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august 31
Fertles and Friends! An inter-active, full-fledged variety show starring "Doc Moore and the Singing Fertle Family," folk artist "Blind" Willy Davies and Congressman Dog Spranger -- these stars as played by Steve and Vicki Farrell and Rich Mills. This trio of musical comedians don a number of bizarre disguises and offer sketches, songs and a humorous one-act play. Dog Spranger will answer questions from the audience and Davies will compose songs based on audience suggestions (the interactive part of the revue). Some people think it's amazing that just three people manage to present, year after year, quality comedy shows. We think it's amazing that, year after year, Vicki Farrell continues to look exactly as she did when Invasion of the Bed Snatchers first premiered at the Comedy Workshop. It's so unfair; look at her thighs -- and she's had children, for Pete's sake. When you visit Radio Music Theatre, we suggest looking at all the many photos on the walls, a display of eight-by-ten glossies chronicling the many years of comedy shows, and trying to find one tale-tell photo of Vicki. Surely, like Dorian Gray, somewhere Vicki has a picture, a portrait, which shows the signs of aging not seen in her face and figure. This new revue opens tonight, and continues weekends through mid-November (to be followed, no doubt, by RMT's popular holiday show, the annual version of Invasion of the Bed Snatchers). 8:30 p.m. Radio Music Theatre, 2623 Colquitt, 522-7722. Reservations recommended. $12.

Eric Clapton Talk about dinosaur rock; Eric Clapton is no spring chicken, and even during his salad days, the Derek and the Dominos era, he had what hippie chicks call an "old soul," what others call tired eyes, maybe even tired blood. Even "Cocaine," his hit version, comes off with a slow, old-man quality. Clapton has had a long and erratic career. For every commercial and musical success, like Slowhand and Money and Cigarettes, he had flop albums, like Eric Clapton's Rainbow Tour. His 30 years in the public eye have also been spotted with major and minor tragedies. The death of his son being, of course, the most major and the "After Midnight" fiasco a minor problem. (Clapton got some flak when a new, reworked version of "After Midnight" was the music for a beer commercial, even as he was drying out in rehab. Unfair, we think because rehab costs money and longtime chemical abusers are often short of cash.) Ups and downs are the story of his career, and his stage shows are as erratic as his personal life. He might be, tonight, 100 percent the deep weirdo mystic Clapton and sing shivery soulful ballads all night long. Or, he could just be a good guitar player putting out as best he can. With Clapton, you just never know. 8 p.m. The Summit, 10 Greenway Plaza. For tickets, see your local ticket broker or the classifieds in any freebie newspaper. $35-$45.

september 1
Nancon 88, or Nancon XVI Texas' self-proclaimed premier gaming convention is serious -- not only must participants learn the many, many detailed and complex rules of their favorite games, they must also abide by a long list of rather strict party rules, these in plain language. Basically: don't drink, use illicit drugs, smoke in unauthorized areas, play "Killer" or "Killer"-type games, piss people off, or wear real or fake weapons with your costume. (Costumes encouraged, "they add to the flavor of the convention," but not required.) Gamewise, Nancon has organized orderly tournaments in everything from Call of Cthulhu to Diplomacy -- Diplomacy, the preferred game of Henry Kissinger. Also, auction, flea market and anime and other dependable con activities. Gaming and anime rooms open 24 hours, through 4 p.m. Monday. Ramada Hotel Northwest, 12801 Northwest Freeway, 520-8700. $25, tournament registration; $15, non-tournament pass for full convention; $5-$8, one-day passes on sale at the door.

The Skin of Our Teeth For many years, according to legend, Thorton Wilder's Our Town was always playing in America -- some school, some church basement, some community theater. The sad consequence of the popularity of this maudlin play is that people don't know that Wilder can be funny. No one dies in this play, and no one returns from the grave to make long sappy speeches about freshly ironed dressed. The Skin of Our Teeth is sitcom stuff; the misadventures of an average American family. Average for their time, that is. This family, the Antrobuses, have a maid. Their domestic situation is slightly nicer than modern middle-class life, but don't let that throw you. These people are as ordinary as the Conners of Roseanne. Opening tonight and playing through September 30. 8 p.m. The Actors Workshop, 1009 Chartres (downtown, behind the George R. Brown Convention Center), 236-1844. $15; $12, seniors and students.

Lady D's Labor Day Birthday Celebration It has been years, and we are still glad that Pearl Murray decided to return to Texas. Good ol' Pearl, she's such a nice lady -- she gave Chinese bluesman Rick Lee his start, you know, back in her Cotton Club days. Now, even though that Cotton Club is closed we still get to hear Pearl at least once a week -- she sings all over town; tonight is special because she sings in honor of a peer, Lady D. The blues begins at 9:30 p.m., and goes right on till 1:30 a.m. The Shakespeare Pub, 14129 Memorial Drive, 497-4625. No cover charge.

september 2
Ranching Heritage Weekend Cowboy Aaron Kalinowski is coordinating activities for the annual historical Labor Day weekend. Taking advantage of the holiday, the George Ranch, a living history project of the George Foundation and the Fort Bend Museum, has three days of get-along activities planned, including practice roping with Barney Bonehead and a "rolling roper." Tonight, there's a rodeo, with team penning and double mugging, at 7 p.m. Games and demonstrations 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Today, Sunday and Monday. The George Ranch Historical Park, 10215 FM 762, Richmond (30 minutes from the Galleria; take Highway 59 south to the Crabb River Road exit, go south and follow the signs), 545-9212 or 343-0218. $5; $3, children. Rodeo tickets are an additional $3.

