Press Picks

MDA Celebrity Waiter Benefit A fine dinner will be served at the Houstonian tonight, but should you have a problem with the service, think twice about complaining: your waiter could well be a Texas boxing champ (Ricky Jackson), a peace officer (Sheriff Tommy Thomas), or worse (!), a comedian used to wisecracking hecklers (Billy D.). The waitrons at this fundraiser for the local Muscular Dystrophy Association will also include politicians, DJs, news anchors, athletes and Houston firefighter calendar models. 7 p.m. The Houstonian, 111 North Post Oak Lane. For info, call Sarah Tutt at 522-8561. $50.

Professional Housecleaning for Amateurs Dorinda Wessels offers her talents for maintaining an immaculate home to those of us unable to achieve a spiffy living space. She's not coming over to clean for us; rather, the owner of Texas Coastal Cleaning Service conducts a class about the most basic and effective cleaning tools available, as well as the implementation of said products. She uses words such as "quickly" and "thoroughly" in her course description, yet offers no hint of how one might gear up mentally. (On July 2, Dwight McDonald offers a similar course on yard maintenance.) Leisure Learning Unlimited, class number 1100. For info, call 877-1981. $19, plus a $5 registration fee may apply.

Cat on a Hot Tin Streetcar This musical comedy revue sounds like a reworked Gilligan's Island episode: the star keeps getting hit in the head and switches between personalities with each bop. In this production, our heroine flip-flops between two Tennessee Williams plays. Laura Yancey and Jerry Crow star. 7 and 9 p.m. Friday and tonight and 2 p.m. Sunday. The Strand Theatre, 2317 Ship's Mechanic Row, (409) 763-4591. $12, Friday and Saturday; $10, Sunday.

june 30
More than a Constructive Hobby: The Paintings of Frank Freed Those who lament that youth has passed them by, that new endeavors are inconceivable past a certain age, haven't followed the tale of late-blooming artist Frank Freed. In 1948, Freed was a middle-aged insurance salesman in Houston who signed up for a beginning painting class at the MFA's art school in search of "a constructive hobby for old age"; what he found was his true calling. Because he employed a narrative style during the age of abstraction, Freed's works were sadly overlooked during his 27-year career; but his paintings are sensitive and humorous, and offer astute social commentary. In the words of MFA director Peter Marzio, Freed's paintings provide "Houstonians a wonderful sense of the city's transformation into a modern metropolis." This, the first in-depth exhibition of Freed's art, includes more than 40 paintings. Displayed through September 8. Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet, 639-3700. $3; $1.50 children ages six to 18 and seniors; free on Thursdays.

Shakespeare by the Book Festival Perhaps when you think "political thriller," Tom Clancy or Tom Cruise comes to mind. But remember Shakespeare? He didn't need fancy special effects and grown-men toys to relay his tales of greed, assassination, power, corruption and revenge. Suzanne Phillips of HSPVA directs the young talents at HCCS Central and Southwest Drama Departments in Julius Caesar as part of their ninth annual festival, and she uses "ominous nightmare imagery" -- a tool that has proven effective over centuries -- to bolster her production. 7 p.m. Heinen Theatre, 3517 Austin, 342-4455. $3 and $5.

july 1
Rebel postage In the spirit of rebellion, the tiny island of Montserrat has one-upped our own proud U.S. Postal Service and issued a collection of James Dean stamps. The press material brags that the nine-stamp series shows Dean at every stage of his career. But alas, Dean didn't have the opportunity to alter his look a la Elvis; he appears basically unchanged on every stamp. For your own set, as well as the pocket guide 99 Little Known Facts About James Dean, write to the International Collectors Society, 10045 Red Run Boulevard, Suite 170PRW, Owings Mills, MD 21117; for a more immediate Dean fix, head to your local video outlet and rent Rebel Without a Cause, a gut-wrenching classic featuring Dean and Natalie Wood at their best. Stamps are $9.95, plus $3 for postage and handling; the video can be had for a buck or two.

Dinosaurs ... It's Big, Very Big! There's not much happening in town today, so head down to the Park Shops or West Oaks Mall, where you can pile the kids atop a parasaurolophus for a family portrait. The star of this robotic dinosaur exhibit is a 42-foot-tall Tyrannosaurus rex. Via a joystick, kids can control the head, leg and tail movements of a dino-robot known as a Dimetrodon. Rex and his pals -- a triceratops, an apatosaurus, a stegosaurus and an allosaurus -- will menace shoppers through late July (even on July 4). The Park Shops, 1200 McKinney, 759-1442; West Oaks Mall, Highway 6 at Westheimer, 531-1332. Viewing free; small charge for photos.

july 2
Crayola Imagination Station At this temporary exhibit at the Museum of Natural Science, kids can dig in mineral rich soil, swing through a tropical forest or dive into a deep, refreshing ocean. Well, they can imagine doing those things, anyway. Crayons figure into the fun as kids learn about ecosystems. Through July 8. Museum of Natural Science, Hermann Park, One Hermann Circle Drive, 639-4629. $3, $2 children ages three to 11.

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