Ducks. Plastic ducks. Fifty thousand tax-deductable plastic ducks. It's the first ever Greater Chicago Duck Race, a fund-raiser for a couple of children's service organizations: CAUSES and the Starlight Foundation. The idea is that you buy one or more of the little plastic waterfowl at $5 a pop and drop them off the Michigan Avenue Bridge. First ones past the Sun-Times building win; prizes range from a trip to Washington, D.C., to dinners at various local restaurants. Adopt your duck by calling 348-3825; other info can be had at 883-7169. The race starts at noon, but festivities and on-site adoptions begin at 10:30 AM at the Wrigley Building plaza.
The Niedermaier Design Studio is known for its extravagant prop constructions for movies, window displays, and restaurants. A glimpse into its archives can be had at tonight's fund-raiser for the Chicago International Film Festival. Check out the furniture, mannequins, columns, and other paraphernalia as you drink, eat, listen to torch singers and three bands, watch jugglers, and consult with fortune-tellers and psychics. Those who'd like to audition for the film fest's annual soft-porn Skrebneski poster will be accommodated by a video setup; clothing, one would assume, is optional. All of this for $30 (it's a fund-raiser, remember); it's from 6 to 10 tonight at the Niedermaier studio, 2828 N. Paulina. Reservations and information can be had at 644-3400.
Gospel singer Clarence Fountain is blind as a bat and 60 if he's a day; plus he's a sex god. He leads the Five Blind Boys of Alabama and just got done starring in the Goodman's The Gospel at Colonus. His and the Blind Boys' only local club appearance before they blow town is tonight at B.L.U.E.S. Etcetera, 1124 W. Belmont, at 9:30. It's $10, and cheap at that. Call 525-8989.
It's time for the sixth annual Newberry Library Book Fair, and the Near North library needs donations of books, records, anything but textbooks. You can drop donations off at the library from 9 to 5:30; large donations can be left at the library's loading dock on Delaware, Thursday from 9 to 3. In special cases, the library itself can also swing by and pick your stuff up. The fair runs today 10 to 5, tomorrow noon to 5; the library's book fair hot line is 642-2335. The library is at 60 W. Walton, and admission is free.
"Without revolutionary theory, there can be no revolutionary movement," said Lenin in better days; if you need a shot of theory, Revolution Books is here to help--with a used book sale today. Though the emphasis, of course, is on political economy and theory, feminism, and the third world, there'll also be nonpolitical books, humorous books, and novels. They're priced at 50 cents to $3. The sale runs from 10 to 6 today and tomorrow at Revolution Books, 3449 N. Sheffield. Call 528-5353.
Sure Chicago produced the suave and sophisticated master of slapstick Preston Sturges--but what about goremeister Herschell Gordon Lewis? The low-budget auteur behind The Blood Feast and 2000 Maniacs, Lewis was also responsible for Color Me Blood Red, the story of an artist who's ridiculed by critics until he discovers that adding his own blood to the paint makes them swoon. When he catches on to the fact that he doesn't have to use his own blood, another splatter classic kicks in. The Psychotronic Film Society screens it tonight at the Crash Palace, 2771 N. Lincoln, starting at 7. It's $2.50; call 738-0985 for more information.
A million simoleons' worth of gorgeous antique poster art--art deco, art nouveau, Toulouse-Lautrec, A.M. Cassandre, you name it--goes on display today at the Lake Point Tower Restaurant. It's all owned by art expert, appraiser, and collector Jacques-Paul Athias, who's also interested in selling the posters, which is why he's providing hors d'oeuvres and valet parking for those who come to browse. The posters go back to the mid-1800s and span the work of dozens of artists; this show is being billed as the largest private collection of museum-quality antique poster art in existence. The exhibit runs tonight through Wednesday from 5 to 10; Athias will be there each night (starting at 5) to lecture and answer questions. It all takes place (except for the valet parking) at the restaurant, on the 70th floor of Lake Point Tower, 505 N. Lake Shore. Call 419-9691 for more information.
Why did the west side suffer two major electricity outages? Are Com Ed's profits more important than reliability or safety of service? How can we get a better deal when Edison's franchise expires? These questions, doozies all, are ones the watchdog Chicago Electric Options Campaign hopes will be addressed at a City Council subcommittee- sponsored public hearing tonight. Being an official municipal hearing, it's free. It starts at 6:30 at the Blessed Sacrament Church Hall, 3600 W. Cermak. The options campaign number is 243-3094.
If you're really a fan of life in all its manifestations, you worry about the snail darter as much as the snow leopard, and the rare weed as much as the tropical rain forest. At the Morton Arboretum tonight, rare-plant expert Marlin Bowles (no, not Perkins) will talk on Illinois' endangered plants--how they're given legal protection, how their populations are monitored, and what can be done to save them. He'll also talk about (and probably show off) the endangered species habitat now under construction there. The talk starts at 7:30, and lasts till 9. It's $3. The arboretum is in Lisle just off I-88 at Illinois route 53 north; call 708-968-0074 for more information.
Miles Davis headlines the opening night of the 12th annual Chicago Jazz Festival, the four-day (five, counting last night's pub crawl) sprawling affair in Grant Park this weekend. Opening for Miles tonight will be a tribute to Nat King Cole starring Nat's brother Freddy, plus two other bands. Tomorrow, the McCoy Tyner Big Band plays, along with German trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff's quartet. Saturday the headline act is the midwest premiere of Charles Mingus's Epitaph, played by a 13-piece ensemble conducted by Gunther Schuller. Sunday, the Horace Silver Quintet closes things down. Bands play in the Petrillo band shell, at Columbus and Jackson, tonight and tomorrow night beginning at 6, Saturday and Sunday beginning at 5, and go to about 10:30 PM. Constant jazz will be played as well at the Jackson stage, Lake Shore Drive and Jackson, from noon to 5 Friday through Sunday. It's free, sponsored by the Jazz Institute of Chicago and the Mayor's Office of Special Events, whose hot line (744-3370) will vouchsafe whatever other info you need.
The MoMing Dance & Arts Center is facing displacement: the Lakeview church where it makes its home is on the verge of being sold for development into condominiums. But if MoMing can come up with the cash, the church will sell to the dance center instead. A $60,000 down payment deadline looms. You can help by attending Poets Dance Too, a collection of poets and performance artists performing at Club Lower Links tonight. Attending: Uptown Poetry Slam winner Lisa Busconi, Greg Allen from the "neo-futurist" show Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, Maestro Subgum's Beau O'Reilly, and Vince Balestri, doing selections from his one-man Kerouac show. The $10 donation goes to MoMing. Things start at 8:30 PM; Lower Links is at 954 W. Newport. Info? 465-1183.