Party on the Plaza Austin blues band Soulhat is the first band of the season, and Popa Chubby opens. This official kickoff concert has a St. Patrick's Day theme: "Show your most creative use of green." Many of your fellow Houstonians, and even folks from Katy and suchlike, have drunk themselves green at Party on the Plaza; being creative with the color is going to mean more than just being emerald around the gills. Party starts at 5 p.m. Jones Plaza, downtown. For info, call 961-2992. Free.
Walden This is the second segment of all-around art guy Jonas Mekas' filmed diaries, and we've chosen to highlight this particular set of moving images because they came with a lovely photograph of the very recognizable Andy Warhol. Using Warhol as the sole hook for this film might convey the wrong impression. Mekas was born a poor farm boy -- no, really. He was born in Lithuania in the '20s, and had the misfortune to spend several years in displaced persons camps in Western Europe. Somewhere along the line, he got bit by the film bug. Tonight's offering is not a major and elaborately constructed underground film. Instead, Walden is a genuine journal: bits recorded on the fly, almost every day, from 1965 to 1969. 7:30 p.m. Rice Media Center, Rice University, entrance no. 8 off University Boulevard, 527-4853. $4.50.
St. Patrick's Day Parade Queen Contest I realize that this is the most small-minded, inside-the-Loop Pick ever, but I just don't see how anyone can really, truly celebrate St. Patty's Day without stopping by Griff's. They don't have grill-your-own-steak night, and they don't have any of the original furniture from the old Rice Hotel, but they've got distinctly Irish neighborhood pub-ness in shamrocks, which means you have to do some of your Paddy's Day celebrating at Griff's. Why not make it tonight? Some lucky girl or woman will be chosen parade queen -- and the chosen one will be presented to the city tomorrow evening at the Aeros game. This contest is the finals, so if you'd like to be the parade's center of attention, you're too late. Better luck next year. Griff's Shenanigans, 3416 Roseland, 528-9912.
St. Patrick's Day semi-private weirdness Those of you who haven't lived here all that long may not know that we once had a hotel with a pool big enough for water skiing -- water skiing, as in with boats. For reasons that have never been clear to me, or former Shamrock general manager and Hilton executive Porter Parris, "a terrible thing -- destruction -- happened to her." Destruction is one of the worst things that can happen to a building. As always, in the early hours of St. Patrick's Day (9 a.m.), a wreath will be laid on the Shamrock site (6900 Main) and "When Irish Eyes are Smiling" will be sung. Perhaps the 1995 Jameson Irish person of the year, John M. O'Quinn, will attend. He's sure to be up early, like a child on Christmas morning, for at noon the whisky people will honor him at a luncheon at the Houston Club (811 Rusk) and give him a specially commissioned piece of Waterford crystal.
St. Patrick's Day very public weirdness Since 1967, we've been changing Buffalo Bayou from its usual brackish green-brown to brackish green-brown highlighted with vivid kiddie-Crayola green. The reason for this is, you know, that today is St. Patrick's Day. No one has ever shown a reason why this should not be done, so it is. Downtown working stiffs, who are fretful and fractious after three months with few outdoor entertainments, dig it. The music comes from the Bagpipe, Drum and Fife Corps of the Texas Army, with very loud noise from the Texas Army cannons firing green dye into the bayou. Everybody gets to be Irish for a day, and for an environmentalist/landscaping green theme, trees will be given away -- bald cypress trees donated by the fine folks of the Parks and Recreation Department. The Slippery Rock Boosters Club hopes to dye not only Buffalo Bayou, but also White Oak Bayou. Main festivities commence at 11:30 a.m., with greening at 12:30. Behind the Old Spaghetti Warehouse, Travis at the bayou.
Bill Conti's Tribute to Henry Mancini Bill Conti is no Henry Mancini, but you've probably found yourself mindlessly humming a few of the Oscar-winning composer's tunes -- "For Your Eyes Only" or "Gonna Fly Now," for instance. Conti opens the program with his own works, and concludes, after intermission, with undeniably classic works such as Mancini's Peter Gunn theme, Pink Panther theme, "Moon River" and "The Baby Elephant Walk." 8 p.m. tonight and Saturday, and 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana, 227-ARTS. $15-$50.
Houston Book and Paper Show Almost 100 exhibitors will be selling all manner of antiquarian, rare and out-of-print books; prints, etchings and maps; and movie posters, lobby cards and autographs. MacDonnell of MacDonnell Rare Books of Austin plans to bring an 1851 Moby Dick, list price $10,000; an 1885 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, list price $1,850; and a 1929 A Farewell to Arms, list price $1,500. If those books are too dear, someone has hacked up a 1611 King James Bible and will be selling leaves for only $25 per page. Expect similar highs and lows among the map and print prices. (This being a Texas show, there'll be plenty of maps of this oft-divided landmass.) 9 a.m.-6 p.m. today, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. Astrohall, conference center, enter off Kirby at Murworth. For details, call 496-7827 or fax 493-5501. One $3 ticket is good for both days.
36th Annual St. Patrick's Day Parade The Richmond strip is now the home of not only a Mardi Gras celebration but also a St. Patrick's Day parade. Kind of makes you wonder where the Art Car Parade will be this year.... In any case, what is being billed as the largest St. Patrick's Day parade west of the mighty Mississippi wanders from Rice to Unity (which sort of doglegs off Hillcroft) and includes 150 floats, bands, marching groups and revelers. Being the largest St. Patrick's Day parade west of the mighty Mississippi, this fete has got parades in deeply Irish enclaves such as Kansas City, Denver and Amarillo beat all to heck. Hurrah for us! Glenn Hart, majority owner of the Houston Aeros hockey team, is the grand marshal. 11:30 a.m. is when the parade gets rolling. This is a family event. For details, call 464-3315, and remember, parking will be horrible, arrive early and wear comfortable shoes.
