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Wednesday, Jul 16 1997
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wednesday
july 16
No People Like Show People Ethel Merman's hearty pipes find new life in cabaret artiste Varla Jean Merman, a zaftig drag queen who describes herself as the bastard offspring of Ms. Merman and Ernest Borgnine. Opera News was apparently nonplused by Merman-the-younger's unconventional presence, and gave a breezy mention to her vocal remix of the Madama Butterfly aria "Un bel di" with Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive." Theatergoers, meanwhile, enjoyed her as Mary Sunshine in the Broadway production of Chicago, and at Carnegie Hall, where she gave a Christmas concert for God's Love We Deliver. But with the exception of locals who saw her film debut in Franchesca Page at Sundance or here during the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival last month, Varla Jean (aka Jeff Roberson) is something of a new face on the left coast; she'll open her cabaret and video show I, Who Have Nothing at 10 p.m. tonight (through Aug. 2) at Josie's Cabaret & Juice Joint, 3583 16th St. (at Market), S.F. Admission is $10; call 861-7933.

On Fire The booming bass drum and loopy fun-house organ of Jonathan Fire*Eater's "Give Me Daughters" evoke nothing so much as a drunken brawl between mods, rockers, and street-corner prophets, with singer Stewart Lupton bellowing "Give me daughters/ And make them 1, 2, 3/ I will raise them/ They'll go to church with me" to a go-go beat. Named for pop idol Jonathan Richman, the Fire*Eaters look like the glorious waste of privileged youth (they are) and sound like they could be British popsters (they aren't). They've opened for Lenny Kravitz, will tour with Blur, and have been likened to Nick Cave and the Velvet Underground, which illustrates the delicious time-warp effect of their rollicking, soulful sound. Japan's Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her, who obviously recognize the lyric worth of XTC, precede Jonathan Fire*Eater; our own VSS open the show at 8 p.m. at the Kilowatt, 3160 16th St. (at Albion), S.F. Admission is $6; call 861-2595.

thursday
july 17
Inner Tubes, Kayaks, and Bears, Oh My! Maybe the nagging feeling that summer should be spent rafting white-water rapids and scaling rocky peaks has a little something to do with the kamikaze advertising of recreational products. Architecture-trained assemblage artist Peter Haberkorn thinks so, and to underscore his theory, he has created the installation Blow Out, an outdoorsy little tableau in which a grizzly bear lumbers through a maze of inner tubes and kayaks suspended from the gallery ceiling. There's a lesson for weekend warriors and Madison Avenue lurking somewhere in there. The exhibit opens with a reception and refreshments at 5:30 p.m. (and is up through Sept. 6) at Picture, 524 Third St. (at South Park), S.F. Admission is free; call 543-4124.

Ready, Steady, Betty Lowbrows will best remember Betty Buckley as Abby, the stepmom from '70s sitcom-drama Eight Is Enough (although "highbrow" may not adequately describe her fine dramatic work in Carrie). Buckley has seen her share of Andrew Lloyd Webber roles, too; she was Grizabella in Cats, for which she won a Tony Award, and she starred most recently as Norma Desmond in London and New York productions of Sunset Boulevard. Stagebill contributor Sheryl Flatow will interview the still-youthful-looking Buckley about the pleasures and perils of her brutal profession at a benefit for the San Francisco Performing Arts Library and Museum at 6 p.m. at Star Classics, 425 Hayes (at Gough), S.F. Admission is $5; call 255-4800.

friday
july 18
Say, Can You Sea? With the fate of NEA funding hanging in the balance and small venues regularly closing their doors, it's encouraging to find places like women's performance project space Luna Sea celebrating three years in operation. Over 60 women perform in four different programs over four nights in a marathon of comedy, spoken word, music, dance, and theatrical work representing seasons past. The first night finds Dossie Easton, who turns a sharp and comic phrase with her straightforward brand of erotica and poetry, sharing the bill with Michael Michaelangelo, formerly known as Dolphin Trahan, an engaging performer who gives pop-culture references a refreshing tweak. Hip-hop band Big Daddy Fraude charges up the third night, and performance artist Skeeter, whose mesmerizing tale of adolescent incarceration was a highlight of one of the project's dyke nights, appears in the fourth segment. There isn't room to describe the dozen or so entertainers on each program, so approach this show as the grab bag that it is, and sort through it all later. The marathon begins at 8 p.m. (and continues tomorrow and next Friday and Saturday, July 25 and 26) at Luna Sea, 2940 16th St. (at Capp), S.F. Admission is $8-12; call 863-2989.

Board Silly Surf's always up at "SwitchStance," a sight and sound tribute to local surfing and skateboarding tribes, ushered in by Super 8 film from Bernardo de la Rionda and live surf music sets by the Aqua Velvets and Planet Seven at the opening reception. A sound collage washes over this exhibit of handmade, '60s-era surfboards, surf photography, and paintings by artists who include Kevin Ancell, Jessica Dunne, Mark Bryce, and Elizabeth Pepin. Real Skateboards contributes archival boards to the line graphics and collage work in the skate section, and footage from The Source and Surfing for Life screens as part of a video compilation series. "SwitchStance Cinema" offers still more action with A Love Supreme, a skateboarding documentary set to the music of John Coltrane, along with the aforementioned Surfing for Life, a documentary on senior surfers and surf pioneers, and Skate Witches, a Super 8 featurette by Danny Plotnick. The cinema program begins at 7:30 p.m. July 26 at the San Francisco Art Institute (800 Chestnut). The exhibit opens with the reception tonight at 6 p.m. (and is up through Aug. 30) at the San Francisco Art Commission Gallery, 401 Van Ness (at McAllister), S.F. Admission is free; call 554-6080.

