The perfect bloody mary It's not just cigars that are staging a comeback: mixed drinks are once again cool. Perhaps in hope of riding that trend, the Aalborg Akvavit Vodka people are searching the country for the perfect bloody mary. The typical bloody is made from well vodka and gloppy bloody mary mix and served with a yellow, wilted stalk of celery, and is usually consumed at brunch by drinkers too hung-over to demand quality. This evening's tastings, however, hold the concoction to higher standards. Ten recipes, chosen in a nationwide search for their "imagination, originality, taste, appearance and ease of preparation" will be served to judges and customers. The search for the perfect bloody mary finals, 68 p.m. Rhino Room, 2162 Portsmouth, 522-2162. No cover charge.
Dancin' in the Street A show of Motown and more premieres at Miller Outdoor Theatre tonight. A musical review along the lines of Side by Side By Sondheim, Dancin' in the Street deploys its all-singing, all-dancing cast to recreate the work of Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye and, we hope, the underappreciated Rufus "Bearcat" Thomas. The musical review is accompanied by a 20-piece band. 8:30 p.m. tonight, Friday and Saturday. Miller Outdoor Theatre, Hermann Park, 520-3290. Free.
The Rosewood Casket Sharyn McCrumb, author of the acclaimed Appalachian "Ballad" series, has no truck with English country manors or noir environs. Even so, she managed to win the 1996 Agatha Award for Best Mystery Novel. This evening, McCrumb will not only sign copies of The Rosewood Casket, but will also serve pieces of scripture cake. That dessert, from a recipe in the last chapter of the book, will be baked by Wick Rowland, a talented cook and, not coincidentally, a clerk at Murder by the Book. 57 p.m. Murder by the Book, 2342 Bissonnet, 524-8597. (Cake's free; the book is $23.95.)
Yevgeny Yevtushenko The Slavic poet has always been prolific and political. The author of 43 collections of poetry, three novels and three collections of essays, Yevtushenko first showed his conviction by publishing an anti anti-Semitism poem, "Babi Yar," in 1961. Not mellowed by age or success, in 1994 Yevtushenko protested the violence in Chechnya by refusing the Kremlin's highest decoration. This weekend, he's in town to talk about the connections between politics and art, and the connection between poetry and music. Politics and art are the subject of a lecture at 7 p.m. tonight, First Presbyterian Church fellowship hall, 5300 Main. Tomorrow at 3 p.m., he'll cover poetry and music during an appearance with the Greater Houston Youth Orchestra at Planet Music, Meyerland Plaza. Both events are free.
Virginia Slims Legends Tour The legends are here -- Rosie Casals, Zina Garrison Jackson, Evonne Goolagong, Martina Navratilova, Pam Shriver, Wendy Turnbull, Virginia Wade and good ol' Billie Jean King, who made history in women's tennis by whipping Bobby Riggs' fat ass all over the Dome in 1973. (In her first Dome appearance since then, King will throw out the first ball at the Astros game Friday.) Matches begin at 1 p.m. today and Sunday. Westside Tennis Club, 1200 Wilcrest. For tickets, call 953-1111. $25 and $35, single session; $40, weekend package.
Loft Horizon This Rice Design Alliance architectural tour explores a half-dozen commercial spaces (including the 1912 Guatemala Coffee Building) that have been turned into tres hip housing. The Alliance promises to show you "Houston's most adventurous domestic abodes," what "the faint-hearted and conventionally minded might deem insufficiently homelike." Tours, 15 p.m. today and Sunday. The catch is, you have to join the alliance for this tour; your $35 membership includes a complimentary ticket. Stop by the Niels Esperson Building, 808 Travis, or call 524-6297 for tickets.
Houston Balalaika Society 20th anniversary concert We've all heard Paul McCartney express a desire to hear balalaikas ringing out, but who among us has actually enjoyed a string concert featuring the instrument? Here's your chance -- and besides, you also get Charley Rappaport playing the prima domra, Sasha Lisnichuk on the guitar and a performance by the Uzori Russian Folk Dance Ensemble. 7:30 p.m. Rice University, Hamman Hall (entrance no. 14). For tickets, call 937-6227. $12.
The Return of the Movie Palace Gather round, all you wee ones who never went to the flicks before the mid-'70s and minimalls and multiplexes with screens the size of postage stamps, and let the Picks page tell you a secret: at one time, a night at the movies was an event. Theaters were destinations in themselves, ornate palaces worth looking at even when the movie sucked (and yes, movies sucked in the old days as well). Now, some theater companies are trying to bring back that suggestion of sophistication. One of the biggest players in this retro move is AMC, and tonight, thanks to the sponsorship of KRBE/104.1 FM, they'll be giving Houston a sneak peek at their 24-screen Deerbrook AMC Theatre. Eighteen of the screens will be showing free films, popcorn will be yours for a mere $1.04 and KRBE will be broadcasting live and handing out various promotional freebies. See the stadium seating! Gawk at the art deco design! Wow to the state-of-the-art sound! Be the first to leave your bubble gum behind! 6 p.m. to midnight. Deerbrook 24 AMC Theatre, Deerbrook Mall, Highway 59 and FM 1960. Free.