Rat Tale The San Francisco Mime Troupe picked a good time to remount their anti-smoking musical comedy Revenger Rat Meets the Merchant of Death, since California just kicked Joe Camel out of the state last week following charges that R.J. Reynolds was targeting minors with the phallus-nosed comic creation. Revenger Rat is the story of a young, disadvantaged comic-book artist who sells his alter ego, Revenger Rat, to a tobacco giant publicist who promises to get him published in national media as long as Revenger is smoking a Duke cigarette in each frame. The show runs today and Friday at noon and 5 p.m. in Union Square, Powell & Geary, S.F. Admission is free-donation; call 285-1717.
Mission Control File the Mission Art Crawl under "Let's Try This Again," and hope that the event is finally free of the logistics problems that caused its postponement last time around. Venues including Precita Eyes Mural Arts Center, Southern Exposure, the Marsh, Mission Cultural Center, and Galeria de la Raza throw open their doors to the public in this smaller, sunnier, more southerly version of the First Thursday gallery walk. The Crawl runs from 6 to 10 p.m. throughout the Mission; call 626-3311 for a list of participating venues, and check our Calendar's Art Galleries listings for a description of the exhibits.
Lon Time Coming Even though the original, black-and-white version of The Phantom of the Opera was filmed in 1925 and is by now considered prehistoric by Hollywood horror standards, the film is still pretty damn creepy. Grace Cathedral hopes to enhance Lon Chaney's startling performance as the angry, disfigured composer who lives beneath the Paris Opera House and absconds with young singer Mary Philbin when assistant organist Christopher Putnam provides live, improvised accompaniment on the 7,286-pipe Alexander organ, which should echo beautifully through the church's long, stony Gothic corridors. The screening begins at 8 p.m. (also Friday) at Grace Cathedral, 1100 California (at Taylor), S.F. Admission is $12-25; call 749-6304.
Freewheelin' The Bicycle-Friendly Berkeley Coalition celebrates its second anniversary with a heavily bike-biased bash featuring a bike cake, a bike auction, bike jewelry, bike-related models and displays, a smash-the-car pinata, and a presentation on the I-80 bike overpass. Home-brew will also be served. The party begins at 7 p.m. at the Berkeley Store Gallery Annex, 2295 Shattuck (at Bancroft), Berkeley. Admission is free; call (510) 704-5599.
The Swing of Things Boys in zoot suits and girls in pleated skirts and spit curls will be rubbing elbows with modern dancers, legume artists, camera crews, and the women of local TV news when Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers play a swing dance party inaugurating four new exhibits at Center for the Arts. Nancy Karp + Dancers perform new site-specific work when the galleries open their doors at 8 p.m.; guests can take it in as they peruse the new exhibits: "A-Volve," an interactive installation by Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau that allows viewers to design aquatic life forms at a computer workstation, then watch them come alive in a water tank; "Henry Darger: The Unreality of Being," a collection of watercolor scrolls and collages made by a societal outcast; "Three Great Walls," multilayered installations of paintings and drawings by Carolyn Castano, Margaret Kilgallen, and Shahzia Sikander; and "Ladies of the News," Jason Mecier and Jim Winters' portraits of Elaine Corral, Terilyn Joe, and other local talking heads, made from beans and noodles, silk-screen, latex, and yarn. Swing dance teachers Rob van Haaren and Diane Thomas offer a free beginners class at 9 p.m., and then the band strikes up at 9:30 in the Forum, although dancers are expected to spill out into the East Gardens for a swing under the stars. The party is held at Center for the Arts, 701 Mission (at Third Street), S.F. Admission is $10; call 978-ARTS.
Fest Bets It'd be bigger news if there wasn't a festival in the area, but that probably won't happen until Christmas, which leaves us with a slew of options to choose from. The California Indian Festival offers performances by Aztec, Intertribal, and Hawaiian dance groups, along with arts and crafts, food, and activities like the Indian fastpitch softball tournament. Themed "camps" dominate the Oakland Gay Mardi Gras Block Party: These include the family-friendly "Hometown U.S.A.," with its root beer stands and street performers; the kitschy "Queensland," a forest of love beads and an AstroTurf garden planted with giant Day-Glo flowers, hair curlers, and lipstick; and "Butch Garden," a dance palace for disco, rock, and new wave, designed with Mad Max in mind. A costumed Signorina Spaghetti greets guests at the Italian Festa, a two-day affair packed with pasta and polenta, cultural exhibits, live Italian entertainment, an Italian Farmers Market, and kids activities, all sponsored by your friends at Gallo Salame. And finally, the Outdoor Arts Festival features live music and arts and crafts by over 200 artists. The Indian Festival begins at 10:30 a.m. at the Fort Winfield Scott Parade Grounds, the Presidio, S.F. Admission is free; call 561-3992. Mardi Gras begins at noon in Preservation Park, Clay between 12th and 14th streets in the city center, Oakland. Admission is $4-7; call (510) 548-8283. The Italian Festa begins at 11 a.m. (and on Sunday at 10 a.m.) in Jack London Square, Oakland. Admission is free; call (510) 814-6000. (Also, the Leonard Rossi Trio plays the Festa's Ballo Notturno Sotto Le Stelle at 7:30 p.m. tonight.) The Outdoor Arts Festival opens at 10 a.m. on Beach between Hyde and Larkin, S.F. Admission is free; call 252-2559.
