Press Picks

september 14
Los Dias Que Vienen: Anticipating the Days of the Dead Anticipating Dias de Muertos, native Houstonian Agapito Sanchez has a collection of crisp black-and-white photographs of Days of the Dead decorations, photographs he has hand-tinted and toned, on display. Sanchez is best described as a folk-art photographer, and his last show at Las Manos Magicas featured photographic studies of Virgins and santos. The currentshowcontinuesthrough November. There will be a reception for the artist from 7-9 p.m. Las Manos Magicas, 306 Westcott, 802-2530.

Ballet benefit Houston Ballet dancer Lauren Anderson is in charge of publicizing this event -- perhaps training for a post-ballet career in PR -- and she proudly informs us that Cleo Laine and John Dankworth will perform in concert to benefit the Houston Ballet's Artists Reserve Fund. The first couple of jazz aren't seen much in these parts, preferring to spend their time in Britain. Basically, Cleo and her four-octave voice only show up in the States to inquire about her many Grammy nominations or star in a Broadway musical, and maybe cut some platters with Ray Charles or Mel Torme. However, she and John do have a long-standing happy relationship with the Ballet, because our troupe often travels overseas, and the happy couple couldn't be more thrilled about donating their services to this worthy cause. The Artists Reserve Fund "assists dancers in transition," a polite way of saying money and resources go to easing former dancers into the real world, and also helps out in case of emergencies. There will be only one performance; get tickets now. 8 p.m. Brown Theater, Wortham Center, 500 Texas Avenue, 227-ARTS. $25-$42.

september 15
Texas Gatorfest '95 Have you ever tasted alligator? Well, it's better than having alligator taste you (har har). That's the kind of joke they tell in Anahuac, the gator capital of Texas, where carnivorous reptiles outnumber people two to one. At least before the festival they do -- during the festival alligator hunters from across the state compete to bring in the catch of the day and win cash. Past specimens have measured 13 feet and more. Along with presenting live specimens, provided by Texas Parks and Wildlife, highly trained professional alligator experts in the Alligator Education Tent will have fun facts to know and yell, answering all your questions about the scaly creatures and their wetlands home. Along with the educational stuff, the festival will feature a water ski show, live music, a beer garden and carnival rides for the kids. (And more to eat than gator meat.) No pets, coolers, picnic baskets, cans, bottles or glass containers, or refunds. 6 p.m.-midnight tonight; 10 a.m.-midnight Saturday; noon-6 p.m. Sunday. Only 50 miles east of Houston. Take I-10 east, hop off at exit 810 and go six miles south to Anahuac. You can't miss it. For more information, call (409) 267-4190. $5; $3, over 65; $2, students; free, children under five. Free parking.

september 16
Houston Puppet Festival Everything from high-class marionettes to balloon animals will be shown and made at this celebration of the ancient art of puppetry. One not-so-arty workshop is "How to Sell Your Puppet Show," but most seminars are "make and take," meaning participants make a puppet and take it home. The high-class marionettes are the Carranza Puppets in a performance of Beauty and the Beast; the balloon animals are as-yet-unmade creatures from a balloon art workshop. The Greater Houston Puppetry Guild offers more than workshops: "You are welcome to shop for your puppet needs and view the puppets on display," we're told. 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; Beauty and the Beast at 9 a.m. Northwoods Presbyterian Church, 3320 FM 1960. For details, call 893-8339. $60; $30, children six-16 (continental breakfast and lunch included): Beauty and the Beast only, $5.

Diez y Seis de Septiembre Mexican Independence Day will be celebrated all over town, all over the Gulf Coast, in fact. But when it comes to educational events for kids, the Fort Bend Museum Association, the folks who handle events at the George Ranch, are once again on top of things. Historical reenactments (a male docent dressed as Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla shouting "Viva Mexico! Viva la independencia!" and the like), Ballet Folklorico dancing (with local children) and children's games (loteria, pirenola, el tirador and cascarones) are on the agenda. Local Mexican families will be honored in a photo exhibit and Mexican food will be served. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. John M. Moore Home grounds, Fort Bend Museum, 500 Houston Street, Richmond, 342-6478. $2.50; $2, seniors; $1, children.

Luther's Fifth Annual World's Largest Rib Eatin' Contest Hyperbole and hogs are the watchwords for this messy event. To raise funds for the Center for the Retarded Inc., "face-stuffing, pigging-out, finger-licking, hog-wild contestants" will belly up to a trough of pig meat and chow on ribs. These contestants, some celebrities and some not so celebrated, will be judged not only on total consumption, but also on consumption-with-style and general style (as in costume, dress and the like). The judges will include pig specialists such as Ken Hoffman and Jon Matthews. Previous contests have raised $10,000, and the fine folks of Luther's would, of course, like to do even better this year. Contest registration begins at 4 p.m., contest at 5 p.m. Entry fee is $35 per person and there are T-shirts and Alka-Seltzer for all contestants. City Hall, reflection pond. For more information or an entry form, visit your local Luther's or call 537-8895.

