Something for Nothing The first Wednesday of each month, the Mexican Museum, Museo ItaloAmericano, the S.F. African American Historical and Cultural Society, and the S.F. Craft and Folk Art Museum are open late, and admittance to any or all of these treasure troves costs zilch. An added bonus is the "Latent August: The Legacy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki" exhibition, currently located at Pier 1. See the free art noon-7 p.m. at Fort Mason Center, S.F. Call 441-3400.
Weirdos on Film No other mass murderer can match the cinematic track record of Ed Gein, the inspiration behind both Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho and Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Gein also provides the source material for Deranged, a psychotronic cult fave by Jeff Gillen and Alan Ormsby, directors otherwise best known for starring in a film with a great title: Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things. While Deranged doesn't have the visual flair of Hitchcock or Hooper, it features a kooky performance by Roberts Blossom, who has one-sided conversations with mummified corpses and pieces of fried chicken. See this strange boy at 2, 7:15, and 9:15 p.m. at the Red Vic, 1727 Haight, S.F. Tickets are $3-5; call 668-3994.
Masked Man Sometimes funny, sometimes scary, the people in Ralph Eugene Meatyard's "Vintage Photographs" invariably wear bizarre masks. One can read all sorts of theoretical meaning into Meatyard's mock-family portraits and candid snaps: They're definitely a prime influence on Cindy Sherman's more calculated contemporary experiments with prosthetics and identity. Take a look from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Shapiro Gallery, 250 Sutter, S.F. "Vintage Photographs" continues through Oct. 28. Free; call 398-6655.
Mortal Visions Nina Glaser frequently uses dancers as subjects, and in her most recent work, she collaborates with painters, sculptors, and architects. Theatrical yet "outside of time" (to borrow the title of Glaser's published monograph), the resulting images confirm her status as one of S.F.'s finest artists. Glaser's vision fuses personal history (she grew up in Tel Aviv) with art history (Romantic and symbolist ideas); setting deathly imagery in harsh landscapes, her work is both immediately arresting and haunting. See it from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Morphos Gallery, 49 Geary, S.F. Free; call 399-1439.
Virgin Improv Hinge is a jazz quintet featuring musicians from the Billy Nayer Show, the Fabulous Hedgehogs, Jaws, Dog Slyde, Dewey Redman, and the 50 Foot Hose. The group uses two drummers, two guitarists, and a stand-up bassist to push boundaries set by discordant artists like Bill Laswell, John Zorn, and Captain Beefheart. Hear their improv at 9 p.m. at the Stork Club, 380 12th St, Oakland. Tickets are $4; call (510) 444-6174.
Bigger and Bigger This year's S.F. Fringe Festival features 50 theater companies in a marathon of performance, ranging from movement to multimedia, tragedy to comedy. There will be 160 shows (spread over 10 days at four locations), including two about Samuel Beckett, one about Oscar Wilde, and one about Betty Grable. Cameron Silver will pay tribute to Kurt Weill and Friedrich Hollaender, while New York's Elisa DeCarlo will portray an entire dysfunctional family in I Love Drugs. The lights go up at 7 p.m. at 450 Geary Theatre (450 Geary, S.F.), the Actors Theatre (533 Sutter, S.F.), Exit Theatre (156 Eddy, S.F.), and the Press Club (555 Post, S.F.). Tickets are $7 or less; call 673-3847.
I Hear a Symphony Even people without money can enjoy Michael Tilson Thomas' inaugural season as S.F. Symphony conductor. How? By attending an outdoor concert at the Embarcadero. Part of the Symphony's opening-week festivities, the performance includes selections by Lou Harrison (A Parade for MTT, commissioned by the S.F. Symphony), George Gershwin (An American in Paris), and Benjamin Britten (Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Purcell). The music starts at noon at Justin Herman Plaza, S.F. Free; call 552-8000.
Vaness on Van Ness The S.F. Opera opens its fall season with -- surprise! -- the story of a doomed diva: Gaetano Donizetti's Anna Bolena, a bel canto based on Henry VIII's ill-fated second bride. Soprano Carol Vaness returns to the Bay Area to take on the tragic title role. John Copley directs; Roberto Abbado conducts. Anna Bolena begins at 6:30 p.m. at the War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness, S.F. Tickets are $21-125; call 864-3330.
The Way We Were In keeping with its nostalgic decor, Julie Ring's Heart & Soul supper club is offering two weeks of music from the '20s through the '50s this month. Local artists like the Mort & Connie Show, the Hot Club of San Francisco, and the Jesters are just part of a swing and jazz lineup that offers a different act each night. Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers heat things up at 8:30 p.m. at 1695 Polk, S.F. Cover charge is $5-10; call 673-7100.
Micro Film One of only a handful of S.F. film repertory houses, the Casting Couch offers public and private screenings, dubbing itself a "micro theatre." In conjunction with Frameline, the site serves up a gay/lesbian documentary double bill: Changing Our Minds: The Story of Dr. Evelyn Hooker (who forced the AMA to lift homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses/disorders) and Homoteens, a look at contemporary queer youth. The screenings start at 7 p.m. at 950 Battery, S.F. Tickets are $7.50; call 986-7001.