Surrender? OK Cheap Trick qualifies as epic, for the legions of bands it launched with its infectious brand of Midwestern bubble-gum rock; for the sound of thousands of teen-age girls screaming ecstatically at twin heartthrobs Tom Petersson and Robin Zander on the album Live at Budokan; for the harmonies in "Surrender" and the hooks in "I Want You to Want Me," which, along with "Heaven Tonight," evoke sticky-sweet memories of make-out sessions and arena parking lot escapades for a huge chunk of the 25-and-older crowd. If the old songs don't take you back at this show, the scalpers out front just might. Cry of Love open at 8 p.m. at the Trocadero, 520 Fourth St. (at Bryant), S.F. Admission is $20; call 437-4446.
High in Fiber Gold Rush-era quilts and religious vestments from California's Mission period are woven into the crazy quilt of creations in "The Fabric of Life: 150 Years of Northern California Fiber Art History." The exhibit, which comprises work by over 100 artists, demonstrates the practical side of textiles along with the cultural, like the Hmong story cloth, and the political, like the Peace Ribbon (Around the Pentagon). Quilter Rosie Lee Thompkins, Bauhaus-influenced weaver Trude Guermonprez, and tapestry-makers Jean Pierre Larochette and Yael Lurie, meanwhile, focus on textile as contemporary art. The show opens with a reception at 2 p.m. (and is up through Oct. 18) at the Art Department Gallery, Arts and Industry Building, 1600 Holloway, SFSU campus. Admission is free; call 338-6535.
One, Two, Cha-Cha-Cha One thing that the otherwise amusing and illuminating ballroom dance movies Strictly Ballroom and Shall We Dance? don't cover is the scrutineer, whose job is not to stare down contestants, as the title might suggest, but to tally up the judges' scores. Ava Kaye will serve as scrutineer at the City Lights Ball, a pro/am dance showcase and competition with dozens of Bay Area competitors. When spectators aren't oohing and aahing over the showcase dance by defending U.S. Latin champions Bob Powers and Julia Gorchakova, they will be awwing over contestants in the under-7 category. The event, held in honor of National Ballroom Dance Week, is split into day and evening sessions, with all ages and skill levels testing their mettle on samba, rumba, tango, quickstep, and other dances. Social dancing will also be held throughout the day and evening sessions. It all begins at 10 a.m. at the Metronome Ballroom, 1830 17th St. (at De Haro), S.F. Admission is $5-32; call 681-9083.
Adult Books Last year it was Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach. This year's most absurd designee on the national list of banned books has got to be Shel Silverstein's A Light in the Attic, which was blackballed apparently due to one particularly threatening passage that encouraged children to break dishes instead of wash them. The S.F. Public Library celebrates Banned Books Week with "Censored: Soapbox Readings From Banned Books." Howard Junker, editor of local literary magazine Zyzzyva, will be leading librarians, teens, personalities like Live 105's Johnny Steele and West Coast Live host Sedge Thompson, and local writers including novelists Po Bronson and Donna Levin, Chronicle columnist Adair Lara, and poet Jewelle Gomez in reading selections from censored fiction, poetry, and prose. Bronson will read from Upton Sinclair's Oil, which made the list for its reference to birth control, and Levin will take up the perennially controversial Catcher in the Rye. To find out which of your favorite works have been challenged or banned, check out the American Library Association's Web site at www.ala.org/bbooks. The reading begins at noon on the Larkin Street steps of the New Main Library, 100 Larkin (at Market), S.F. Admission is free; call 557-4277.
Show Us Some Skin! Hamburger Mary's, whose own staff members have made the covers of tattoo mags like Skin, produced a tattoo and piercing show in '93, when contestants wound up dancing on the bar and the winner was a man with a multiply pierced penis; now HM has goes one step further with the Manipulation Distinction Show. Pierced, tattooed, branded, and otherwise manipulated types competing for the $100 prize will be rated by Shannon Archuleta from Gauntlet, "Tennessee" Dave Sullivan from Anubis Warpus, and Patrick and Lad from Erno's. Contestants must be at least 18 years old, and manipulations must be permanent, which rules out push-up bras, clown noses, and decorative henna painting (contest organizers consider it wimpy). The show begins at 9 p.m. at Hamburger Mary's, 1582 Folsom (at 12th Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 626-6653.