"The tradition of music in barbershops goes back to Elizabethan times," says Joseph Schlesinger of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America. But, he says, what Americans recognize as barbershop harmonizing is an indigenous American style from the turn of the century. Tonight, one of the society's Chicago chapters, "Number One," holds its annual corned-beef-and-cabbage cabaret, a showcase for various barbershop quartets. A cash bar opens at 6:15 PM and dinner will be served at 7:20 at the Bismarck Hotel, 171 W. Randolph. Tickets are $16.50. Call 941-0015 or 889-0255.
"So long as I live, the love of Beauty will be my guide," wrote Natalie Clifford Barney in her unpublished autobiography. "I therefore have to find or found a milieu that fits my aspirations." Barney, an American heiress expatriate in Paris during the early 20th century, did just that by starting a lesbian salon that became more notorious than that of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. The young French poet, Renee Vivien, was one of many who visited Barney and became her lovers. Their affair was a study in contrasts--Barney was vivacious and outrageous, Vivien was somber and suicidal. Karla Jay, who has edited several anthologies (including the ground-breaking Out of the Closet: Voices of Gay Liberation) and has translated Vivien's poetry, will talk about her new book on Barney and Vivien, The Amazon and the Page, at 8 PM at Women & Children First, 1967 N. Halsted. It's free. Call 440-8824.
While almost everybody celebrates Saint Patrick's Day with silly green beer and shamrock pins, DJ Kevin Riordan will host Stone Cold Blarney for the sixth straight year at the Artful Dodger in Bucktown. Riordan's salute to Irish music will include traditional songs by the Chieftains and Sean O'Riada as well as the sounds of contemporary Irish musicians the Pogues, Horslips, and Sinead O'Connor. The fun starts at 10 PM at 1734 W. Wabansia. There's no cover and, Riordan promises, "no idiocy." For more call 227-6859.
One of the things that killed acting mayor Eugene Sawyer's election chances on the lakefront was the Steve Cokely affair, which angered many Jewish voters. Although Fourth Ward Alderman Timothy Evans was one of the first black elected officials to call for Cokely's firing, he took three days to publicly call for Cokely's ouster after the scandal broke. So it's a sure bet that he'll have a lot of explaining to do when he makes an 11 AM campaign stop at the Kol Ami Center, 150 E. Huron, in suite 710. There will be a question-and-answer session after Evans's speech, which will be followed by a brief reception. It's free. Call 664-4775.
Minoxidil, the alleged miracle drug, does stimulate hair growth in some people, but it's not for everybody--for it to work, individuals must have "male-pattern baldness" and be in good health. If you think you qualify and want to try a new balding treatment using Rogaine Topical Solution (which is 2 percent Minoxidil), you may want to come to a free screening program today between 9 and 5 at the Alexian Brothers Medical Center, 850 Biesterfield Road in Elk Grove. Participants will view a ten-minute educational film on baldness and consult with doctors. Appointments are required, so call 981-3675.
The tradition of Saint Joseph's table began in Sicily during the 19th century, when the wives of local fishermen prayed to Saint Joseph, promising to provide food for the poor if he safely delivered their husbands from the sea. Of course, Saint Joe came through, but since his feast day fell during Lent, the wives served no meat during their banquet for the poor. In Chicago, this tradition has been celebrated since 1960 at Notre Dame Parish, 1336 W. Flournoy. Parishioners still serve no meat, but have added many Latin American and Asian dishes to reflect the changing neighborhood. This year the feast, to which parishioners and the poor are welcome, coincides with Palm Sunday. The blessing of the table is at 4 PM and mass follows at 5. Food will be served free of charge until 7. Donations are welcome. For more call 243-7400.
Skip David Letterman tonight and consider Late Night at Anshe Sholom With the Not Ready for Prime Time Purim Players. The north-side temple celebrates one of Judaism's most festive holidays, beginning at 6:15 PM with a reading of the story of Esther, who saved the Jews from annihilation. That will be followed by a "Purim Shpiel," in which actors will poke fun at the "Lifestyles of the Rich and Jewish Famous," among other things. Top raffle prizes include a $1,000 Israel bond and a $100 gift certificate from Pompian, the Oak Street boutique. There'll be door prizes and refreshments. Raffle tickets are $10, but admission is free. The temple's at 540 W. Melrose. Call. 248-9200 for more.
David Nelson's portait of Mayor Harold Washington in lingerie was arrested by Chicago police. Joe Ziolkowski's photograph of two naked men embracing and hanging upside down was covered at a recent exhibit. Last week veterans gathered for days on the steps of the Art Institute demanding that "Dread" Scott Tyler's controversial flag work be pulled from a show. All of them are attempts at censorship in the view of the Chicago Artists' Coalition and the Committee for Artists' Rights, the two groups sponsoring Beyond the First Amendment, a free panel discussion of artists' legal rights and social responsibilities. Featured will be lawyers and artists, some of whom have recently been censored. It starts at 7:30 PM at the DePaul University Stuart Center, 2324 N. Seminary. Call 670-2060 for details.
"Our celebration of the Abolition of Slavery in Puerto Rico brings to our neighborhood an awareness of the roots of our culture," said Olga Medina of the Centro Cultural Ruiz Belvis, 1632 N. Milwaukee. "It's a symbol of our African, Spanish, and indigenous heritage." As part of the celebration, a poster by Eli Samuel Rodriguez will be unveiled at 7 PM to commemorate the end of slavery on the Caribbean island on this day in 1873. Also on display is the mural Festival Lament and Caribbean Suite, created and designed by neighborhood kids under the direction of artists John Webber and Mirtes Zwierzynski, and "Puerto Rico's Saints," an exhibit of 31 handcrafted wooden figures that comes courtesy of New York's Museum of Contemporary Art. The cultural center's viewing hours are 1 to 3 PM Monday through Thursday, but appointments can be made during the weekend. It's free. Call 235-3988.
When Robert MacNeil, cohost of PBS's MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, worked on the TV series and book The Story of English, he was surprised to find that most people considered language--the great love of his life--a dull subject. Wordstruck is MacNeil's new book about his experiences discovering the richness of language. Eudora Welty says, "Written with perception, candor, and humor, this memoir revolves around the premise that poetry is a fact of life, as the news of the world is--and indeed includes it." MacNeil will appear at 7:30 tonight at the Unitarian Church of Evanston, 1330 Ridge in Evanston. You have to be a member of the Evanston Library Friends to attend, but the group will offer memberships for $5 at the door. Call 866-0300.
"Keep watch and ward," wrote William James to his brother Henry in 1876, "lest in your style you become too Parisian and lose your hold on the pulse of the great American public." A year later, Henry James responded with The American, which chronicles the adventures of a rich, naive American who crosses the Atlantic in search of worldliness and a wife. The story, adapted and directed by Michael Salvador, is City Lit Theater's fully staged and costumed presentation through April 16. Show time is 8 PM Thursday through Sunday at Live Bait Theater, 3914 N. Clark. Tickets are $12 and $14. Call 271-1100.