saturday
july 19
Page Me Indie bookstores give the collective finger to the chain monopolies during Independent Bookstore Week, a celebration of intimate venues, where more of the valuable display space is devoted to good books and rarities than to crap autobiographies and pop psychology texts. Local authors Amy Tan, Anne Lamott, Nikki Giovanni, and others have donated work to Out of the Mold, a collection of stories, essays, poems, and illustrations emphasizing the personality and variety of these stores and the books they stock. That same literary diversity asserts itself at Books by the Bay, this afternoon's outdoor book fair, sponsored by the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association. Gorky Park author Martin Cruz Smith and Mistress of Spices author Chitra Divakaruni will read at the fair, as will first-time novelists Patricia Chao (Monkey King) and Tara Ison (A Child Out of Alcatraz). The Poetry Hour includes readings by Francisco X. Alarcon and Kim Addonizio, and Walter the Giant Storyteller will help entertain kids. Live jazz, readings and book-signings by 30 authors, and a children's activity area are slated for the event, which begins at 10 a.m. (and ends at 4 p.m.) on the Embarcadero, Market & Embarcadero, S.F. Admission is free; call 927-3937.

sunday
july 20
Keep on Walkin' It The drugs may be better now, but more people need greater access to the drugs, other people need to be reached so that they won't have to take the drugs later, and those many people unlikely to benefit from the drugs still need care and services, which is why we still have AIDS Walk San Francisco, now in its 11th year. Where does the money go? The Tides Foundation picked 37 beneficiaries this year, among them the Bulletin of Experimental Treatments for AIDS, a free publication from the AIDS Foundation detailing clinical trials and treatment protocols. Hosts at this year's 10K walk range from Frasier star Peri Gilpin to that Don Johnson guy and Living Single's T.C. Carson, who will sing "You'll Never Walk Alone," a fitting theme song for the event, which has drawn over 100,000 participants in the last 10 years. A nondenominational service honoring loved ones lost and reminding walkers of the disease's heavy toll precedes the event at 8:30 a.m. in the AIDS Memorial Grove, Bowling Green & Middle East, Golden Gate Park; the walk begins with 9:30 a.m. sign-in at Sharon Meadow, Golden Gate Park, S.F. Registration is required; call 392-WALK.

Holy Merola "Opera in the Gardens," a free outdoor concert featuring five Opera Center Adler Fellows and five Merola Opera Program members, is a good place for, say, a post-walk picnic (see above). Listeners are invited to spread their blankets on the grass and uncork the Chianti as emerging talents exercise their upper and lower registers on arias and ensemble selections from Verdi's Macbeth and Il Trovatore, Puccini's Madama Butterfly, Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro, and Bizet's Les Pécheurs de Perles. Ian Robertson conducts members of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra at the concert, which begins at 2 p.m. at the Yerba Buena Gardens Esplanade, Mission & Third Street, S.F. Admission is free; call 978-ARTS.

monday
july 21
Mad, Mad, I Tell You Opinion is yet divided among fans as to whether 10,000 Maniacs is really 10,000 Maniacs since former singer Natalie Merchant left the band to record her solo album, Tigerlily. Non-fans who never forgave the old band for sucking the life out of Patti Smith's "Because the Night" will likely think the new lineup's release, Love Among the Ruins, has the same non-threatening, overproduced polish as any other 10,000 Maniacs record, and that if Friends or Party of Five are trawling for next season's soundtrack, this disc is a sure thing. 10,000 Maniacs are a nice band, in the way that Dockers are nice pants; Ruins in no way reflects their vision of Merchant's solo career, as they have said on record, and new singer Mary Ramsey, a viola player and one-time backup singer to the group, is possessed of all Merchant's syrupy sincerity, which lends itself to lyrics like "Young girl in my young girl days/ Thinking I could live for always." Even if Ramsey died tomorrow, the new band has already turned Roxy Music's "More Than This" into a horror of easy listening, so who needed Natalie Merchant anyhow? The show begins at 8 p.m. at Bimbo's 365 Club, 1025 Columbus (at Chestnut), S.F. Admission is $10; call 474-0365.

tuesday
july 22
Drawing on Experience Add to the list of what South Africa lost during apartheid a black politi-cal cartoonist named Nanda Sooben, although it eventually won him back. As a solitary black cartoonist under the separatist rule, Sooben's commentary was subject to censors' cuts. In 1987, after working for the black newspaper Post Natal and doing odd jobs and sign work in Durban, Sooben left South Africa for Brazil. He worked in South and North America, creating a mural in Montclair, N.Y., before moving back to his country following Nelson Mandela's release from prison. Since his return, Sooben has founded a school of design and created The Otherside, a long-running political cartoon for the Natal Witness. The artist will discuss his career and South African political history at a lecture titled "Maintaining African Culture During Apartheid," beginning with registration at 5:15 p.m.; the program starts at 5:45 p.m. at the World Affairs Council, 312 Sutter (at Grant), S.F. Admission is free-$10; call 982-2541.

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Heather Wisner

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