Party on the Plaza As the sweaty, sticky people of Houston wait for another summer to end, the Party on the Plaza people bring us a sultry Southern concert. The Reverend Horton Heat and Southern Culture on the Skids play rowdy, unrepentant music that would thrill any Snopes in town, not to mention all the downtown wonks who like to loosen their business clothes and affect trashiness. This show is exactly the thing for this muggy weather and our end-of-summer attitudes. 5-10 p.m. Jones Plaza, downtown at the intersections of Texas, Capital, Louisiana and Smith. Free.
Dog Days of Summer "Some of the raciest hounds in town, real party animals," are expected to attend DiverseWorks' third annual membership party. Passion, a two-man mariachi party machine, will supply the music, Mesa will lay out a Southwestern buffet, and art mavens and scene queens will provide small talk, deep dish and genuine erudite conversation. Join in and get set to support DiverseWorks' state-of-the-art art -- a whole season of it, in visual, musical, dance and performance modes. Members and would-be members alike are invited to attend this cocktail soiree. 6:30-9:30 p.m. Mesa, 1971 West Gray. For details, call 228-0914. Fee for party includes membership. $10 for current members; $20 for students and artists; $30 for the average bear; or spring for $50, $100 and $250 membership packages.
Ballunar Liftoff Festival Travel out to Space Center Houston to see 18th-century technology glorified for three full days. The festival celebrates hot air balloons, which go way back. (Ben Franklin, during his waggish days in France, flew in one.) More than 70 colorful hot air balloons will waft over our area during the festival, with the highlight flight being the maiden voyage of a full-scale balloon replica of the Space Shuttle. Other special shape balloons include a moving van, a shoe, a cat, a battery and a flame. Our guess is that the flame, being closest to normal balloon shape, is the easiest to steer. Balloon steering is always a tricky endeavor. Skydivers, in fact, can steer more easily than balloonists -- gravity ensures that skydivers fall in one basic direction, down, while balloons can go any which way. Skydiving is also part of the festival, although as far as we can tell, none are jumping from balloons. (There will be a chute-off, with 80 skydivers trying to break the Texas state record for formation, on Saturday.) NASA astronaut Mary Ellen Weber will be honored tonight with a skydiving award and may attend the MIX 96.5 mixer, held under the bobbling lights of the balloon glow. Fun begins mid-afternoon today, continues Saturday and Sunday. Rocket Park, adjacent to Space Center Houston, 20 miles south of downtown on I-45, 244-2100. Admission to the festival is free, parking won't be. Park at Space Center Houston, $3, or Baybrook Mall and Bay Area Park & Ride lots, $5 for carload; $1 seniors, students and handicapped.
Mamma Roma Repertory films are dreadful because they come and go so quickly -- often, there's only one screening. You, the eager cinemaphile, may have waited for years to see some obscure film -- Sam Fuller's Park Row or Ministry of Fear with Ray Milland -- and then, when the movie finally comes, you don't find out until the night after. The MFA has taken steps to prevent these "blast and damn" moments and are showing classics for not one night, but for two weekends. Mamma Roma, a 1962 Pier Paolo Pasolini film, will be shown six, count 'em, six, times. Anna Magnani stars as a former prostitute/ Madonna figure who has stopped selling herself on the streets, hoping instead to peddle produce in the market and make a "good" life for her teenage son. Mamma Roma looks like Italian neo-realism, except that it's too bawdy -- bawdy in a tragic, medieval way. This weekend and next: 8 p.m. Friday; 7:30 p.m. Saturday; and 7 p.m. Sunday. Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet, 639-7515.
Women voters go underground The League of Women Voters will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the 19th Amendment with a tunnel walk and rally downtown. The walkers will lace up athletic shoes, rather than corsets, and stroll past historical exhibits on their one-mile walk under downtown. After getting fit and finding out about Houston during their stroll, walkers will come up for a rally in front of City Hall, where speakers will explain how the 19th Amendment has affected history. (The climate difference between the tunnel walk and the outdoor rally will explain how air-conditioning has changed history.) Check-in and registration for the walk begins at 10 a.m., in the Bank One Center (enter off Milam). At noon, walkers will march across Smith Street for a 45-minute rally in Hermann Square Park. The route is wheelchair- and stroller-accessible. For more information, call the League of Women Voters, 784-2923. $10.
Discovery Day Unbeknownst to most of us, the Institute of International Education has been celebrating Greece all year, and now it brings art by Greek children and Grecco theatrical entertainments to the Children's Museum. Hands-on crafts for kids include mask and garland making and sing-alongs. Theatrical entertainments include a play, Echo and Narcissus, and live music and folk-dance performances. Echo and Narcissus are not good role models for children, having a childlike fascination with their own voice and looks, respectively. Children, however, are sure to relate. Given that the museum is an educational facility, we assume that Echo and Narcissus are not rewarded for their self-absorbed ways and, instead, learn valuable lessons. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. In the Kids Hall, included in admission. The Children's Museum, 1500 Binz, 522-1138. $5; kids under two free.
