A few years ago the Gay Comix series featured "Leatherthing," a proud yet poignant story about the waning of one of the gay community's most controversial subcultures. Now comes A Novena for the Leatherman: The Train's Contents a eulogy of sorts by Eric Schmidt, a performance artist motivated by the "power of language to transcend its conventional meanings." N.A.M.E. Gallery, 700 N. Carpenter, promises theater, music, and mystery at 8 tonight and tommorow. Tickets are $6, $4 for members; reservations are recommended. Call 226-0671.
Bernice Johnson Reagon's resume includes activism in the civil rights movement with Martin Luther King Jr., teaching black studies, curating at the Smithsonian, and winning a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant of $275,000 last year. Not bad at all for a woman born poor and black. Sweet Honey in the Rock, the a capella group Reagon founded, will appear at the Preston Bradley Center, 941 W. Lawrence, at 8 tonight. Tickets are $17.50. For more call 489-7264
Torch singer Andrea Marcovicci has been scorching hearts at George's with a cycle of love songs by Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, and other theater favorites. Tonight's performances at 8 and 10:30 are her last for a while, and in the second set of the late show she'll experiment with new songs and arrangements. Dinner packages are available for $39.50; otherwise tickets are $17.50 and $20, plus a two-drink minimum. George's is at 230 W. Kinzie. Call 644-2293.
Sculptor Louise Nevelson didn't get her first solo exhibition until she was 41 or her first major museum purchase until she was almost 60. Before her large, abstract works made her a success, she kept busy acting, dancing, and helping out Diego Rivera with his murals. Eclectic, idiosyncratic, and sometimes just plain weird, Nevelson was a critic and collector's favorite by the time she died last year. The Richard Gray Gallery, 620 N. Michigan, opens its fall season today with a retrospective Nevelson sculpture from 1959 to 1987. The show, which is free, runs through December. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 to 5:30. For more call 642-8877.
This year's Bughouse Square Debates begin at 4 PM today, in the park opposite the Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton. Former City Council parliamentarian Leon M. Despres will emcee. Among the featured topics are capital punishment, flag burning, abortion, and the city's trauma system. Debaters include former Illinois Supreme Court judge Seymour F. Simon, feminist Elaine Weiss, and Cook County board president wannabe Pat Quinn. It's free. Call 943-9090.
The Guatemalan constitution, adopted in 1985, specifically prohibits former dictators from seeking the presidency. But Efrain Rios Montt, who tyrannized the country in the early 80s, is now campaigning against Vinicio Cerezo, the current democratically elected leader. How? According to Rios Montt and his supporters, the constitution can't be applied retroactively; and unless the issue goes to the Guatemalan supreme court soon, it won't be. That will give Rios Montt a strong chance to return to power, and the people most likely to suffer are indigenous, poor Indians, You can help by participating in the second annual Pedal for Peace, Bike-A-Thon for Guatemala, sponsored by the Chicago Metropolitan Sanctuary Alliance. Proceeds from the fundraiser will be directed to agricultural development and health-care projects for "internal refugees." Cyclists will gather at 1:30 PM at the totem pole east of Lake Shore Drive at Addison. They can choose a 12-mile loop to Shedd Aquarium and back or a 24-mile loop to 55th Street and back. The registration fee is $7, $4 for seniors and students. If you want to contribute without sweating, you can pledge any amount you like to any rider, There will be Guatemalan music and food back at the totem pole from 4 to 5:30. For more call 899-1180.
All right, there are actually only five poems in Jimmy Stewart and His Poems, although they're cleverly dragged out across 32 pages. Still, whether you like Stewart the poet or not, you may want to meet Stewart the actor. He'll be signing copies of his poetry book from 1 to 3 PM at Kroch's & Brentano's, Water Tower Place, 835 N. Michigan. The book sells for $8.95; be prepared to spend it if you really want an autograph--only books bought at Kroch's will be signed. For more call 943-2452.
The intersection of Damen, North, and Milwaukee was considered a dangerous no-man's-land just a few years ago. Now it anchors a hip, hot new neighborhood that young artists and white professionals are buying up, renovating, and moving into. Many of the area's residents, more than half of whom are Latino, bought their homes back when no one else wanted them. These folks are now being threatened by escalating real estate values, speculation, and aggressive solicitation. State Senator Miguel del Valle's Fifth Legislative District Housing Advisory Committee will sponsor Homeowners' Rights in Our Changing Community, a neighborhood forum especially for longtime owners who want to stay in the area and need information about changing property values, real estate solicitation, taxes, and realtor responsibilities. The free forum begins at 6 PM at Schwinn Hall, 3027 W. Palmer. Call 292-0202.
When David Hernandez, the quintessential urban poet, took to performing with John Starrs, a guy who likes to write about the suburbs, a lot of folks were amused. Surburban poetry, they said--what a concept. But now Marc Smith, the Elmer Gantry of our town's performance poetry, has taken his tent to the land of manicured lawns and higher-than-you'd-expect crime rates. Beginning tonight, Smith and the West Side Poetry Slam will take over FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt in Berwyn. Doors open at 7, open mike starts at 7:30, some of Smith's friends will be featured at 9, and the poetic slugfest goes off at 10. Admission is $4. If you want to read your poems, you could win as much as $100 for your efforts. For more call 788-2118.
Alderman Helen Shiller--who spent practically the whole 1987 campaign in the same blue dress--has never been a glamour girl, especially on issues. Before it was fashionable to work with the homeless, Shiller was there; before gay rights were safe enough for Richie Daley, she was risking her social life by hanging out with lesbians; and when Harold Washington first ran for mayor, she was one of only a handful of white activists to support him. Tonight's Sadie Hawkins Dance at Berlin is a fund-raiser for Shiller. Bring a partner to the party, which runs from 8 to 11 at 954 W. Belmont. Admission is $10. Call 878-4646 for details.
It's a toss-up as to whether the White Sox' Carlos Martinez or Ivan Calderon or the Cubs' Luis Salazar will be named outstanding Hispanic baseball player of the year at the second annual Hispanic Sports Awards Dinner. There's no mystery, however, about the football honors--Ron Rivera of the Bears is not just the only Latino player on the team but the only Hispanic starting defensive back in the entire league. The program starts at 6:30 PM at the Chicago Marriott Hotel, 540 N. Michigan. Tickets are $50 and include food and "two hours of complimentary cocktails." For more call 988-8049.
Bernadette Devlin McAliskey, the Irish civil rights activist, has been elected to political office, imprisoned by British authorities, and shot at in assassination attempts. She'll make a rare Chicago appearance at 7:30 PM at the Abbey Pub and Restaurant, 3420 W. Grace. Seating will be limited, so those interested in securing a ticket should send $7 per person to: Bernadette Devlin McAliskey Appearance, c/o Thomas Lane, 2238 W. Melrose, Chicago 60618. Call 477-0676 for details.