Your Body Is a Battleground From Danger to Dignity: The Fight for Safe Abortion chronicles the history of the U.S. abortion rights movement, in particular, the events leading to Roe vs. Wade. Created by Concentric Media (whose 1993 doc When Abortion Was Illegal: Untold Stories garnered an Academy Award nomination), the film weaves together two parallel narratives: the evolution of underground networks to help women find safe abortions outside the law; and activist/legislator efforts to make abortion legal. Followed by a question-and-answer session with the filmmakers, both From Danger to Dignity and When Abortion Was Illegal screen at 7:30 p.m. at UC Theatre, 2036 University, Berkeley. Tickets are $4-6.50; call (510) 843-6267.
Art You Can Eat Bean and noodle portrait artist Jason Mecier strikes again: His latest show features images from Showgirls and a 12-piece Melrose Place cast set (including a Kimberly featuring detachable wig and a scalp riddled with words like "hate," "fuck," and "bomb"). Broadening his scope, Mecier is also creating yarn, felt, and cotton puff-ball portraits of luminaries like Lucille Ball, Carol Channing, Buffy Sainte-Marie, and Patti Smith. A reception for the artiste lasts 6 to 9 p.m. at Belcher Studios Gallery, 69 Belcher, S.F. The show continues through Jan. 6. Free; call 863-8745.
High Voltage The loneliness and loveliness of a life spent on the highway: A tried-and-true country theme, but Jay Farrar makes it contemporary on Trace, the debut album by Son Volt. If praise from rock critics is an adequate measure, Farrar's new band is better than Wilco, the group formed by the rest of his bandmates in Uncle Tupelo (who broke up in 1994). Son Volt has been lumped together with a growing number of "new traditionalists" -- Freakwater, S.F.'s own lovely Tarnation, and other groups whose approach to roots music is both romantic and pragmatic -- but the songwriting on Trace transcends trends. The Carpetbaggers open for Son Volt at 8 p.m. at Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell, S.F. Tickets are $10; call 885-0750.
Sold to the Highest Bidder 'Tis the season for fund-raising art shindigs. New Langton Arts' annual Artists Auction includes silent and noisy bidding for stuff by local and national creators. Works by D-L Alvarez, Kathy Spence, bad boy Lyle Ashton Harris, pathetic-and-proud Cary Leibowitz/Candyass, and others will be available; clotheshorses, muscle queens, and modern primates can feast on non-art treats from Emporio Armani, Gold's Gym, and Tattoo City, among others. Pamela Z, Julie Queen, and Markus will provide sounds. A preview party ($20) begins at 5:30 p.m.; the auction starts at 7 p.m. at 1246 Folsom, S.F. Suggested admission is $7; call 626-5416.
On the Move "Dance Makers" unites four varied local Filipino/Asian-American choreographers. Jesselito Bie performs Siamese Dream, a kung fu destruction of The King and I, with music by the Pixies and Hole. Enrico Labayen mixes classical ballet and Philippine dance in Damas and Romance. Sharon Sato offers Window, a modern work for two performers. Pearl Ubungen presents Refugee/The Wall, a site-specific performance about border patrol and anti-immigrant sentiment in California. The program starts at 8 p.m. (through Sunday) at New Performance Gallery, 3153 17th St., S.F. Tickets are $12.50; call 626-1781.
Bad Girls Onstage The latest dramatic endeavor from Marilyn Monroe Memorial Theater, Wannabe: A Girl Gang Invasion, pits a rampaging clan of nocturnal she-devils against one man. Who wins? Find out at 9 p.m. at 96 Lafayette, S.F. The show continues through Jan. 18, with a special New Year's Eve mod party/performance. Tickets are $12 ($30-50 on New Year's Eve); call 552-3034.
Bad Girls on Film A thriving subgenre of contemporary cinema: films about pretty teen-age girls with strong lesbian and even stronger homicidal impulses. Peter Jackson's funny-then-traumatic, superfantastic Heavenly Creatures (based on a real-life murder committed by mystery novelist Anne Perry) set the mold in 1994. More recent entries include Sister My Sister (killer maids) and Fun (a U.S. flick that hasn't shown in S.F.). Director Ana Kokkinos offers a woman's perspective with Only the Brave, about two Australian teens who like drugs, vandalism, fights, and sex. The film screens at 6, 8, and 10 p.m. at the Roxie, 3125 16th St., S.F. Tickets are $6; call 863-1087.
You Gotta Have Art A visual arts center for disabled adults, Creativity Explored offers hands-on instruction in ceramics, painting, sculpture, photography, and other mediums. The site's annual Holiday Open House and Art Sale includes works by over 70 artists, including nationally exhibited pieces by Vincent Jackson, Cam Quach, and Douglas Sheran. Look and buy from 6 to 9 p.m. at 3245 16th St., S.F. Free; call 863-2108.
Gone But Not Forgotten Championed as an heir to Eisenstein, Armenian director Sergei Paradjanov made an international splash in 1964 with Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors. In Shadows, Paradjanov's "dramaturgy of color" (co-conceived with cinematographer Yuri Ilyenko) evokes a world of sex, death, murder, madness, and family feuds. Flamboyant and outspoken, Paradjanov spent more than seven years in Soviet prisons on a variety of trumped-up charges (anti-Soviet nationalism, homosexuality, and incitement to suicide); he died in 1990. Praised by current directors like Atom Egoyan, he's experiencing a posthumous surge in popularity, though: Coupled with various co-features, a new print of Shadows highlights "Mystic Eyes: The Films of Sergei Paradjanov," a weeklong tribute. The movie starts at 8 p.m. at the Castro Theatre, Castro & Market, S.F. Tickets are $6; call 621-6120.
