Okay, so there won't be any jousters on Rollerblades. But there'll still be plenty to take in at WestFest Compressed -- the latest permutation of the hallowed Westheimer Street Festival -- which promises lots of art and music mashed into several venues on four blocks. "We're hoping to build this into something really big in a few years," says Omar Afra, who's helping coordinate the festivities. "But for now, it's a happy anarchy." Musical acts like DJ Sun, Aquabats and Tody Castillo will hit venues like Numbers and Helios. Meanwhile, you can catch exhibits by wheat-paste artist Give Up and rock poster artist Jermaine Rogers, who recently showed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Aerosol Warfare will engage the Texas United Crew in a live graffiti battle in the Numbers parking lot, and artist Reverend Butter will do some ice sculpting. Also the Buffalo Union collective will unveil the show "Stoned," which features a streetside "crap stand" where you can trade your crap for more crap -- say, a handkerchief for a fondue pot (Houston Press writer Keith Plocek is participating in the project). 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, October 15. 300 Westheimer to 411 Westheimer. For information, call 713-527-0014 or visit www.westfesthouston.com. Free. -- Steven Devadanam
Home and "Nightmares"
Robert Pinsky examines another side of American life
Smalltown, USA. The tiny place where folks dream big before moving to the city and living large. The place where everyone knows your name -- for better or worse. In "The American Town: Dreams and Nightmares," part of the Campbell Lecture Series, poet laureate Robert Pinsky discusses the duality of the provincial American town through the lens of great American literature -- Twain, Cather, Frost and Hawthorne all make the lineup. The Campbell lectures begin at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 18, and continue nightly through Thursday, October 20. But if you're the type who'd rather see the movie and skip the book, this week Pinsky also will discuss Preston Sturges's films The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (7 p.m. Saturday, October 15) and Hail the Conquering Hero (Sunday, October 16). Rice University, 6100 Main. For information, call 713-522-4652 or visit www.rice.edu/campbelllecture. Free. -- Mary Templeton
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT
Queers 'n' Steers
It's a sweltering day at the Houston Farm & Ranch Club, and the Bud Light is flowing fast. In the arena, cowboys and cowgirls have bellied up to the gate to watch the bareback bronc riding. Their boots are scuffed, and the back pockets of their denim bear perfect Skoal-can-worn circles.
But on second glance, things seem a little bit different from your average rodeo: Does that belt have rhinestones? Why are they playing house music? And, um, are those two cowboys making out?
Hell, yes, pardner. This is the Space City Stampede, which is being put on by the Texas Gay Rodeo Association in Houston for the first time since 1998. More than 100 fellers and ladies from as far away as Michigan and California have galloped into town, all hoping their barebacking, pole-bending or chute-dogging will earn 'em a spot in the International Gay Rodeo Finals in Dallas next month. (Thanks to specials on the Discovery Channel, Bravo and the highly anticipated gay western love flick Bareback Mountain, 2005 is shaping up as the Year of the Gay Cowboy.)
It's a pretty butch affair: These guys can rope a calf in ten seconds flat. Even the drag queens look western. "It's kind of like finding out George W. Bush is gay," says John Farrell, a first-time spectator. "It shatters the stereotype." In his Windsor cap, pink shorts and soft leather loafers, he looks like anything but a cowboy.
Farrell and I take in the popular goat-dressing event in the main arena, where Gene Mikulenka -- perhaps the most famous gay cowboy of all -- and a partner are trying to slap a pair of oversize tighty-whities on some sheepish-looking kids. The shifty goats prevail, sending Mikulenka face first into the ground. A perfect event -- almost. "They should have made the underwear pink," Farrell notes, "and gone all the way." -- Ray Hafner
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If your idea of Latin film is Cheech and Chong's Up in Smoke, then you've got a lot to learn, ese. Fortunately, you can get educated at the fifth annual Latino Film Festival at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. This weekend, four films from Latin American countries will be screened, including the 1991 historical exploration drama Cabeza de Vaca, with an introduction and talk by its director, Nicolas Echevarria, and Machuca, a coming-of-age story set amid the political turmoil of '70s Chile. Friday, October 14, through Monday, October 17. 1001 Bissonnet. For information and a schedule, call 713-639-7515 or visit www.mfah.org/films. $4 to $6. -- Bob Ruggiero
Strand Up for Galveston
Ah, Galveston. The temperature has dropped, there's a light breeze, and what's more, the city dodged a helluva storm. Toast the town and its luck this weekend on the Strand, where more than 100 artists are showcasing their wares at the eighth annual ARToberFEST. Go to see old favorites and up-and-coming student exhibitors. Go because it's for a good cause (proceeds go to charity). Or go because damn, the weather is nice and it's nice to see Galveston kickin' again. Festival runs 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, October 15, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, October 16. Located between the 21st and 23rd blocks of Postoffice Street in Galveston. For information, visit www.artoberfest.com. $3. -- Mary Templeton