Reading and Walking The adult literacy program of the S.F. Public Library, Project Read has helped more than 3,000 people learn to read and write better. The Project Read Move-a-Thon, a fund-raiser for the organization, is a four-and-a-half-mile walk along the Embarcadero, featuring music, food, prizes, and celebrity guests. The event starts at 10 a.m. at Justin Herman Plaza, S.F. Call 557-4388 for registration and donation info.
Scary Singing Dwarf An epic opera, Mikhail Glinka's Ruslan and Lyudmila tells the story of a gallant knight's effort to save his fiancee from an evil dwarf. The S.F. Opera is collaborating with the Kirov Opera and the Kirov Ballet to present the first North American production of the work sung in Russian (with English subtitles). Lotfi Mansouri directs; Valery Gergiev conducts. The marathon-length operatics begin at 7 p.m. at the War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness, S.F. Tickets are $21-125; call 864-3330.
Solo and Duo The performance group Cultural Odyssey is now 15, and this year's Solo Mio Festival opens with an awards tribute to its co-artistic directors, Idris Ackamoor and Rhodessa Jones. The pair will perform I Think It's Gonna Work Out Fine, a two-person Ike-and-Tina-influenced musical that made its debut in 1989, long before What's Love Got to Do With It. A benefit for the Center for African and African American Art and Culture, the show starts at 8 p.m. at the Cowell Theater, Fort Mason Center. Tickets are $12-20; call 392-4400.
Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em Sponsored by the Bay Area Robotics Society, Robot Races pits nuts-and-bolts competitors against each other in events like bottle retrieving, rope climbing, sumo wrestling, and line slalom (a 50-foot track with three curves that robots negotiate using their "intelligence"). Competitors range from sleek, minimalist, non-anthropomorphic models to more decorative designs with metal tubing for arms and '50s percolators for heads. The games begin at 11 a.m. (and end at 4 p.m.) at the Exploratorium, 3601 Lyon, S.F. Admission is $2.50-9; call 563-7337.
Easy Riders Their shock absorbers tested by road-quaking bass frequencies, custom-painted lowrider cars have become a commonplace prop in most hip-hop videos. An urban answer to monster-truck and tractor-pull competitions, the 1995 Lowrider Classic Tour pits autos against each other; categories include the Car Hop (bouncing battles) and the Sound-Off Challenge (a stereo duel). A Latinpalooza concert is also part of the show, with performances by Skee-Lo, Rappin' 4-Tay, Spanish Fly, and Stacey Q, mousy-voiced disco dolly. Male/female hard-body competitions round out the classy chassis entertainment. Be there if you dare 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Cow Palace, 2600 Geneva, S.F. Tickets are $18; call 469-6065.
Queen of the Damned A bookstore appearance by Anne Rice is always a spectacle, with hordes of pale-faced goths dressed in black venturing out of their crypts and into the sunlight to meet their idol. With the extremely silly Tom Cruise/Interview With the Vampire controversy behind her, Rice has quit placing full-page ads for the movie (disguised as letters to her readers) in the New York Times and gone back to writing Bible-length books. Pitting Satan against Marianne Williamson (philosophically, not literally), her latest, Memnoch the Devil, is (supposedly) the final installment in the Vampire Chronicles series. She signs it and reads from it 5-8 p.m. at Dark Carnival, 3086 Claremont, Berkeley. Free; call (510) 654-7323.
Help Your Fellow Author Shahrnush Parsipur is the author of several books, including the forthcoming Prison Memoirs, a narrative about her experiences in the prisons of Iran. In Parsipur's home country, all but one of her books are banned, and her belief in women's equality and basic human rights has put her life in danger. A group of Bay Area authors, including Amy Tan, Anne Lamott, and Isabel Allende, has come together to present a benefit for the writer; Jon Carroll will moderate, Alev Croutier will read from a translation of Parsipur's work, and the author herself will be on hand, answering questions through an interpreter. The reading begins at 7:30 p.m. at Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista, Corte Madera. Admission is $25; call 927-0960.
Objectification Taking a cue from "pathetic artist" Mike Kelley, the four artists featured in "Fabricators: New Bay Area Sculpture" use found and homemade clothes, stuffed animals, and furniture to collapse high/low art distinctions and address themes of childhood, sex, and gender. Michelle Rollman places floppy-eared, hand-sewn rabbits in humiliating situations; Marisa Hernandez and Melissa Pokorny create bizarre domestic decor; and D-L Alvarez offers works like Shawl, a fragile web of his own hair recently shown at University Art Museum's "In a Different Light" exhibition. See their work 11 a.m.-6 p.m. at Center for the Arts Galleries, 701 Mission, S.F. Admission is $2.50-5; call 978-2787.