Press Picks

september 25
Playboy Models Autograph Party Though there is much bickering over where it all started, some say that topless/nude table dancing began somewhere in Florida back in the early '70s, the wee years of the sexual revolution. Of course, it took a city as big and manly as Houston, with all the oil-boom muscle of the '80s, to perfect the table dance. What was once wildly raucous naked gyrating in men's faces has become a rarefied art form of calculated undulations and whispers, complete with valet parking. Houston is, of course, now famous for its men's clubs. So famous that Playboy had to include our city in its current special issue: the 1998 Guide to Men's Clubs. To celebrate, the fittingly named Men's Club is hosting festivities at which two of the lovely young women who grace the glossy pages of Playboy will happily sign your personal issue. Sip a half-price martini as you queue up to meet the beauty of your choice and be thankful that those church-lady scoundrels down at City Hall have not yet had their way with our city's famously fabulous titty bars. 7-9 p.m. The Men's Club, 3303 Sage, 629-7900. $7, cover.

Black Eagles The Ensemble Theatre spent $4 million last year to completely renovate its space. Thus, the show that opens this year's season debuts a performing space as well as a new show. Black Eagles tells the story of the courageous Tuskegee Airmen, who fought both Nazis and racism. Their true story works as a metaphor for the Ensem-ble's struggle to found and develop a strong theater company that focuses on themes and conflicts particular to African-Americans. In addition to the production, playgoers can peruse the historic display of model planes, original photos and reading material that will be featured in the theater's lobby throughout the run. Thru Oct. 26. Opens tonight at 7:30 p.m. (See Thrills, Theater for other times.) The Ensemble Theatre, 3535 Main Street, 520-0055. $12; $10, seniors and students.

september 26
Circus Flora With the advent of palatial covered stadiums such as the Summit and the Astrodome, the days of the circus "big top" are all but gone. Thankfully, Circus Flora is a throwback: a one-ring, one-elephant outfit which promises that no seat is more than 40 feet from the ring. But Flora's tumble back into a sweeter time comes with all the advantages and pyrotechnics of the 20th century. The show's old-fashioned big top is blessedly air-conditioned. The amazing '90s-style trapeze acts feature triple somersaults and terrifying tumbling, all performed without any safety nets. And the actor-performers tell a mythical tale of twins separated at birth. Runs through October 5. Performances today at 9:45 a.m. and 6:45 p.m. (See Thrills, Kids for other dates and times.) Children's Museum parking lot, 1500 Binz, 227-ARTS. $8$25.

Jason Stuart He's been highlighted on Comedy Central's Out There in Hollywood, an annual program devoted to gay and lesbian standup talent, and his gay following is so strong he can recall seeing his audience at a gay pride event silently mouthing the words to his routine. But he has tons of straight fans, too, and advertises his act as "gay comedy for the whole family." In part, that means he talks about his family. "My parents are divorced," he says. "My father married a really nice gal; she's 12. I have a sister who's an Orthodox Jew as of four years ago. She doesn't let me talk to her kid because she's afraid if I look at her kid he'll turn gay. We have that power. I have an 87-year-old grandmother who I help take care of. She thinks everything should be free. I bought her some magazines the other day. She said, 'Oh my God, did you pay for these?' I said, 'No, I got them from the doctor's office. They're free.' " 8:30 p.m. Rockefeller's, 3620 Washington, 869-5483. $22.50, seats; $17.50, standing.

John Denver John Denver, nee Henry Deutschendorf, may no longer be a mega-pop star, but he has an enormous list of credits to his Rocky Mountains stage name. The ex-lead singer of the Chad Mitchell trio, he wrote Peter, Paul & Mary's first number-one hit, "Leaving on a Jet Plane," and went on to record reams of warm fuzzy sentimental songs -- stuff such as "Sunshine on My Shoulders," "Annie's Song" and "Rocky Mountain High." Tonight, and every night this weekend, he will join the Houston Symphony for a series of concerts that promise to make the audience feel all sweet inside, like only pop music can. 8 p.m. tonight and Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana, 227-ARTS. $21-$71.

september 27
Columbia First Concerts Children's Series In recognition of some of their littlest listeners, the Houston Symphony has designed a series of concerts targeted right at their tender music-loving souls. The Houston Symphony and its conductor-in-residence Stephen Stein are joined by narrator Randolph Lacy and dancers from the Houston Ballet Academy; together, they'll perform music from Hector Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique -- and they'll leaven that culture with music from favorite Disney films. Leave your children sighing for more. 9:30 a.m., pre-concert activities begin. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana, 227-ARTS. $10 and $5, adults; $7 and $3, children.