Narrative Paintings We've said it before and we'll say it again, Beth Secor is a quiet but nonetheless key member of the art community. She's not only a talented artist in her own right, but also a woman with a talent for bringing out the artist in others. "Narrative Paintings" is made up of works by seniors at the Harbach-Ripley facility, many of whom grew up with hard times and have never previously had a chance to express themselves. These works explore the artists' personal histories in gouache. Reception, 1-3 p.m. Show through September 2. Inman Gallery, 1114 Barkdull, 529-9676.
Fiesta de la Hispanidad The Society for the Performing Arts is always combing the globe for entertainment, and they open their musical season with folk music from Bolivia. A group of musical historians, Rumillajta, will play sikus and antara (bamboo pipe instruments more impressive than Zamfir's pan flute), charango guitars and percussion instruments fashioned from sheep hooves and pea pods. Based in La Paz, the capital of Bolivia, the five members of Rumillajta travel the world playing Andean music and selling traditional instruments. 8:30 p.m. Miller Outdoor Theatre in Hermann Park. Call 520-3290 or 520-3292 for details or information on handicapped seating. Free.
Budweiser SuperFest By now you'd expect that Boyz II Men, who seemed pretty coltish and perky when they came out with Cooleyhighharmony, would be calling themselves Men Us II Be Boyz. Which is to say they've grown up. Not, admittedly, that maturity's had any effect on reducing the Boyz popularity, especially among the more swoon-happy in the female half of the human race. All those looking for something soulful in their R&B are likely to be heading out to The Summit for the SuperFest. There's something for the guys as well, given that TLC and Mary J. Blige will be among the Boyz's opening acts. 8 p.m. The Summit, 10 Greenway Plaza. Call (800) 832-0033 for information. $35.
Sample the Arts open house Everybody who's anybody in the Theater District will be showing their stuff to potential patrons today. Their stuff includes costumed characters (Houston Grand Opera's bear and ballet mice from The Nutcracker); backstage tours of the Alley; and samples of cuisine from the Lancaster and the Spaghetti Warehouse. The point of all this fun is to get people involved in the arts. Last year, more than 40,000 people trooped through the Wortham Center and the Alley Theatre. Prepare to see everything and take a snapshot of your kid with a dancing tree. 1-5 p.m. Alley Theatre, 615 Texas Avenue, and Wortham Center, 500 Texas Avenue. Free. For more information, call 546-0200.
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Ken Medema Fans may know Medema from TV's Hour of Power, or they may remember him from his early days as a music therapist. The San Francisco-based pianist incorporates your basic American styles, blues and rock, in his music. He also borrows from the rock and roll arena in his presentation; Medema "creates a flood of sound and light that entertains, inspires and informs." That's according to MCCR, which is excited about hosting this concert. 6 p.m. Metropolitan Community Church of the Resurrection, 1919 Decatur, 861-9149. Free.
More time in the tunnels For those who missed the suffragist rally on Saturday, and for those who attended and went tunnel crazy, here's another chance. While thousands of Houstonians go about their business in the tunnels every single day, others barely know they exist. Discover Houston Tours has daily, guided, hour-and-a-half-long walking tours underneath downtown Houston, with docents pointing out world-famous works of art and architecture. Tours depart daily at 9:30 a.m. (please arrive by 9:15 a.m.) and reservations are suggested. Meet in the lobby of the Doubletree Hotel at Allen Center, 400 Dallas; valet parking and surface parking available. Call 840-WALK. $5 (cash only).
Health Benefits Reform for Business -- in Place, in Process and Needed Next "In place" and "in process" are optimistic terms to use when the subject is health care reform, but nonprofit types have to be optimistic -- no one gives grants to the gloomy. Health Access Texas, a nonprofit organization busy in health services, education and research, has organized this conference and invited Congressman Bill Archer to be the keynote speaker. State Senator Jerry Patterson is also among the featured speakers. "This is one forum," Health Access Texas president Patricia Nelson says, "for all the stakeholders in our community's health care reform process to meet and exchange ideas." Archer's talk, "Will the U.S. Congress Bring New Reforms?" is slated for 10 a.m.; the conference begins at 7:30 a.m. Sheraton Astrodome Hotel, Kirby at Loop 610. For registration, call 522-8552 or fax 522-3381. $45.
Shut Up and Laugh Comic Relief Frankly, we doubt that anyone here will have a line as clever as Ring Lardner's "'Shut up,' he explained," but they'll be funny enough, and it's all for a good cause. The Stevens & Pruett Foundation for Children and Animals is the beneficiary. For ineffable Stevens & Pruett reasons, the radio stars have elected to raise money for abused and neglected horses with a comedy show. KLOL's favorite louts will be joined by old-time Houston comic Danny Martinez, Albert Linton and "Cajun Queen" Caroline Picard. Caroline Picard has the best beer jokes of any woman around and, hey, if women want to be part of the mainstream they need to know beer humor. 8 p.m. The Comedy Showcase, 12547 Gulf Freeway (at Fuqua), 481-1188. $20.