Corky Hale has played harp for Liberace and piano for Billie Holiday; she has accompanied Mel Torme, Peggy Lee, and Lena Horne; sung for Harry James, Ray Anthony, and Clark Terry; recorded with Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra, and Bjsrk; and worked in television for Red Skelton, David Rose, and Spike Jones. Throughout her career, she has straddled idioms, instruments, and genres, often blazing a trail for other female performers intimidated by patriarchal barriers. Her solo performances often take the form of intimate and invaluable aural autobiographies, with small sections dedicated to each artist who has touched her life. Expect sublime moments on harp, piano, and vox Wednesday, May 7, through Saturday, May 10, at the Plush Room at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15-20; call 885-2800. ... On Ideas for Shopkeepers, Jack Wiley -- creator of Thin -- seems to take for granted his naturally suave, relaxed vocal chords, a thing for which so many pitiable singers on the lounge circuit obviously yearn. Innuendo and subtlety drip off of his tongue like forgotten bubbles of saliva. The ease allows him spite, without venom. When he gently sambas through "Undertaker" -- in which he coos "I want to slip the noose around my opponent's throat/ And pull the lever/ So the floor disappears/ And she chokes" and "When I'm well-hung/ I want to stumble into a booth/ Stuff some coins in your mouth/ So that you spit up some truth" -- the listener is more than willing to act as accomplice. Wiley's uncanny knack for effortlessly blending surf and jazz chords with pungent, nearly surreal songwriting makes Shopkeepers acutely enticing, if not a bit creepy. One of the best new talents to appear in the Bay Area for quite a while. Thin celebrates the release of Ideas for Shopkeepers at Cafe Du Nord on Wednesday, May 7, at 10 p.m. Tickets are $3; call 861-5016. DJ Otto von Stronheim spins tiki classics accompanied by rare surf footage. ... From the director who scandalized and titillated Mission District moviegoers with Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam comes a new documentary that continues to excavate Nick Broomfield's particular obsession with transgressive women (female soldiers, Nevada prostitutes, female serial killers, and Margaret Thatcher, to name a few). While Broomfield claims that he is less present within this film's structure, it is a safe bet that Fetishes will offer further insight into his psyche as he carefully explores those at Pandora's Box -- a Manhattan S/M brothel that caters exclusively to submissives. With exhibitionistic enthusiasm, Pandora's experienced mistresses, and their willing clients, offer the camera lens lessons in whipping, paddling, infantilism, asphyxiation, mummification, medieval torture, medical fantasies, washroom etiquette, and humiliation in many forms. Fetishes opens at the Roxie on Friday, May 9; call 431-3611. ... Carl Cox is easily considered the largest techno DJ in Britain (in reputation, not stature, though he is a big boy), which makes him arguably the largest in the world, given Britain's impact on the genre. His first compilation, F.A.C.T. (Future Alliance of Communication and Technology), released on his own label, sold over 160,000 units. Pretty impressive for someone without distribution in the United States. In 1996, Cox won his second International Dance Award for DJ of the year, which he adds to similar accolades from Scotland, Ireland, Germany, and France. His ceaseless touring regimen, which takes him to Berlin's "Love Parade" (a rave 800,000 strong), has also taken him into corners of the world rarely exposed to techno at all: Israel, South Africa, Japan, and Australia. This tour celebrates the release of F.A.C.T. 2 and marks the first time that his material will be available stateside. After signing a contract with Moonshine Records for over a mil, I imagine we'll be seeing a lot more of him. Cox spins at 1015 Folsom's "Nikita" dance night on Friday, May 9, at 2:30 a.m. Tickets are $5-10; call 575-1575. L.A.'s Mark Lewis and S.F.'s Henrik also spin. ... Combining some of the greatest Cuban musicians working today, ACubanismo! is a must for lovers of the mambo, the cha-cha, and the descarga. They perform at the Great American Music Hall on Saturday, May 10, at 8 and 11 p.m. Tickets are $20-22; call 885-0750. ... Known to many as the band that does that "Nellie the Elephant" song, the Toy Dolls have toured for the last 18 years and 14 albums without press or label support. Hardly surprising, since the Toy Dolls are almost exclusively a live band. While the fine sing-alongs found on albums like Dig That Groove Baby can encapsulate the patty-cake punkiness of the trio, they could never parallel the giddy squalor generated by one of the group's beer-drenched gigs. This seems just fine with the lads, who claim to release records in order to promote tours, rather than the other way around. It's all about wearing boots, getting drunk, throwing your arm around a complete stranger, doing the cancan (or the pogo depending on how many of you there are), and singing along. You'll pick up the lyrics in no time. The Toy Dolls hop up the garden path at the Trocadero on Monday, May 12, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10; call 495-6620. The Aquabats open.
-- Silke Tudor