Venetian Paintings This evening, at just about the time that it stops being devil-hot, James Clifton, director of the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation, will lead a walking tour of the Museum of Fine Art's current exhibition of Venetian paintings from the collection of that selfsame Sarah Campbell Blaffer. These paintings are billed as more sensuous Renaissance paintings than those of Florence and Rome. Tour-takers who don't develop an appreciation for Venetian art will at least learn to love the MFA's arctic air conditioning. Lecture at 7 p.m. Meet at the lobby information desk. Thursdays, the MFA is open 10 a.m.-9 p.m. and there is no admission charge. Museum of Fine Art, 1001 Bissonnet, 526-1361. Free.
ComedySportz Gong Show Testing their improvisational mettle in preparation for the 1995 ComedySportz National Tournament to be held in Milwaukee in August, our own team of eight "actletes" will strut their comedic, musical and variety-act stuff for celebrity judges in a special gong show performance. Betty Crocker, St. Pauli Girl and Pelvis Parsley are the celebrity judges. Our troupe is the Houston Astronuts, and they offer a "clean and amusing show, appropriate for the whole family." 7:30 p.m. Treebeards on Market Square, 315 Travis. For reservations and information, call 521-2226. $5.
Be an Oscar Mayer winner Any association with the Weinermobile can change your life -- just ask anyone who's traveled the highways in the big dog. This morning, the festive commercial art car will roll into a grocery store parking lot, audition as many kids as possible for a television commercial and pass out toy hot dog cars to all the little children. Kids ages four to 12 are invited to audition. Each kid will be given sheet music for the hot dog or bologna jingle and then be videotaped piping out the tune. Any child who, because of time restraints, doesn't get a chance in the limelight will be given a wiener whistle and a list of other auditions on the great Oscar Mayer talent search. 9 a.m.-noon. Rice Epicurean Market, 2617 Holcombe (at Kirby), 664-8649.
Ten by Ten Once again, Scriptwriters Houston has an answer for the summer season of too happy road shows and dark theaters. The Ten by Ten festival offers ten diverse ten-minute plays by Texas scribes. Opening tonight, 8 p.m. Through July 30. Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 5 and 8 p.m.; Sunday, 4 p.m. Stages Theater, 3201 Allen Parkway, 486-5565. $10.
Bernadette Peters Tony Award-winner, doe-eyed chanteuse and onetime Steve Martin girlfriend Bernadette Peters appears in her debut performance with the Houston Symphony. The middle-aged moppet (and favorite of Stephen Sondheim, in whose plays she's starred) will sing show tunes and standards with special accompaniment by pianist Marvin Laird and drummer Cubby O'Brien. 8 p.m. The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins Drive, The Woodlands, 363-3300. $10-$25.
What the Butler Saw Joe Orton's life may not have been one long laughfest (any existence that ends with a face pounded in by a hammer can't have been all chuckles), but despite that, he produced some of the more droll and witty plays of the 1960s. What the Butler Saw was his final work for the stage, produced for the first time in 1969, a year and a half after his death. Now Curtains gives us another chance to peer into Orton's tale of mayhem in a mental hospital, which the New York Times said was "wonderfully verbal, toying with words as if they were firecrackers." Through August 12. Friday and Saturday. 8 p.m. Curtains, 3722 Washington Avenue, 862-4548. $10.
Greyhound Pets of America Meet and greet the selfless volunteers and the sleek dogs they serve at the Greyhound Pets of America party celebrating the organization's third year with the Pet Hotel. GPA's adoption facility at the Pet Hotel has been instrumental in finding homes for 650 retired racing greyhounds. (Retired is a gentle, and misleading, term. Dogs who have a less than spectacular career, like not placing in their first five races, are barred from racing and face an uncertain future -- being put down, usually.) Meet adopters and their dogs -- their friendly, well-adjusted dogs -- and see some of the dogs currently up for adoption. Punch and cake and door prizes for people. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Pet Hotel, 5602 Royalton. For information, call 664-6111 or 667-3804. Free.
Great Texas Fire Engine Round-up Celebrate the centennial of the Houston Fire Department at an outdoor family festival in Sam Houston Park. Historic fire engines will be proudly displayed, along with state-of-the-art firefighting equipment and live firefighters competing in firefighting drills and skills. For the kids who need more than to ogle fire trucks there'll be arts and activities and hands-on educational exhibits. Hey, and for folks who weren't impressed by the Fourth of July fireworks, the firefighters present an entirely safe pyrotechnic display. Parade starts at 10 a.m. at Station No. 1, Smith at Texas, followed by events in the park lasting till 10 p.m. Events continue 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. Sam Houston Park, downtown. For details, call the Houston Fire Museum, 524-2526. Free.
Me and Jezebel Comedic playwright Elizabeth Fuller asks, "What if Margo Channing came for dinner and Baby Jane stayed for breakfast?" Fuller's play is based on a strange 1985 incident in which Bette Davis came to her house for dinner and stayed 32 days. This is a two-character play with only the two women, Bette Davis and her hostess Elizabeth, on-stage. This play is not so much about the late great grande dame as it is about grande dames as role models. The most significant influence in Elizabeth's youth, we learn, was her grandmother, "Old Ma." And her hero worship of Bette Davis is thrilling because it's "Bette Davis in my house!" of course, but also because a solid relationship with a grandmother figure can be one of the most satisfying experiences in a woman's life. Those who had skinny, mean, chain-smoking grandmothers will be especially touched by this play. Anne Quackenbush, who's not nearly as old as she looks on-stage, is a wonderful Bette Davis, capturing the wit that has inspired so many drag queens and showing a vulnerable, frightened older woman. This is the last weekend at this venue. 8 p.m. tonight. Sunday, 7 p.m., and a special Monday performance, 8 p.m. New Heights Theatre, 339 19th Street, 869-8927, or 523-9000. $12-$15.