The French Foreign Legion conjures grandiose romantic notions of fighting honorably in exotic lands, all while wearing képis blancs (that's those funny little white hats, to you). Houstonian Jaime Salazar certainly had that impression before he joined the elite military division, which accepts enlistees from all over the world. But a year into his service, he reached the breaking point, deserted and was imprisoned. How he managed to escape back to these shores -- and what precipitated his move -- is recounted in his memoir Legion of the Lost. "I was fascinated with the Foreign Legion and had heard it was the world's toughest army," Salazar says today. "So I wanted to join this warrior family, which was also kind of a secret organization."
Salazar delves into the sometimes clandestine workings of the elite unit, describing duties ranging from clearing mines during the day to clearing barrooms in drunken brawls at night. He found it equal parts joyful camaraderie and vicious brutality, but with at least one tangible benefit: Les mademoiselles loved the men in the képis blancs. Salazar signs and discusses Legion at 2 p.m. Saturday, August 6, at Barnes & Noble (12850 Memorial, 713-465-5616) and at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, August 13, at Borders (3025 Kirby, 713-524-0200). Free. -- Bob Ruggiero
No Place Like Home
Aurora Picture Show's festival showcases kooky family films
Who knew that those home videos of you blowing out birthday candles or taking your first bath (eww) could one day be considered high art? Starting this weekend, Aurora Picture Show is celebrating amateur Coppolas everywhere with Home Movie Month. The screenings, which run at 8 p.m., begin Friday, August 5, with "Unessential Cinema Presents: Home Movie Whatnots and Whodunits," a collection of funky footage that captures normal and kooky New Yorkers in the mid-'70s. On Saturday, August 6, "The American Eye: From San Francisco to Samoa" follows American families at home and on exotic trips abroad. Sunday, August 7, brings "All Personal Home Movies from the Orgone Archive," an odd, highly personal collection of 16-millimeter home flicks. Inspired by the offerings? Unleash your own home-shot footage at the Houston Home Movie Showdown, which starts at 8 p.m. Saturday, August 13. (And please, go easy on the bathing stuff.) For tickets and information, call 713-868-2101 or visit www.aurorapictureshow.org. $5. -- Steven Devadanam
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT
One of the Girls
Man, I've had dreams like this: The alcohol is flowing freely. The music is throbbing. And I'm lounging with a couple hundred ladies -- all in their PJs.
It's Sunday evening, and I'm at the downtown nightspot Opus for a ladies-only Crave Party. It's an ingenious idea: a pajama party where women can get drunk, get pampered and shop. Ladies of all ages are strolling around in hip-hugging pajama pants and slippers -- and even some lingerie of the see-through variety. They're also wearing name tags with both their first names and their "Crave names," such as "Dancin' Diva." The dance floor has been converted into an open market, where vendors hawk makeup, jewelry and baby tees. The ladies peruse the offerings, sip martinis, get manis and pedis and lounge on couches. As one of only five men in the building, I stand out. But so far, there's no man-hating. "Think of me as just one of the girls," I tell a fellow Craver.
Later, we're treated to a show by the Urban Gypsy Belly Dancers. Then there's the coronation of the first Queen for the Crave. It's Joni, who, says the announcer, "runs her own advertising agency and raises four kids, and she does it without a man." Finally, there's the award for Best Pajamas. Kristi, the "Wild Goddess," wins with her tank top and striped PJ pants.
Then, in a truly Curb Your Enthusiasm moment, I discover that while I'm peering down at the ladies' name tags trying to figure out their Crave names, it looks like I'm totally staring at their racks. I look up to find not only Kristi but "Groovy Princess" Amber and "Bodacious Chick" Jennifer giving me a "What a freaking creep!" look.
Oh, yeah, I'm just one of the girls. -- Steven Devadanam
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Take a Spin
Project Row Houses and the Houston Center for Photography are in the celebrating mood, so they're celebrating each other with a party, "Spin." At the event, PRH will construct a shotgun-house model onto which HCP will project artist slides, and "cigarette girls" from the Texas Round Tails burlesque group will peddle arts and crafts to the beat of "international sound artist" James Eck Rippie. If you're in the market for new kicks, check out the Converse sneakers project, which features an auction of shoes decorated by local artists. 8 p.m. Friday, August 5. Houston Center for Photography, 1441 West Alabama. For information, call 713-529-4755 or visit www.hcponline.org. $10. -- Troy Schulze
Here's how far Lindsay Lohan has fallen: She can't even get people to watch a movie about a Bug! C'mon, L. Lo, everybody loves the Volkswagen Beetle! Who could resist the ladybug-themed body? Who could deny the peppy headlights and trunk closure, which almost form a smile on the car's front grill? Adorable! Celebrate the Bug at the sixth annual Volks at the Village show this weekend, where more than 200 Volkswagens -- ranging from classic Bugs to vans, Karmann Ghias and even the rare Things -- will be on display. 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, August 7. Traders Village, 7979 North Eldridge Parkway. For tickets and information, call 281-890-5500 or visit www.tradersvillage.com. Free; $2 for parking. -- Steven Devadanam