Astros wives gala Les Bordes, one of only two five-star chateaux/golf courses in Europe, was built by the Baron Marcel Bic (with pen money, har har) and is open only to a select few. For the average duffer, whacking balls there is an impossible dream, but this year, four people with no more than lots of money can visit the private estate in the Loire Valley. Bob von Hagge has generously donated a two-day, three-night package -- including airfare, meals and greens access -- to the Astro Wives Black Tie and Baseball Caps fundraiser. Funds raised benefit the Houston Area Women's Center, and other live auction items include a World Series package for four, a Michael Jordan autographed jersey and some odd baseball furniture. Those without the scratch to bid on such pricey items can just enjoy the festivities: a silent auction, dance music from Duck Soup and the satisfaction of being part of this gala, a celeb-studded evening benefiting thousands of women in the Houston area. Cocktails and silent auction, 7; dinner and live auction, 8 p.m.; dancing follows. The Astrodome, on the field. For tickets, call HAWC, 528-6798, extension 228, and ask for Lara Berry. $150, single tickets; $1,500 and up, tables of ten; $3,000, table for eight plus an Astro and wife.
A Balanchine Celebration The Houston Ballet launches its first Janie Parker-less season with three demanding one-act ballets, including the company premiere of Agon. Dance critic Bruce Fleming hailed that 1957 work as "one of the most astringently beautiful works of the 20th century," and one of the most demanding for dancers. The program also includes Theme and Variations, which can be seen as (and this is a gross simplification) the Peter and the Wolf of classical Russian ballet. Opening, 7:30 p.m. tonight; other times listed in Thrills, Dance. Wortham Center, Brown Theater, Texas at Smith, 227-ARTS. $10$80.
Tommy Chong When Canadian comics are mentioned, the average egg thinks of SCTV or Kids in the Hall, ignoring the father of Rae Dawn and former partner of Cheech. Tommy Chong was born in Edmonton, learned to play rhythm and blues guitar and ended up gaining international fame as part of a dopehead duo. Nice Dreams and Still Smokin' are available at your local video store, but you can see Chong live for two nights at the Laff Stop. Thursday, 8 p.m.; Friday, 8 and 10:30 p.m. 1952 West Gray, 524-2333. Thursday, $10.50; $14, Gold Circle. Friday, $14; $18, Gold Circle.
Laugh at cancer Celebrity survivors, non-famous cancer victims and their friends and families will all gather to talk about the value of laughter -- which may not be a cure, but it's at least a way to cope. Living Fully with Cancer is presented by the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and survivor/speakers include former Giants pitcher Dave Dravecky; Dr. Michael Lerner, founder of Commonweal; and Marcia Wallace, a comic actress best known as either Bob's secretary on The Bob Newhart Show or the voice of Mrs. Krabappel on The Simpsons. (It depends on who's knowing.) The two-day conference has workshops and talk sessions, and concludes with a Celebration of Life birthday party at 2 p.m. Saturday. Living Fully with Cancer commences,8 a.m. today. Doubletree Hotel at Post Oak, 2001 Post Oak Boulevard. For more information or to register, call the Anderson Network, 792-2553. $50, meals included.
T. Paul Hernandez T. Paul did go to art school, got an MFA at UT, and, yet, he can talk plain. He says, "If I had to create a scenario that illustrates my work, it would consist of Giovanni Bernini rising from the grave to redesign Pee Wee's playhouse under the direction of Zora Neale Hurston." At least, that's plain talk for an artist. Hernandez's exhibition of concrete and steel sculpture opens today, 68 p.m. Shows through October 11. Sally Sprout Gallery, 223 Westheimer, 526-6461. Free.
Egyptian Festival Hey, pals and gals, if you just can't wait until the MFA unveils the splendors of Egypt, spend some time Nile-style at the 12th annual Egyptian Festival. Sure, you've heard about Nefertiti's Kitchen and Isis' Pastry Shop, the kofta, grape leaf rolls, basbousa and, of course, strong Egyptian coffee. But what about the goofy stuff -- camel rides and carnival games -- and the shopping? And did you know that this festival is educational? Yep. You can learn how to make your own kofta, grape leaf rolls and basbousa in the Egyptian kitchen, and historical videos and shows will tell stories of ancient and modern Egypt. In the past, festival proceeds have been used for St. Mark Coptic Church; this year, some of the money may go toward a new Coptic church in the Copperfield area. 10 a.m.10 p.m. today and Saturday; noon7 p.m. Sunday. St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church, 424 Mulberry, 665-4806. $2, good for all three days; free, children under 12.
