Press Picks

july 13
Apollo 13-salute sculling lessons Gene Horton of the Houston Rowing Club is offering free sculling lessons for space fans over the age of 15, one dawn rowing adventure -- an adventure that would normally cost $60 -- in exchange for a ticket stub from the film Apollo 13. Horton, a former NASA program manager who was a participant in the real-life Apollo 13 drama, is eager to introduce the Olympic sport to Houston-area boating fans who'd like to tone their cardiovascular systems. Why is he offering this chance only to would-be-rowers over the age of 15? Because, according to Horton, "This generation (born in the '70s) was not even alive at liftoff. I don't think kids today would really get our sense of pride at a gut level, why we are driven to pay tribute to this extraordinary flight crew." Of course, since everyone under the age of 15 was born in the 1980s, not the '70s, and since you'd have to be at least in your early to mid-30s to actually remember any of the original Apollo 13 saga, Horton's real interest may simply be in keeping rowdy youths out of his delicately tuned boats. For those of us who are rowdy teenagers and adults, this is a fine idea. Keeps the competition down. Horton's offer expires August 1. The Houston Rowing Club's 200 members work out daily on Clear Lake and Jarboe Bayou, usually at dawn. For details, call 334-3101.

Astro World Series of Dog Shows Dog lovers have four days to see this canine extravaganza: more than 140 varieties of purebred dogs compete in beauty contests and obedience trials; mutts and others run head-to-head in a flyball tournament and a canine Frisbee exhibition; and there'll be puppy training seminars and Texas Hearing & Service Dogs in a graduation ceremony with their owners. Plus, you can pet the police chief's dog. On Saturday, Houston's most famous hearing dog, Teddy Roosevelt, will demonstrate what he does for Liz Nuchia and then do time in the Texas Hearing & Service Dogs Heavy Petting Booth. THSD is a successful recycling program in which stray dogs from animal shelters are trained to perform special tasks. On Saturday, and the other three days of the show, the Astrohall and AstroArena will be devoted to the largest combined dog show series in the nation. 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. today; 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Astrodomain, 8400 Kirby. For information, call 791-9069. $7; $3 seniors and children under 12; $1 discount with Iams product proof of purchase.

Thea Vidale Local waitress made good Thea Vidale is off prime time and back on the road with her sassy standup act. That would be sassy as in fresh, and not as in sleazy and trading on cheap shock value. On her ABC sitcom Thea, Vidale's character was less boisterous than her brassy on-stage persona. In real life, Vidal is actually mild-mannered, for a woman, and matter-of-fact. When she left her abusive husband, he came after her, but by then, she says, she was a "little tougher and he got intimidated. Of course, a .357 magnum will do that to a person." Now that her personal life is in order, and her career is going strong, Vidale's come back home for the weekend to tell jokes about touchy issues such as racism, women's issues and why she has no plans to lose weight. The Laff Stop, 1952 West Gray, 524-2333. Shows Thursday through Sunday. $13.50-$16.50.

july 14
Trial by Jury and H.M.S. Pinafore To gear up for an international competition in August, the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Houston presents two lively comic operas. As usual, the society has commandeered a fine hall for its show -- the Cullen Theater of the Wortham Center -- and brought in pro talent -- Alistair Donkin, formerly of the D'Oyly Carte Opera company. Trial by Jury is a not-too-often seen one-act courtroom comedy about a breach of contract suit -- breach of a nuptial contract. H.M.S. Pinafore is a class-conscious comedy, designed to skewer the royal navy, with mismatched lovers. Dear little Buttercup is the lover with the most name recognition and, as it turns out, the one who has all the answers. After the six Houston performances, the society takes its show to Buxton, England, for the 1995 International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival. Ira J. Black will give curtain talks 45 minutes before each performance. Opening tonight, 8 p.m. Through July 23. Friday and Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 2:30 p.m. Cullen Theater, Wortham Center, 500 Texas Avenue, 236-8310. $10-$28.

july 15
...and the earth did not swallow him Before Mi Familia, there was Severo Perez's award-winning film. Based on Tomas Rivera's novel, ... and the earth did not swallow him is the story of the Gonzales family, migrant workers, and especially the Gonzales' 12-year-old son, Marcos. Screening 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. today; 3 and 7 p.m. Sunday. Museum of Fine Arts, Brown Auditorium, 1001 Bissonnet, 639-7515. $5; $4 seniors and students; matinee $4; $3 seniors and students.