NOW 25th anniversary celebration The oldest and biggest NOW chapter in Texas, the Houston Area NOW chapter, is having a party with coffee and cake and entertainment. The entertainment will be a video, One Fine Day, and possibly state Representative Debra Danburg and state Senator Rodney Ellis. Danburg and Ellis will come to the party and speak on the topic "How To Be More than a Spectator in Texas Politics" -- assuming, that is, the legislature adjourns in time and they can get to Houston from Austin for the soiree. According to chapter president Deborah Bell, the Lone Star State chapter is devoted to bringing "women into full participation in society, exercising the same rights, responsibilities and privileges as men" and mobilizing voters for the 1996 elections. This feminist confab seems to be a businesslike affair with, apparently, no mucking about with wheat-grass juice or moon worship. 6:30 p.m. Houston Metropolitan Ministries Building, 3217 Montrose (at Lovett). For details, call 664-6955.
Breathless Margie Rose Walker, author of Love Signals and A Sweet Refrain, will read from her new book, Breathless, and talk about why her idea of taking charge of her life was to quit a perfectly good job and start writing romance novels. She'll also talk about writing romance and suspense novels with African-American heroines. 7:30 p.m. Barnes & Noble, 3003 West Holcombe, Vanderbilt Square, 349-0050.
Jazz message Bobby Watson will lead a sax workshop in the afternoon and then perform in Texas City. Watson became something of a star a decade ago as part of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. He quit that group, formed a couple of his own (his current quintet Horizon and a 17-piece big band), made records and composed a film score. Now, the alto saxophonist stops on the coast for a guest-artist gig. Concert 8 p.m. College of the Mainland, Fine Arts Recital Hall, 1200 Amburn Rd., Texas City, (409) 938-1211 or 280-3991, then press 5. $4.
Night at Six Flags AstroWorld It's gimp night at the park. That's right, gimp -- one of the current trends among the disabled is to call themselves gimps. The notion is to take a pejorative and make it positive -- like homosexuals calling themselves queer or older single women using the term spinster. So, anyway, some people like to play around with the word gimp. So you don't. Lighten up. Most of the time it just doesn't matter. When you're out with your friends, you use their name, not a label. Tonight, former patients of the Texas Institute for Rehabilitation and Research, their families, and caregivers will converge on the park. Volunteers from TIRR will also be around to advise people about the "more challenging rides" (a service we could all use) and also assist people getting on and off of roller coaster cars and so forth. 6 p.m.-midnight. AstroWorld, Kirby at Loop 610, 799-1234. For more information about this and similar programs, call TIRR, 528-0123.
Liar's Contest Late-night cable surfers have probably seen the highlights of last year's contest --the story of the water-skiing spider or the peppy blond woman talking about how she and her friends saved the country by thwarting a U-boat invasion in Amarillo Bay. The Greater Houston Area Liar's Contest is held every year at tax time, and the winner will be presented with a, um, huge, solid gold, diamond-encrusted chalice from the court of Abbe de Vallemont. Yeah, that's the ticket. And this relic is worth $256,000 and said to be cursed. Yeah. The contest is judged by experts from our town, including a pastor and a shyster lawyer. 7:30 p.m. Palmer Episcopal Church, 6221 Main. To reserve seats, call 492-8864. $5 advance, $7 at the door.
Five Women Wearing the Same Dress Five women wearing the same tacky, stupid, expensive bridesmaid dresses that they will never ever be able to wear again, ever, in their whole lives and all for some skank woman they don't even like very much. That's the set-up in Alan Ball's theatrical production, presented by Gypsy Theatre Company and directed by Charlene Hudgins. Houston City Councilmember Gracie Saenz, who probably has a couple of ruffled taffeta numbers stuffed in the back of her closet, will be on hand for the opening night reception. Opening 8 p.m. tonight with reception following. Through June 3. Houston Skyline Theater, Houston House, 1617 Fannin, ninth floor of Houston House, 759-0701. $10.
Sadko Russian Folk Orchestra and Ballet Company Dancers in colorful costumes will spin and fly to their own ethnic music. The balalaika, dombra, accordion and Slavic wind instruments are part of the orchestra. This is the first-ever American tour for the company. Those who have traveled in the former Soviet Union may know the group as "Folk Group at Uzkoye." 8 p.m. Tonight, Saturday and Sunday. Jones Hall, 600 Louisiana. For tickets, call 629-3700. $8-$40.
Free tennis lessons As spring bears down on Houston, many citizens contemplate ways of shedding their winter blubber. Tennis is as good a way as any, and today actual tennis instructors offer free, 90-minute group lessons all over the city. For reservations to be part of the free lesson program, call the Southwest Tennis Center, 772-0296, or the Westside Tennis Club, 783-1620. Try to call before the end of the business day Friday. Rain date for lessons is Sunday, April 23.