Curious George The beloved monkey is 54, and still just as spry as a chicken. A costumed character Curious George will be at Stop, Look & Learn to celebrate. Costumed character Georges have been appearing all over town, inaccurately celebrating 50th anniversaries. The bookstores involved, and the costume wearers, are not to blame, and a coy monkey is not attempting to lie about his age. The publishers of the beloved children's series acknowledge not only that the first book, Curious George, was published 54 years ago, but also that they've been sending out promotional "Happy Birthday George" materials since 1991. There are two possible reasons for this: one, Houghton Mifflin staffers are lazy paper-savers without the wherewithal to print and distribute new, timely George promotional materials; or two, perhaps monkey years, like dog years, don't match up with human years and George can celebrate a single birthday for half a decade if he wants to. Not that it matters (what's time to a monkey?), kids have loved George, and the man in the yellow hat, ever since the curious little monkey first came on the big ship to live with the man in the yellow hat. 10-11:30 a.m. Stop, Look & Learn, 2415 Robinhood, 528-6508. Free.

Virtual Boy party Mario and Yoshi have a new product to sell. The Nintendo stars will appear, along with a highly trained member of Team Nintendo, at a party celebrating the latest high-tech, high-priced time-suck, Nintendo's Virtual Boy. The portable 3-D, 32-bit video game system is the evolutionary step beyond the Game Boy. Rather than boating, or visiting grandparents, Houston kids can spend Labor Day weekend in air-conditioned comfort, playing tennis with Mario or manning the high-resolution graphic controls of a virtual jetfighter. To lure the kiddies, as if a new game wasn't bait enough, Blockbuster and Nintendo will be raffling hats, games and coupons for Virtual Boy rentals. Grand prize drawing, 1 p.m.; party, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Blockbuster Video, 14525 Bellaire Boulevard (at Highway 6), 561-7426. Free.

september 3
Puerto Rico Festival This festival is downtown and during the day, unusual for a weekend. Two salsa bands will play -- not at the same time, of course -- and vendors will sell arts and crafts and food and drink. All this takes place in sight of the space-styled fountains of Tranquillity Park. Puerto Rico, in case you know nothing beyond Rita Moreno, is a self-governing island commonwealth in the Caribbean, ceded to the U.S. in 1898, and its people have been used as a comic ethnic group almost since 1898. Moreno, as it happens, starred in the film version of West Side Story, a story that uses prejudice against Puerto Ricans as the substitute for Montague and Capulet tensions in its Romeo and Juliet plot. Festival, noon-10 p.m. Tranquillity Park, 400 Rusk. For information, call 470-6447. $2; free for children under 12.

september 4
Labor Day The Harris County AFL-CIO Council is celebrating Labor Day a little differently than most of us. While the average yutz takes advantage of the day off to sit indoors and veg, à la Homer Simpson, the AFL-CIO and affiliated unions will be out in the great outdoors, shaded from the beating sun thanks to a large pavilion, having an old-fashioned family picnic. This Labor Day picnic honoring union members and their families has the requisite barbecue, and also entertainment, games (maybe even a sack race!) and prizes. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Farm and Ranch Club, I-10 at Highway 6, off Patterson Road, near Bear Creek Park. For tickets, call 923-9473. $10; $3, children. Price includes food, sodas extra.

september 5
Texas Commerce Tunnel Tunes Back to work is not all bad; downtown workers, fresh from their holiday weekend, can hear lovely music, compliments of Holcombe Music. During lunchtime, anyone strolling through the tunnels under Texas Commerce Tower will be entertained with live music, some classical, some pop -- the style varies from week to week because the ensemble of players varies from week to week. For a relaxing break, pick up a lunch at any of the hundreds of eateries under downtown, and hear a concert in the middle of the day. Just the thing for those who are eagerly awaiting brown-bag lunches at the Wortham, and those who are new to midday music appreciation. 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Texas Commerce Tower, 600 Travis, tunnel level. Free.

september 6
Poetry for Poetryphobes A new class for those who think poetry is "(a) boring, (b) intimidating, (c) incomprehensible or (d) all of the above" and yet somehow still want to learn a little verse. K. Wallingford is teaching this class for the Women's Institute and promises the poems, great ones, will be read "v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y" and that the class will be disabused of the notion that a poem is like a test question with only one right answer. Founded in 1951, when many women wore pearls and white gloves, the Women's Institute's continuing education facility offers instruction to both men and women -- even in interior decorating. 2202 Avalon Place, 529-7123. $80 for six classes.


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