Press Picks

thursday
july 14
Gunther Gebel-Williams is back And in the big cage. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, a.k.a. "The Greatest Show on Earth," comes to town with the world's greatest animal trainer in his only Texas appearance. The man and his beasts are the special guest stars of this three-ring extravaganza. Gebel-Williams will, of course, be in the center ring with his Royal Bengal Tigers; later in the show, his son, Mark Oliver Gebel, brings elephants and zebras to the center ring. Mark's act is the first in the history of the circus to have those animals perform together. (It's very modern, black and white and gray.) Little Mark Oliver first worked with circus animals at the wee age of two. No wonder he wanted to do something new.

The Discovery Channel is always showing what animals do, and then voice-over goobers explain that the animals are doing this "instinctively." As if they knew. Animals, like people, probably do many things just for the heck of it, or for lack of anything better to do. That's probably one reason little children, who may be frightened by the clowns, love the animals. Still, they do have instinctive behavior (the animals, I mean, though this probably applies to little children as well), and no one knows more about the characteristics of wild things than those who train them. The Gebels have trained themselves to work with their animals' innate responses. The circus is in town thru July 24. Group rates are available, as are special kids-saver tickets, and there'll be bilingual shows as well. The Summit, 10 Greenway Plaza. 629-3700. $10.50, $13 & $15.50.

Pretty Good Privacy and the Clipper Chip Contrary to what some people think, Libertarians don't spend all their time trying to legalize dope. Tonight's meeting of the Harris County Libertarian Party Second Thursday Supper Club features Paul Elliot, a software developer and member of the HAL-PC Users Group (Houston Area League-PC Users), a large and friendly group that's pretty much the Kiwanis of cyberspace. Elliot will be talking about the Clinton administration's plan to prevent privacy on the oft-discussed, rarely understood Infobahn and about a freeware program that ensures privacy. Elliot is a perfectly lovely person with two degrees and a normal job and so on, and here he will be holding forth on topics usually discussed by wild-eyed radicals and cypherpunks and other well-educated weirdos.

This whole Clipper Chip issue makes for some strange bedfellows -- Phyllis Schafly and Jello Biafra are both adamantly against Clipper. This is not an issue that follows party lines. That, and the fact that an astonishing segment of the population still thinks computers are voodoo and is unable to think about them at all, means the slew of popular media stories on Clipper and cryptography haven't made a dent in the national psyche. At best, people know they ought to have an opinion. At this little get-together, questions will be allowed. Even stupid ones. Those too shy to ask can eavesdrop. 7 p.m. Antonio's Flying Pizza (look for the fabulous neon sign), 2920 Hillcroft. For details call 643-3413. No admission charge, no food purchase required.

friday
july 15
The Gondoliers (or The King of Baratia) The Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Houston presents this tale of two kings and three queens. It's all great fun -- misplaced infants, abductions, mistaken marriages -- with the true magic of a Gilbert & Sullivan musical comedy. The production is also top-notch. The society puts many hours of pre-production work and rehearsal time into each show, as they have since 1952. (Their show that year was also The Gondoliers.) This time around they've got Alistair Donkin of the late D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, which produced Gilbert & Sullivan for more than 100 years. Gilbert & Sullivan is certainly not the sort of high-brow offering that might intimidate; however, for those who want to be more in the know, Ira J. Black leads an informal discussion in the lobby 45 minutes before each show. Family entertainment -- and educational, too. ART$ENSE certificates will be accepted for this show. Opening tonight, 8 p.m. $10, $23 & $28.

saturday
july 16
Twiggy performs four times today The Summer Boat Show continues through Sunday. Everything from canoes no bigger than a surfboard to yachts fit for gazillionaires will be on display in the air-conditioned George R. Brown Convention Center. Seminars and clinics on the sporting life are scheduled throughout the weekend. Today only, however, Twiggy the water-skiing squirrel takes to the waves four times, instead of the usual three. Noon-10 p.m. George R. Brown Convention Center. Call 526-6361 for more information. $5, $2 children under 12.

Love Letters Inside every TV weatherman lurks an actor. Imagine if the converse were true: Tommy Lee Jones staring into the highs and lows map as though he beheld the Ark of the Covenant; Keanu Reeves, in a full-body shot calculated to show off his gorgeous thighs, droning on about pressure systems; Alec Baldwin whispering about fronts in his raspy, adenoidal voice. Actors who've made it should probably keep their day jobs. Seeing Houston's very own master meteorologist, Doug Johnson, enjoying himself as a stage actor, however, is an entertaining surprise.

Curiously, the vehicle for Johnson's current trodding of the boards is A.R. Gurney's Love Letters, which we seem to remember being staged recently with none other than Metro Traffic heartthrob Marty Ambrose. Is this some sort of secret broadcast-journalist initiation, or simply an evening of romantic entertainment? We leave it to you to decide. Doug Johnson and Del Ellison continue in this sentimental story of almost-lost love thru August 6. Performances are at 8 p.m. Saturday, with matinees at 2 p.m. Sunday. Curtains Theater,

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