America "I been through the desert on a song with three chords ...." Sit outside, hear the Houston Symphony perform Copland's Four Dance Episodes from Rodeo and flashback thrills as original America duo Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell belt out such pop hits as "Horse with No Name," "Sister Golden Hair" and "You Can Do Magic." All of these radio memories will be sung with the Houston Symphony as the backup band. 8 p.m. Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins Drive, The Woodlands, 629-3700. $10$30.
A Running Start Get ready for the October 5 Race for the Cure at this promotional party. The Race for the Cure is a Breast Cancer Foundation run, and this party is the first benefit event held in conjunction with the sixth annual race. The evening has horse racing, dinner, a raffle -- and a chance to learn about the Breast Cancer Foundation and the good works of Houston's Susan G. Komen chapter. 6:30 p.m. Sam Houston Race Park, 7575 North Sam Houston Parkway West. For more information on the party or the charity run, call 850-9877. $50 per person.
Alternative Music The Little Room Downstairs begins the new season with an alternative comedy developed by the Michigan Artists Performers Initiative. You, the ticket buyer, sit barstool-by-barstool with the actors for a night at Scooter's, a fictional beer joint, in this comedy about barflies and lounge lizards. Think of it as a particularly witty episode of Cheers, and think of yourself along for the ride. Opening tonight, 8 p.m. Through September 14. The Little Room Downstairs, 1108 Peden, 523-0791. Seating is limited; reservations suggested. $15.
Sol LeWitt Prints 19701995 This collection of geometric graphics begins a nationwide tour right here at our own university, and then goes on to wow art fans in snobbish galleries around the country. LeWitt is a conceptual art founder, and along with getting the whole conceptual art thing cooking, he came up with new and nifty printmaking techniques. Lines -- the angles and shapes of his works -- are talked about plenty. The New York Times said that with these geometric shapes, "LeWitt does little more than show that by repeating them carefully and in various combinations he can create visual edifices as complex as they are understandable." But only a goon would ignore his use of color. Primary, complex, pastel -- he used 'em all, and black and white, too. Workshops and a gallery talk are planned for this show, and it opens today with a reception, 79 p.m. Blaffer Gallery, University of Houston (entrance no. 16 off Cullen), 743-9530. Free.
Shouts from the Outfield QuAC (Queer Artists Collective) is a group of men and women of many races and ages, and not one a straight white-bread heterosexual. Seven twentysomethings -- gay, lesbian or bisexual -- and their four artistic mentors -- all gay, lesbian or bisexual -- present this evening of issue-oriented theater and "OUT-rageous" entertainment. 8 p.m. DiverseWorks, 1117 East Freeway, 223-8346. $7 and $10.
Bobby Collins Certs pitchman and VH1's Stand Up Spotlight host Bobby Collins (no relation to Barnabas) will be in town for four shows. Sample joke: "You know the relationship is going bad when they stop wearing those sexy black panties and start pullin' out the 100 percent all-white cotton bloomers. I go, 'Honey, what are you doing? I was going to use that to cover the car.' " 8 and 10:30 p.m. tonight and Saturday. The Laff Stop, 1952-A West Gray, 524-3435. $18.
You've come a long way, baby! Culture is a wonderful thing: in these anti-tobacco days, a cigarette ad slogan has a resonance that carries even when the tag line's used for an athletic event wholly unconnected to carcinogens. The baby who's come a long way in this case isn't a suffragette who can smoke in public, but a runner who'll take part in the Women's 100 by One Mile Relay Challenge. The relay was last in Houston two decades ago, and the race is back to promote women's health, and to establish a world record. Promoting women's health will be easy -- the race-side entertainment includes a health fair, and the relay itself was designed to get women runners out, and to get women runners together. Today, three teams of 100 women, each of whom will run one mile, will compete; spectators can settle in for 12 hours of watching the relay and other live entertainment. From 6:30 a.m.6:30 p.m., or until the last runner finishes. Memorial Park, 440-yard track. For more information, or to see if there are any team spots open, call Chiquita Taylor, 680-6022 or 484-5740.
Pony rides Before adults watch the racehorses, children can ride around on Shetlands at the track's Super Sunrise program. Thoroughbreds will gallop around the track while an announcer talks about the training of racehorses, then the kids can see grooms and blacksmiths demonstrate their arts. After the program, kids 14 and under run 70-yard races competing for souvenir horseshoes. Gates open, 8:30 a.m.; Super Sunrise, 9 a.m.11 a.m., rain or shine. Sam Houston Race Park, 7575 North Sam Houston Parkway, 807-8700. $3; $1, seniors; free, children under three.
