It's a Horrible Life Joan Crawford's star turns in This Woman Is Dangerous and Berserk must seem painfully ironic to her daughter, Christina, who described Joan as a boozer and a bruiser in her famous tell-all book Mommie Dearest, which inspired the over-the-top film of the same name. Most people don't think of Mommie Dearest when they think of Christmas movies, but most people aren't Marc Huestis, the man who organized the "John Waters X-Mas" at the Castro. Huestis smacks us out of It's a Wonderful Life-induced inertia at "Christmas With Christina Crawford," as reporter Erik Lee Preminger interviews Christina onstage about the wire hangers, the new edition of her book, and so forth, while the cast of Christmas With the Crawfords performs and drag queens dressed as Christina or their favorite Joan character compete for a $100 prize in the "Christmas Cavalcade of the Crawfords" promenade. This dysfunctional family show begins at 7 p.m. (Friday night is sold out) at the Castro Theater, 429 Castro (at Market), S.F. Admission is $15 (partial proceeds benefit Project Open Hand); call 863-0611. (A matinee of Mommie Dearest screens at 1 p.m. and a rare screening of the Crawford film Torch Song is held at 3:30 p.m. at the Castro; Christina will autograph new copies of her book after Mommie Dearest screens. Fax questions for Christina to 863-0611 or e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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Pablo and Albert, Together Again Steve Martin's gift for sweet-tempered comedy (think Roxanne or L.A. Story) extends to Picasso at the Lapin Agile, an imagined meeting between the young Albert Einstein, a patent office worker awaiting the publication of his Special Theory of Relativity, and the young Pablo Picasso, pre-Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. Martin delivers a brisk and witty exchange between the theorist (played by Mark Nelson, who won an Obie Award last year for this role) and the painter (played by Paul Provenza) as they spar over art and science in trying to win the same young lady's affections and each other's respect. The action takes place in faux Paris bistro the Lapin Agile (or "Nimble Rabbit") as regulars look on. The play opens at 8 p.m. (and runs through Jan. 4) at the Herbst Theater, 401 Van Ness (at McAllister), S.F. Admission is $34-60; call 392-4400.
Biff! Pao! Henny Youngman, the vaudeville and borscht belt veteran who coined the phrase "Take my wife, please," is still on the comedy circuit at the ripe old age of 91. He'll be cracking wise and playing the violin when he headlines the fifth annual "Evening of Kung Pao Kosher Comedy," a stand-up show where the comedians are Jewish, the food is Chinese, and the fortune cookies are stuffed with Yiddish proverbs. Youngman will be joined by comedian/character actress Judith Sloan, of the one-woman show Denial of the Fittest, and humorist Charlie Varon, of Ralph Nader Is Missing! "Kung Pao" creator Lisa Geduldig, a local comic who claims her mother unintentionally writes most of her material, serves as mistress of ceremonies. There are two shows per evening, through Dec. 26: The dinner show, with a seven-course banquet, begins at 6 p.m.; the cocktail show, with Chinese hors d'oeuvres and a drink, begins at 9:30 p.m. at the New Asia Restaurant, 772 Pacific (at Grant), S.F. Admission is $30-45 and partial proceeds benefit the Charlotte Maxwell Complementary Clinic and Shalom Bayit; call 522-3737.
Like a Candle in the Wind A crowd will gather at dusk tonight for the 23rd annual menorah lighting in Union Square, where they will light their own small candles by passing a flaming torch from hand to hand. That first indelible image will be followed by a second, as Mayor Willie Brown and Rabbi Yosef Langer are crammed into a cherry picker barely big enough for two and hoisted to the top of the 22-foot gas-powered public menorah, which they will try to light together with the flaming torch in recognition of the first day of Hanukkah. San Francisco's menorah lighting, the first such public ceremony outside of Israel, spawned over 160 similar ceremonies internationally. This year's event, which promises live Jewish soul music by Rabbi Asi Spiegal and Bruce Berger of Rebbe Soul, precedes Bill Graham Menorah Day Dec. 28, which begins at 12:30 p.m. and dishes up potato latkes and presents Jane's Addiction singer Perry Farrell on menorah-lighting duty. Tonight's festivities begin at 5 p.m. at Union Square, Powell & O'Farrell, S.F. Admission is free; call 362-6355.