Anthropomorphic Antics Question: What would you like for Christmas this year? Answer: A) Fruit; B) Vegetables; C) Toys. Those are the three options chimps, orangutans, gorillas, and elephants at the S.F. Zoo have to choose from. They'll tear into, stomp on, and generally destroy boxes containing the aforementioned gifts at scheduled times from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at S.F. Zoo (where kids can join Santa in the Lion House) on Sloat Boulevard (near the Pacific Ocean), S.F. Admission is $1.50-7; call 753-7171.
Party Arty An art sale and raffle for Visual Aid -- an organization devoted to producing, presenting, and preserving the work of artists living with AIDS -- "Big Deal" offers hundreds of pieces this year, all priced at 75 buckeroos. Contributing artists include Bruce Conner; Margaret Crane and Jon Winet; and photographers Nina Glaser and Jim Goldberg (whose Raised by Wolves monograph about homeless youth provides a perfect antidote to the exploitive creepiness of Larry Clark's teen fixation). Also featuring food, drinks, and music, the event lasts from 5 to 11 p.m. at Space 743, 743 Harrison, S.F. Admission is $10; call 777-8242.
Dozens of Dervishes Seven-hundred-year-old Eastern music and sacred dance will take over a high school gymnasium when the Mevlevi Order of America performs "Sema -- The Dance of Ecstasy," a tribute to Sufi Master Mevlana Jalalludin Rumi. Adorned in tall hats and white-skirted garments, the whirling dervishes will spin in unison at 7 p.m. at Martin Luther King Jr. High School, 350 Girard, S.F. Tickets are $15; call 695-0472.
Picture This "From the West: Chicano Narrative Photography" features over 100 images by six photographers: Robert C. Buitrón, Christina Fernandez, Harry Gamboa Jr., Miguel Gandert, Delilah Montoya, and Kathy Vargas. The final installment in a four-part traveling series, the exhibition examines the links between Chicano history, the history of photography, and the cultural construction of the American West. You can see it from noon to 5 p.m. at Fort Mason Center, Bldg. D, S.F. The show continues through Jan. 7. Free; call 441-0404.
Tribute to Essex Along with fellow author Joseph Beam (whose In the Life he contributed to) and filmmaker Marlon Riggs (whose Tongues Untied he appears in), Essex Hemphill is another gay African-American voice recently lost to AIDS. Jewelle Gomez, Alan E. Miller, Thom Bean, Brian Freeman of Pomo Afro Homos, and April Sinclair (author of the great Coffee Will Make You Black) pay tribute to Hemphill at a 4 p.m. reading at A Different Light, 489 Castro, S.F. Free; call 431-0891.
Fishy Business As its name suggests, the Fish Roundabout is a circular tank filled with a variety of fast-swimming fish. Whether or not you know anything about aquatic life (and whether or not you're on drugs), it's the kind of hypnotic sight you can gaze at for hours, mainly because there are so many types of fish: fluorescent, huge, small, big-eyed, and just plain weird. In celebration of the renovated 100,000-gallon, 204-foot tank's reopening, Steinhart Aquarium has filled it with California barracuda; Pacific bonito and mackerel; yellowtail tuna; ocean whitefish; and more. (Anchovies and sardines will be on hand to demonstrate the food chain.) Watch the fish go round and round from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (though the 2 p.m. feeding time is especially thrilling) at California Academy of Sciences, Golden Gate Park, S.F. Admission is $1.50-7; call 750-7145.
Pretty Poison In 1991, Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story director Todd Haynes presented his feature debut, Poison, an ambitious film that braids together three separate stories -- a B horror tale of a scientist who turns into a "leper murderer"; a mock TV-documentary about a boy who shoots his abusive father and flies off into the sky; and a grimy, sexy prison drama based on the writings of Jean Genet -- into a singular vision of stigma and transcendent escape. "Two by Todd" starts with Poison at 7:30 and 9:15 p.m. at the Red Vic, 1727 Haight, S.F. Tickets are $4.50-5.50; call 668-3994. (The cruelly overlooked Safe -- best film of 1995, according to critics Graham Fuller and Jonathan Rosenbaum, director John Waters, and Night + Day -- finishes the program at 7 and 9:25 p.m. on Tuesday.)
Ol' Blue Eyes Today is Frank Sinatra's 80th birthday. Accordingly, the man has been the subject of much recent fanfare, from a three-concert salute at Carnegie Hall in July to a complete retrospective (24 CDs) of his Reprise recordings this fall. Megatalent or megajerk (or both)? Whatever the answer, there's no denying that big Frank currently gets more respect -- and attention -- than the fey Johnnys (Ray and Mathis) and Rat Packers (Sammy and Dean) of his heyday. Club Deluxe offers its own special tribute: Men and women will smoke cigars and drink martinis as owner J. Johnson croons Sinatra tunes to canned music. Also featuring a look-alike contest and video/CD giveaways, the night begins at 9 p.m. at Club Deluxe, 1511 Haight, S.F. Admission is $4; call 552-6949.