Houston Is Cooking the Best Oh, boys and girls, jump out of bed early and jump for joy -- today is Ann Criswell Day! Mayor Bob says so! Criswell has been a food writer longer than I've been alive, and she's still an enthusiastic professional. She and publisher Fran Fauntleroy have produced another cookbook, Houston Is Cooking the Best, a handy guide packed not only with recipes from 26 of our favorite restaurants, but also suggested wines and, for fussy eaters, a nutritional analysis and suggested modifications. (Those modifications are suggested by Linda McDonald, MS, RD, and probably no fan of butter.) The book will be sold at many Houston bookstores, plus Neiman Marcus, Williams-Sonoma, Kroger Signature Stores and Rice Epicurean. Today, Criswell, some well-known chefs whose recipes appear in the book and nutritionist McDonald will all sign copies, 13 p.m. Macy's, Galleria. The book is $19.95.
Sixth Annual Reptile Breeders Expo As a resident of Houston, you live in a city full of herp fans; more than 2,500 showed up for last year's festival of squamous creatures, and more are expected this year. The East Texas Herpetological Society has invited friends of frogs, tortoises, lizards and snakes to come and share the joy that is reptile fandom with others like themselves, and with top breeders and dealers from all over the country. "Thousands of captive bred reptiles and amphibians will be available for purchase or just to view," the ETHS says, but venomous snakes and endangered species are verboten. Today, the hard-core can take part in conferences on the natural history, care and breeding of our unblinking friends. On Sunday, the live specimens appear. Speakers and speeches for the weekend include Lee Grismer, "The Herpetefauna of Baja, California, and the Sea of Cortez," and Steve Hammack, "So You Want to Be a Reptile Breeder." Fun starts at 9 a.m. today. Marriott North at Greenspoint, 255 North Sam Houston Parkway East (Imperial Valley Drive exit). For more information, call 480-6428. $25, without banquet; $50, with banquet.
21st Annual Doll Show and Sale The nice people of the First Houston Doll Club are not out there ending hunger and saving the environment; what they do is encourage people to enjoy dolls and sometimes do a nice thing. Last year, the club gave the zoo a life-size bronze statue: a lugubrious Galapagos tortoise, bearing a doll-toting child on its back. This year, the club will give stuffed toys, teddy bears and dolls to children from abusive homes. The show and sale is a one-day-only event, featuring many unique items for collectors and those who just like dolls and handmade toy gifts.10 a.m. 5 p.m. Holiday Inn, 9100 Gulf Freeway, 482-6601. $2.
Fiesta Sinfonica Familiar Lively, dramatic music from Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican and Spanish composers is on the program for this free Houston Symphony concert. The symphony is also celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with Danzon Cubano, a work by American composer Aaron Copland. The concert opens with two Houston Symphony premieres: Carlos Chavez's Chapultepec and Manuel Ponce's Instantaneas Mexicanas. Then the Rodriguez Dance Company takes the stage for Spanish dancing. 6 p.m. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana, 227-ARTS. Free.
Run for a Reason Actually, the plan is to Run for a Reason later, and to party this evening. The Fort Bend County Women's Center Inc. (Shelter-Outreach-Solutions) is looking for runners who will "make every step count" in the Methodist Health Care Houston Marathon. To sign up for Run for a Reason, with Fort Bend or another organization, run out to the Run for a Reason kickoff party. All runners will receive "In Training" T-shirts, and the first 1,000 to sign up also get a "Run for a Reason" shirt. Fort Bend County Women's Center will be at table six in the "Charity Village" at the kickoff party. 57 p.m. Memorial Drive and Picnic Loop. For more information, call 342-2149.
It's a Laser Thing The Houston Museum of Natural Science's mascot, Dr. Howie Do-It, and astronomer Carolyn Sumners are back on the air as Science Quest begins a new season. Aired on Channel 8 and public television stations throughout the nation, Science Quest offers live segments with museum curators and some silly stuff to make learning fun. Today's show is about beams of light many of us know only from shows like Laser Floyd. Find out how lasers work and what they can do: tune in today. 10 a.m. KUHT/Channel 8. For information, call 639-IMAX or e-mail quest
Passion Theater LaB has more Sondheim, and not any of that prissy stuff, either. Passion is a well-wrought musical about love, and -- ominous music here -- obsession! A meek and mewling girl is obsessed with a dashing officer who already has a lover, and the stage is set for "love without reason, love without mercy, love without pride or shame." The 1994 musical won four Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Music, Best Lyrics and Best Book; tonight marks its premiere in the Southwest.8 p.m. Subsequent showtimes listed in Thrills, Theater. (Call the theater for more information about the opening night party at Tutto Bene!) Theater LaB, 1706 Alamo (off the 2100 block of Houston Avenue), 868-7516. $35.