DAYTON, OH—University of Dayton sophomores Mike Maritz and Andrea Haltigan reported Monday that their otherwise normal-seeming new roommate has "this whole theory about how Kenny Rogers is a genius."
"So, yesterday, we're moving the living room around to fit in some of Kurt [Schaier]'s stuff," said Maritz, 21. "The two of us are pushing my big CD shelf into the corner, and out of nowhere, Kurt says, 'Kenny Rogers is the most underrated musician alive.' I was like, 'Where did that come from?'"
According to Maritz, Schaier spent the next 25 minutes elaborating on his bold assertion, discussing Rogers' pre-solo days with The First Edition, his duets with Dottie West, and his 1977-80 "Golden Era." Later that evening, Schaier returned to the subject twice more, once to offer a line-by-line analysis of the lyrics to "Coward Of The County" and once to declare the 1968 First Edition hit "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)" a "true pop-psychedelic classic."
Haltigan and Maritz first met Schaier on March 14 when he responded to a classified ad for the vacant room in their three-bedroom apartment.
"We said no to a few applicants, like this guy with these earlobe things and this one creepy engineering guy, but Kurt seemed totally normal," said Haltigan. "He's a poli-sci major, he has a great DVD collection, and he's into painting, which is all cool. Where the Kenny Rogers-is-a-god thing comes from, I have no idea."
According to Haltigan, Schaier made no Rogers-related remarks during his first two days in the apartment.
"The first 48 hours were fine, but then on day three, completely out of nowhere, the Kenny Rogers floodgates opened wide," Haltigan said. "That's when Kurt told me that Kenny Rogers straddles—actually, the exact phrase was effortlessly straddles—the line between contemporary pop and classic country, yet everyone unfairly dismisses him as a lightweight because he has strong appeal with the easy-listening crowd."
Added Haltigan: "He also said Kenny Rogers is 'long overdue for the sort of critical reappraisal that Burt Bacharach has enjoyed of late.' Who says shit like that?"
While Haltigan and Maritz have nothing against Rogers, they told Schaier they do not consider him to be in the same league as such country legends as Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, and Willie Nelson. Schaier countered that Rogers "transcends the country label," asserting that he is "not so much a country singer as a spiritual descendant of the master songsmiths of Tin Pan Alley and The Brill Building."
"Kurt said that if Kenny Rogers wanted to, he could limit himself to just country, but he wants to create accessible music," Maritz said. "Kurt said that's like criticizing a filmmaker for not working in paint on a canvas. Kurt also said... well, Kurt said a lot."
In his efforts to demonstrate the breadth and depth of Rogers' music, Schaier cited a partial list of the artists with whom he has worked.
"At one point, Kurt practically followed me into the bathroom," Maritz said. "I'm trying take a piss, and he's outside the door saying, 'Dolly Parton, Coolio... Sheena Easton, Ray Parker Jr., Olivia Newton-John... Madonna... The Charlie Daniels Band.'"
Discussing Schaier while he was at class Monday, Haltigan and Maritz raised a number of questions about their new roommate: How long has Schaier been a Kenny Rogers fan? Does he actually listen to Kenny Rogers albums, or is his fandom primarily conceptual? Is Kenny Rogers genuinely of great importance to Schaier, or is Schaier merely a hipster contrarian with countless other, similarly irritating pop-culture theories at his disposal?
"I've known tons of guys who say shit like, 'Josie & The Pussycats was the best film of 2001,' just to provoke outrage," Maritz said. "But so far with Kurt, it's only been Kenny Rogers, so I'm not sure if he's one of those."
Continued Maritz: "Then there are those guys who randomly pull ridiculous shit out of their asses—for example that, um, every Ron Howard film is based on a different Shakespeare play—just to see if they can somehow prove it. Maybe that's his deal. Then again, maybe he's just a normal guy who happens to like really shitty music."
Noted psychologist and author Dr. Terrence Paul agreed that it remains too soon to tell.
"Mike and Andrea do not yet know enough about Kurt to determine whether his statements are driven by a genuine love of Kenny Rogers, a desire for acceptance, a desire to annoy, or some combination of the three," Paul said. "At this juncture, they still can't be certain to what extent they should dread the upcoming lease year."