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We Want the Funk

Gone are the sagging couches and warped pool tables. The tattooed crew must have moved on to Rudz, 'cause this crowd looks a lot tamer. You can actually breathe in here. Cecil's Tavern has a decidedly different feel these days, thanks to a lot of Bennigan's-style renovations. Cecil's, that venerable hotbed of hipster activity, caught fire a few months ago. "It burned back there by the bathroom," says owner Kimberly Blythe. As to the cause of the fire, she "never heard too much, except that maybe it was electrical." Slackers spilled into the streets, bitching about not being able to finish their drinks and wondering where to go next. The beer-soaked carpet, the graffiti-streaked bathroom, that weird chemical smell -- all of it was gone.

Three months later, Cecil's has reopened, but the question remains as to whether its cooler-than-thou clientele will embrace the snazzy new look. The walls are decked out in dark green paint, the floors covered in light wooden slats, and the bathrooms done up in a style best described as suburban. And, perhaps most jarring, the bartender now dresses in a white tuxedo shirt and black bow tie.

"It's sort of what I would have always liked," says Blythe. "I thought it was more pubbish to have the wood floor." More pubbish, maybe, but we were fond of the old dive. It was what it was, and it was a damn good time. So hipsters have two options: They can forsake the place and head to the grungier pastures of Rudyard's, PJ's or Lola's, or they can keep hanging out at Cecil's en masse and bring it back down to its former gritty glory. 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily. 600 West Gray. For information, call 713-527-9101. Free. -- Keith Plocek

Jerk On

Forget Donald Trump and Bill Gates. The ultimate success story in the annals of American business belongs to Navin Johnson, the inventor of the eyeglass-saving Opti-Grab. You can relive Johnson's rise and fall (along with that of his trusted dog, Shithead) at this weekend's midnight screening of The Jerk, the 1979 film starring Steve Martin. Reared as a poor black child, the ambitious Johnson strikes out on his own to find his "special purpose" and make it in the real world. He later survives an assassination attempt, scales the twin mounts of Bernadette Peters's breasts and gives generously to the fight against the sickening horror of cat juggling. Midnight on Friday and Saturday, April 23 and 24. Landmark River Oaks Theatre, 2009 West Gray. For information, call 713-866-8881 or visit www.landmarktheatres.com. $6 to $8. -- Bob Ruggiero

Slay Day

FRI 4/23

Once upon a time in Libya, there was a wicked dragon that demanded two sheep a day or -- when there was no mutton to be had -- a lady fair. But then along came Saint George atop his white mount, rearing to save the day. Ol' George took down the vile beast with one blow, and the rest, as they say, is myth. Saint George is now the patron saint of England, Germany, Canada and Greece. He also happens to have patronage over syphilis, leprosy and herpes. Ouch. But seriously, folks, St. George's Day is a pretty big deal in England. This Friday, British expats (and those who love them) will migrate to the Red Lion Pub for live music, discounted pints and talk of the old country. 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday, April 23. 2316 South Shepherd. For information, call 713-782-3030 or visit www.redlionhouston.com. Free. -- Keith Plocek

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Poetic Prophet
Tish Benson sings the truth

Tish Benson is a storyteller from the olden days. Thick, soulful words flow from her pen like the wind whispers through trees. In her first collection of works, Wild Like That, she delivers tales of truth, sorrow, passion and strength through ghetto/poetic verse. Her lyric poems tell stories that evoke Zora Neale Hurston and Ntozake Shange, but with Bloody Nickel and Dirty Third overtones: "Baby makin women especially gotta really / Make sure who they let squirt off in'um." Both intimate and universal, this Houston-born Brooklynite's word-songs will haunt you until you acknowledge them for what they are: real. Benson performs and signs at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 22, at Amistad Bookplace, 700 University Drive in Prairie View, 936-857-9101. Free. Additional signing at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 24, at SHAPE Community Center, 3815 Live Oak, 713-521-0641. Free. -- Felicia Johnson-LeBlanc

Some Like It Hotter

When Homer Simpson ate the dreaded Guatemalan insanity pepper, he was transported to a hallucinogenic world of endless pyramids and talking coyotes. We can't promise you'll take such a trip at the Texas Hot & Spicy Festival, but even the most intrepid foodie can expect a fire down below. All kinds of tongue-scorching foods are on the menu, including gumbo, crawfish, jalapeño jelly and salsa. And when you can't take the heat, soothe your aching palate with countrified treats like pecan pies, sweet potato pies and fried Twinkies. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, April 24, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, April 25. Stafford Centre, 10505 Cash. For information, call 281-754-4132 or visit www.texashotandspicy.com. $5 to $7. -- John Yandrasits

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

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