Life on Wheels To celebrate National Rehabilitation Week, the Museum of Health and Medical Science offers a look at "Life on Wheels," a day of demonstrations from people with disabilities. Learn how technologies -- such as wheelchairs and prosthetics -- and animals -- such as service dogs -- help people with impaired mobility go on about their business. Wheelchair athletes will perform, and the Assistance League of Houston "Kids on the Block" puppets will perform. Volunteers from many area organizations will be on hand. Just this once, it will be okay to stare, and even ask questions. 10 a.m.4 p.m. 1515 Hermann Drive, 521-1515. Admission to "Life on Wheels" is free. Museum exhibits, $4; $3, seniors and students; free, three and under.
Kemah Celebration Last year, this was known as the Festival by the Bay, but the North Galveston Chamber of Commerce has changed the name. They're still celebrating, though -- hence the name -- in the spirit of old-fashioned fun. The event features more than 400 vendors, live music, a carnival, food and opportunities to compete with your fellow neighbor. Daytime and early evening, today and tomorrow. Wal-mart parking lot, 9300 Emmett F. Lowry Expressway, Texas City. For more information, call 337-3434. Free admission.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame Here on the Picks page, we don't identify a do-not-miss event every week because frankly, not every week has a do-not-miss event. But this is one. Take your family, take your friends, take your neighbors and bask in the glory of a shattering work of art: the Universal silent-film version of Victor Hugo's novel. This classic stars Lon Chaney and is as complex and beautiful as grand opera -- all that and the Houston Symphony provides background music. I've got nothing against Tom Hulce, but Disney's Quasimodo has nothing to do with the true meaning of Hunchback. The gates will open at 6:30; screening, 8:30 p.m. Picnics are welcome, so long as no beverages are in the baskets. Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins Drive, The Woodlands, 629-3700. $7, $8.50 and $10.
Sonidos del Sur A festive evening of Mexican and Mexican-American music, the seventh annual Fiesta de la Hispanidad opens the Society for the Performing Arts season. Four brilliant ensembles play conjunto, marimba, son jarocho and banda music under the stars. Presented by the SPA in association with Texas Folklife Resources. 8:30 p.m. Miller Outdoor Theatre, 100 Concert Drive, Hermann Park, 520-3290. Free.
Theater District Open House You can sample the arts of major downtown arts organizations all afternoon, but the best reason to show up at the Theater District's open house is to see the Blind Boys of Alabama, one of the most inspired gospel groups in existence. The boys met in a school for the blind in Alabama, found Jesus and have been singing about it ever since. In those 60 years, the group has performed with Morgan Freeman, Little Richard and Jimmy Reed. The other reasons to attend the open house include free performances, puppet shows for the little shavers and complimentary refreshments. Sampling, noon6 p.m.; Blind Boys in concert from 68 p.m. on Fish Plaza outside the Wortham Center. For more information, call 853-8039. Free. Parking all around; some free, some not.
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Italian open house Thinking of learning a language? Why not Italian? The Italian Cultural and Community Center, a lovely house in Montrose, has hosted movies, cooking classes and concerts, and tonight the center holds an open house to woo those who might like to sign up for language lessons. Classes begin September 9; the open house and preregistration run68 p.m. tonight. 1101 Milford, 524-4222.
Murphy's Law The band's new CD, Dedicated, is decorated with snapshots of jolly members of the New York hard-core scene, and the cover art has lovable claymation figures, a la the California Raisins, stomping and thrashing with glee. All and all, Murphy's Law is a sweet little hard-core band, and, true to its punk roots, performs the occasional honking ska number. H2O and the Supermarket All-Stars are the opening bands. Doors open, 8; Murphy's Law, 11 p.m. Fitzgerald's, 2706 White Oak, 862-3838. $10; all ages.
Czech gala Sure, Houston's thriving Czech/Slovak community is supported by a variety of organizations, but they need someplace to go, a permanent place. To that end, the Czech Heritage Society of Texas, Sokol of Houston and other groups have secured 501(c)3 nonprofit status for a Czech cultural and community center. The first gala fundraiser is today. The evening begins with cocktails and a live auction, then music, music, music. Cocktails, 67; music, music, music, 7 p.m. and on into the night. Ramada Plaza Hotel, 12801 Northwest Freeway at Pinemont. For more information on the gala, or to make a donation, call Effie and Bill Rosene, 682-4608. $35.
Virtual cruise This isn't some high-tech cyberadventure; this faux boat trip relies on the age-old secrets of good cooking and great menu planning. "Passengers" are urged to dress as if for a Caribbean cruise, and then settle down in the comfort of Maxim's dining room for a first-class food tour. The evening opens with Maxim's legendary hors d'oeuvres, the appetizers and courses to be served with wines from Chile, France and Italy (and don't knock Chilean wines; Chile has some terrific wineries). The five-course banquet begins with gangped soup and concludes with a dessert made with pineapple and pear liqueur. Island-style fish and fowl and good red meat do star turns. 7:30 p.m. Maxim's, 3755 Richmond, 877-8899. $65 per person (tax, tip and wine included). Reservations, and loud shirts, recommended.