See lawyers sweat Teams from Houston law firms and other area worker bees will compete in RailFest '95's Texas Handcar Championship. Handcars are the pump-action railroad scooters Wile E. Coyote and other cartoon characters drive. Some 100 teams are expected to come and break their backs and blister their hands in this third annual competition. All proceeds go the Galveston Railroad Museum. Qualifying races today 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; the championship events will be Sunday, noon-3 p.m. Galveston Railroad Museum, 123 Rosenburg, (409) 765-5700. No charge for spectators, but you can spend money at concession and craft booths.
Texas Special Olympics Today we've got the opening ceremonies -- Marching Thunder and parade of athletes -- and then we get the events themselves in track and field, soccer, tennis and equestrian competition. Let's focus on the equestrian events, because putting children who are, oh let's say "challenged," up on horses is about the best idea anybody every had. The number one great thing about this is that for any kid, and especially for a kid who has to struggle with stupid little day to day activities most of us take for granted, being in control of, in partnership with, a thousand pounds of animal inspires confidence. The number two great thing about this is that for any kid, and especially for a kid who is judged harshly and often for perhaps having to walk with braces or being retarded, being around a non-judgmental, big-eyed beast is a blessing. Plus, riding is great physical therapy. At least five organizations in Houston have riding programs so kids from all over will be out in the arena showing their skills. 11 a.m. Foxfire Farm (only three minutes from Joe Kelly Butler Stadium, Special Olympics central), 13034 South Post Oak, 729-8308. For more Special Olympics info, check Thrills, Sports.
Br'er Rabbit Uncle Remus' rabbit rascal stymies other animals in a Young Audiences of Houston Family Festival of the Arts show. The opening act is from Aldine ISD -- fourth-grade students will dance. 10:45 a.m. Miller Outdoor Theatre, Hermann Park. Free.
Houston International Festival This started before today, but everyone knew that. There are half-a-dozen TV stations in this town, at least as many newspapers and a dial full of radio stations, so the fact that another Houston International Festival is set up downtown is not really news. However, for those who need some details, the first and most important news is that this year there's a gate fee. As far as junk food, dreadful frozen drinks and music go, it's business as usual. Today's musical theme is "Blues Heritage," featuring the Staple Singers, Doyle Bramhall and, interestingly, skinny white boy Ian Moore. Tickets are available at the gate or through Ticketmaster (but with no service charge), Randall's stores and the Festival. For information, call HIF-0202. $3 advance, $5 at the gate; $10 for a four-day passport. Children under 12 and probably dogs get in free.
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Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? The Woodlands Mall, today at least. Pint-sized private eyes from all over Houston will show their skills in a live simulation of the popular and educational game. Here's one of the questions kids had to answer to qualify for this game: "Vic the Slick is up to no good, but you can't find him. Then you hear he's in a city nicknamed 'The Crossroads of America' ... Where do you go?" ACME Senior Agent Greg Lee will be on hand to lead the geography fun and games. 2 p.m. The Woodland Mall, 363-3409.
King Arthur: Lectures and Storytelling King Arthur seems to be coming back into vogue. Not too long ago a dreadful, ugly little book called King Arthur and the Knights of the Tele-Round Table was released. In that, a modern-day harried corporate leader logs into Arthur's ancient times to learn management skills for the information age. For some people, that notion may seem more reasonable than the topic of today's lecture. Little do they know. Today's talk is titled "Women in the Arthurian Tradition: Idealized, Objectified or Anonymous Individuals." This talk by Deborah Nelson, a Rice professor, focuses on Guinevere, Morgan le Fay, the Lady of the Lake and other women in the legend. It was a woman, after all, who gave the king his sword, women who trained the knights and women who brought the round table to Camelot. Nelson gives her presentation at noon. Montrose Branch Library, 4100 Montrose. Free.
Highlights from Sonia and Kaye Marvins Portrait Collection When the average Houstonian hears about Kaye Marvins portraits, the average Houstonian, not unnaturally, thinks of family Christmas-card photos or wedding announcement pictures. However, there's more to the story. The Marvins family has been doing portraits since M. Gordon Marvin opened his studio in Poland before WW I. The current Marvins are collectors, and the current show at the MFA includes works by Baron Adolf de Meyer, Heinrich Kuhn, Jacques Lartique, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Richard Avedon and Annie Leibovitz. On display Through June 4. Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet, 639-7300. $3; $1.50 students, children 6-18 and seniors; free to children under 5 & museum members, and on Thursdays.
Flower arranging seminar for seniors Evelyn Leightman, a woman with a name suited for an expert of floral arrangements, will host a Citizens National Bank of Texas Leisure Club seminar at Teas Nursery. Leightman will also talk about growing tropicals such as hibiscus, bougainvillea, mandevilla and African Violets. Bring a wicker basket, or be prepared to buy one, and wear comfortable shoes for the gardens tour. With a catered lunch from Auntie Pasto's. 10 a.m. Teas Nursery, 4400 Bellaire. Leisure Club members and non-members are welcome -- the event is for anyone over 50 -- but space is limited. Please call Marsha Emmons or Liz Nall, both at 661-2319, for reservations. $9.