Press Picks

january 16
Captioned Ransom The good people of Silent Entertainment present a captioned screening of Ron Howard's thriller about a self-made millionaire (Mel Gibson) who attempts to rescue his kidnapped son. The theater holds 300, and organizers urge those in the hearing-impaired community to turn out early to secure a seat. 7:45 p.m. Meyerland Cinema, Meyerland Plaza, Loop 610 at Beechnut, 666-0735. $6.75, adults; $4, children and seniors.

Johnny Biscuit Like the food that shares his name, Biscuit's image is one of simple, white-bread goodness. Imagine: A vulgarity-free comedian who's funny enough for TV and safe enough for a first date or a night out with your mom. 8:30 p.m. The Comedy Showcase, 12537 Gulf Freeway (at Fuqua), 481-1188. $6.

january 17
11th Annual Tri-Star Collectors Show Several years back, I went to one of these shows hoping to score a 1989 Ken Griffey Jr. Upper Deck. I found one -- a few, in fact -- all going for about 20 bucks. I scoffed, and have lived to regret it: Today, that same card goes for $65. Griffey's not among the heavy-hitters scheduled to appear at this show, but the all-star lineup is deep. To name only a few: boxer Muhammad Ali; football Hall of Famer Jim Brown; and Deer Park native and 1996 World Series hero Andy Pettitte. For their autographs, you'll have to pay extra, but some hometown heroes will sign for free. On deck this evening are beloved ex-Astros J.R. Richard (5-7 p.m.) and Joe Sambito (6-7 p.m.), plus up-and-coming Oiler receiver Chris Sanders (5-7 p.m.). Also, 200 vendor booths and the Legendary Ladies of Baseball (the real women behind A League of Their Own). Show hours are 3-8 p.m. today; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Avenue of the Americas, 840-STAR. Admission is $5 in advance (Ticketmaster, 629-3700), $7 at the door. Autograph tickets range from $15 (Ken Norton) to $99 (you guessed it -- Ali).

Knock-out Parkinson's Gala Ali is the star attraction at the Collectors Show Saturday and Sunday, but tonight the Greatest is the special guest for this black-tie fundraiser for the disease he suffers. Tonight's extra special because it's Ali's 55th birthday; anyone who goes to this party gets to share the cake. Proceeds benefit the Houston Area Parkinson Society and the Parkinson Foundation of Harris County. 7 p.m., reception; 8 p.m., dinner and dancing. First City Bank Building, Main at McKinney, 626-7114. $150.

Stella in Studio: The Public Art of Frank Stella, 1982-1997 No, this is not who Brando was screaming for in A Streetcar Named Desire. This is famed abstract artist Frank Stella, who's set up shop in town while he works to produce a mural for the University of Houston's new Moores School of Music building. The huge project -- $1.5 million and 5,000 square feet of Stella's "pictoral architecture" -- is expected to draw tourists, even. And there are more rewards to reap, starting with this exhibition that encompasses Stella's public-art projects, and includes maquettes, sculptures, paintings, drawings, sketchbooks and works never before seen outside the artist's studio. Among the highlights is a three-dimensional interactive model of the Moores School work in progress. Reception, 7-9 p.m. tonight. Through March 23. Blaffer Gallery, University of Houston (entrance no. 16 off Cullen Boulevard), 743-9530. Free.

Holly Nuber She led the Pearland High School girls' softball team to the 5A championship last year, earning coach of the year honors from the Houston Chronicle and the Texas Sports Writers Association. The school fired her anyway -- something about paperwork and not following orders -- or was it perhaps a combination of gender discrimination and suspected lesbianism? (For more details, see "Hardball," Bonnie Gangelhoff's July 4, 1996 Press story on the subject.) Either way, Nuber's now spending her time mulling her legal options and sharing her insight with others. "If you set your mind to it, you can accomplish almost anything" is the theme of this month's LiB (Lesbians in Business) gathering. 7 p.m. Innova Building, Greenway Plaza, 529-0077. Call for prices.

january 18
Acrobats of the Chinese Zodiac It's show business, Asian-style; it's circus without the elephant poop; it's 2,000 years of tradition and a lifetime a training culminating into a night of dance, athleticism and awe-inspiring feats. The Chinese Golden Dragon Acrobats are making their third visit to Houston, and they're bringing with them a bag of tricks that includes the "Tower of Chairs," during which Chang Yu-Ching places four champagne bottles on two tables, balances seven chairs on the bottles, then lifts himself atop the wobbly edifice for a one-handed handstand. After all that, you can bet the audience will burst into applause -- just as audiences have for succeeding generations of Chang acrobats. 7 p.m. Cullen Performance Hall, University of Houston (entrance no. 1 off Cullen), 743-5198. Tickets are $10-$15, and are available through Ticketmaster, 629-3700.

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Betsy Froehlich