants: Leah Relth, Wireless Flash News Service, San Francisco Chronicle, National Journal’s Hotline, Jose Barrera, Nancy Wride. Off-Kilter’s e-mail address is Off-Kilter runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.