Open drum circle and closing reception The "Primitive Streak" show at the Firehouse Gallery is closing with a bang -- actually, hundreds of bangs, and maybe a rim shot or two. Although the primitive streak of the title is a biological term, not anthropological, the artists are asking everyone, especially everyone with a primitive soul, to come out for fun, empowerment, dance and community. The artists are Holly Patterson, David Price, Nancy Kern and Rix Jennings, and knowing them, we suspect the emphasis is more on fun. How fun? Well, at the mid-August opening, "Primitive Streak" was the hottest show in town -- the gallery air conditioning went out, and yet people stayed in the cramped, unventilated space to enjoy the art. Grab something to bang on, and come on out. Paint your face, if some spirit moves you. 6-9 p.m. Firehouse Gallery, 1413 Westheimer, 520-7840.

september 17
Great Tastes of Houston After seven days of Great Tasting, everyone should know, by word of mouth, which of the 44 restaurant booths have the best food, so there's no danger of wasting coupons on a plateful of something that doesn't work as an outdoor dish. Some leading Houston restaurants, while completely trustworthy on their home turf, don't dish up a good meal al fresco. Of course, even if you make some bad picks food-wise, there's satisfying entertainment. Today, for instance, if you hung around all day, snacking, you could hear Bon Ton Mickey and the Zydeco Hot Steppers, Brave Combo, Carolyn Wonderland, Chubby Checker and Marcia Ball, and you could dance off some calories, too. Want serious dancing? Theatre Under the Stars kicks off their 1995 season, and a production of 42nd Street, with Tap, Twist and Taste, an effort at beating the Guinness World Record for the largest assembly of tap dancers in the world. (Tap registration begins at 10:30 a.m., competition at 2:30 p.m.) The weather is, finally, one or two degrees cooler so it's unlikely that Tap, Twist and Taste will get into Guinness by being the largest assembly of tap dancers dropping over from heat prostration. Great Tastes of Houston does not involve baking in the sun, for anyone, and there'll be tents to hide in -- the wine tasters tent, the Borders Book Shop tent and the Silver Platter Dining Tent. At 6 p.m., in the Great Chef's Demo Tent, Raul Arrendondo and the HCCS Culinary Association present a vignette called "The Funniest Kitchen in Town." 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m. City Hall. For details, call the hot line, 684-6080. $4; free for children under 12. Bring extra cash for coupons -- $5 for a sheet of ten, with four coupons allowing you a taste of something.

september 18
Name the Oilers Didn't we all learn in elementary school that Tejas means friendly? Wasn't there some propaganda in the big book of Davy Crockett and the Indians about the very name of the state (the boldest and the grandest) being a word for "howdy"? In any case, we're supposed to be a friendly, outgoing people, and in that spirit Pat and Pete's Blues Burgers wants to send the Oilers off to Tennessee with a new, Tennessee-specific name. There have been some suggestions, bad ones, reflecting a poor attitude toward the team. This is not neighborly -- the idea is to thank Tennessee for, maybe, taking Bud's boys off our hands. The idea is also to win, and the prize is a happy hour party for up to 50 friends. Deadline is September 31. Enter early, enter often. Just stop by the store and turn in your notion, complete with your name, address and daytime phone number. While you're there, have a beer and maybe some Hey Heys, their homemade potato chips, with ranch dressing on the side. The winner will be announced November 1. Pat and Pete's Blues Burgers, 311 Travis, 222-7337.

september 19
Julio Iglesias Latin Lothario and sometimes Willie Nelson duet partner Julio Iglesias brings his golden throat and dewy eyes to Jones Hall. Like many of the singers who appear on that stage, Iglesias has an international reputation; unlike many of the singers who appear on that stage, Iglesias has international record sales that Madonna and Michael Jackson eye enviously -- he's won more than 1,500 gold and platinum records worldwide. He's sold more records, in more languages, than anyone in recording history. The Society for the Performing Arts brings the really big star to town as part of their Fiesta de la Hispanidad, and we suggest buying tickets right this minute. 8 p.m. tonight and tomorrow. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana, 227-ARTS. $25-$150.

september 20
Wendy Liebman You know her as the skinny girl on the Degree commercial and a voice on Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist; now see her do standup on-stage. Wendy, who is no stranger to television, has signature style -- old-fashioned one-liners jazzed up with a second punch line, this last line muttered as though an afterthought. "I'm a writer," she says, "I write checks ... mostly fiction, some mystery." She claims this style is a result of just hating to hear silence while she's on-stage, that she has to be saying something every second. After ten years in comedy, she's still a little nervous. About everything. On the subject of Dr. Katz, which many Warner Cable subscribers may have never seen, we'll point out that Wendy's cartoon character is herself, and that she insists, vehemently, that she does not look like that. She also says, by the way, that one of her best shows ever was in Dallas. We cannot allow that record to stand. We have several chances to make sure her favorite show was a Houston gig. She opens tonight at the Laff Stop and plays through the week. 8 p.m. The Laff Stop, 1952-A West Gray, 524-2333. $6.50, weekdays and Sunday; $10, Friday and Saturday.

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Edith Sorenson