Square-Rigger Olympics Since the 1877 tall ship Elissa docked in Galveston, she's been the site of many activities. This Olympics thing may be new. The idea is to show fans of the seafaring life that it's not, as Texas Seaport Museum director Kurt Voss puts it, "all slopping tar and swabbing decks." No, the volunteer crew members will hoist a mannequin in a bosun's chair, hoist it 200 feet up the mainmast, and return it safely to the deck of the Elissa. Other games include "man overboard!" drills, skiff racing, rig climbing and sail setting. Some games are tests of skill, others are timed events. The crew learned the ropes, so to speak, in a 12-weekend training program. Some of the volunteers who sail the iron barque are ordinary Houstonians, so they're all, basically, the home team. Come on out and pick favorites anyway, and cheer them on! 1 p.m. Texas Seaport Museum, Pier 21, Harborside Drive between 21st and 22nd, (409) 763-1877. $5.
Houston Parents' Grapevine Local authors and entrepreneurs Therese Hartwell and Rhonda Rhodes have published a comprehensive reference guide for Houston parents -- a sort of Dr. Spock meets The Underground Shopper. This afternoon, the authors will be signing copies of Houston Parents' Grapevine: A Guide to Local Resources for Expectant Parents and Parents of Young Children. 1:30-3 p.m. Waldenbooks, Northwest Mall, 682-2237.
St. Patrick's Day, again A tradition-packed, for-the-family celebration with bones and darts contests, sing-alongs, audience games and dance performances. For the kids, storytelling and games. Music will be played by Pat Egan (from Westport, Ireland), Godfrey's Rangers, The Gypsy Jig Band, the Highlander Pipe Band and the Houston Irish Session Players. If the music, and Irish and Ceili dancing, or perhaps just the sight of the Celtic arts and goods on display, give you the notion to learn a step or two, this might be the place. Moreover, the O'Maoileidigh Irish Dancers of Houston, whose dancers' ages range from six years old to older than they'll admit, will be on hand. 4 p.m. The Backyard Bar and Grill, 10200 South Main at the Loop, 861-3293. $5.
Chanticleer This 12-man a cappella ensemble offers us two chances to see a concert with Gregorian chants and barbershop classics. Some may find this juxtaposition of styles frightening. Others will enjoy the wide-ranging technical mastery these singers have with the forms they've chosen to present. Although there are two concerts, wise Chanticleer fans will order tickets early; the group's February medieval sacred repertory performance at the Metropolitan Museum of Art was a sold-out smash. 4:30 and 7 p.m. Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church, 6221 Main, 529-2029, extension 143. $25, $15 seniors and students.
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Soul Patrol Some may think the members of the Houston Chapter of the Texas Society of Certified Public Accountants are dull or whatever, but they really are the type who get the job done. Their task for this day is to benefit the Houston Police Department's Soul Patrol, a support and scholarship program for kids. The idea is to get youth focused on education in the school, instead of all that nasty stuff on the streets. Children's television stars, and an HPD helicopter, will be part of tonight's fundraising gala. 6-9 p.m. The Children's Museum, 1500 Binz, 622-7733. One $15 ticket admits one adult and two children.
Brown Bag Brainstorming Every Monday in March, the Houston Sun sponsors casual lunches for discussing issues facing the African-American press. These talks are led by Rodney Ellis, TSU professors and local journalists. Affirmative action, negative media coverage and how to coordinate coverage on positive stories are all among the topics to be discussed. Those wishing to participate may bring their own lunches, or call ahead and order a $10 boxed lunch (R.S.V.P. before noon Friday for the boxed lunch.) 11:30 a.m.12:45. The Houston Sun conference room, 1520 Isabella, 524-4474.
Corporate Etiquette Stop yourself from being a lumbering, crude heathen in the workplace. Although it may seem as though the opposite is true, lumbering crude heathens don't generally do well in business. Dee Elliott is the featured speaker at tonight's meeting of Professional Secretaries International and Elliott knows what you need to know to stop seeming like some weird alien life form, or a pompous ass, in your office. In the downsizing '90s, people are careful about doing anything that could possibly be construed as sexual harassment or that even looks like smoking, but corporate etiquette involves so much more. The meeting opens with networking (a positive minefield of possible faux pas) at 5:15, dinner at 6 p.m., and the business meeting and program afterward. Medallion Hotel, 3000 North Loop West (290 at North Loop). For reservations, call 792-4364. $18 non-members.
Les Miserables Based on the novel, long and grim, by Victor Hugo, and from the people who brought you the RoyalShakespeare Company's production of The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. Yes, co-directors Trevor Nunn and John Caird know how to pack the stage with actors in period costumes, and pack theaters. This show has been seen by millions -- millions -- and is back by popular demand. The original Broadway smash was huge and costly and the road show is one of the hugest and costliest of all time. If you missed this production of the award-winning musical the first time around, order your tickets now. Opening 8 p.m. tonight. Through March 26 with matinees Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Brown Theater, Wortham Center, 500 Texas, 629-3700. $25-$45.