All-but-forgotten 80s radio loudmouth Morton Downey Jr. makes two appearances in town today. Though his particular brand of broadcasting--intolerant, right-wing ravings for the benefit of a raw-meat-eating crowd--was passe even before last week's election, Downey still has a syndicated radio show. He'll broadcast it live from 8 to 11 AM at the Museum of Broadcast Communications, in the Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington. It's free to go watch; call 629-6000. Later on he'll give the keynote speech at 4:30 at the Loyola Radio Conference, the annual convocation of college radio programmers at the Bismarck Hotel, 171 W. Randolph. Admission to the conference costs $65. Call 915-6558 for more.
This being Friday the 13th, Barbara's Bookstore is pleased as punch to have vampire lover and novelist Anne Rice in town to promote the latest installment in her neck-sucking saga, The Tale of the Body Thief. She'll sign the book from 7 to 9 tonight at the Oak Park store, 1100 Lake. It's free, but the book costs $24. Call 708-848-9140 for more info. Rice will also sign copies at Unabridged Bookstore, 3251 N. Broadway, at noon tomorrow. Call 883-9119.
While the organizers of Give the Gift of Sight cite no authority, they contend that 70 percent of Americans either throw away or just stash old eyeglasses. This when untold thousands in developing countries have little access to the sort of eye care we take for granted. Today a couple of Cubs have agreed to swap autographs for old glasses. If you want to say hey to Jim LeFebvre or Ryne Sandberg, they'll be at LensCrafters, 205 N. Michigan, from 11 to 1. All it'll cost you is your old specs. Call 819-0205 for more.
The achievements of American composer Earle Brown loom large in the minds of new-music aficionados. The Computer Music Studio at Northwestern University will perform parts of Brown's Folio today, 40 years after the premiere of the work, which the studio says "shocked the musical world with a new system of notation that gave first priority to atmosphere and density of sound rather than to absolute pitch." The studio will be celebrating in international fashion with an ocean-spanning three-way improvisational concert by telephone with like-minded groups in Germany and Brazil. It's at 3 on the lower level of the Norris University Center, 1999 S. Campus in Evanston, and it's free. Call 708-491-5441 for details.
Before Spike Lee's Malcolm X biopic, there was X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X, the opera by Anthony Davis. The third annual Chicago Humanities Festival, with nearly every major cultural entity in town participating, includes a concert performance of the opera at Orchestra Hall, 220 S. Michigan, with Davis playing piano and CSO assistant conductor Michael Morgan wielding the baton. Performances are today at 3:30 and tomorrow at 1. Tix are $3, $5, and $10. John Updike will give the festival's keynote address, "From Freedom and Equality: Two American Bluebirds" at the hall at 10 AM tomorrow. The festival continues at 1 tomorrow afternoon with a variety of other presentations at the Field Museum, the Art Institute, the Chicago Historical Society, the Newberry Library, and the Cultural Center; admission costs $3 per event. For a complete schedule or other info, call the festival office at 435-8282.
Local jazz singer Neal Kristie--known as the Be-Bop Kid--had planned to headline the Windy City Angels' brunch fund-raiser for the Children's Place, a home for kids with AIDS, but the disease caught up with him first. He died in early October. Singers Keisa Brown and Anita O'Day have stepped in to fill the bill. They, along with John "Sinatra" Connors and Tony Dash, will provide entertainment for the 11 AM affair. Admission of $30, $25 in advance, gets you the music and the brunch from Ann Sather, Buddies Bar & Grill, Leona's, and Mike's Broadway Cafe. It's at the Puszh Studios, 3829 N. Broadway; call 728-9500 for more.
It's difficult for independent choreographers and dance companies just starting out to find a place to gig, and the Oak Theatre Project means to help them out. Tonight at 7 a band of local choreographers--Amy Alt, Keith Elliott, Frank Fishella, Paula Frasz, Winifred Haun, Christy Munch, and Rebecca Rossen--will present pieces at the Oak, 2000 N. Western. Tickets are $7, $5 in advance. Call 975-0038 for info.
If you like animals and have a knack for teaching, the Lincoln Park Zoo invites you to an informational meeting for potential zoo docents, from 9:30 to 11 AM; volunteers should be willing to commit to four hours' work a week for two years and able to undergo an intensive ten-week training course beginning January 5. The meeting's free, at the zoo's Crown-Field Auditorium, 2200 N. Cannon. Call 294-4676 for more.
You can get fed, see a Second City main stage performance of The Best of Second City, and toss some dough into the coffers of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence at tonight's event feting Northern District U.S. Attorney and handgun foe Fred Foreman. The $50-a-head bash starts at 6 with a buffet supper, continues with an awards ceremony at 7, and wraps up with the show at 7:30. It's all at Second City, 1616 N. Wells; call 341-0939.
Stentorian-voiced humorist and actor Aaron Freeman will attempt to divulge some of the secrets of great comedy at a Women in Film meeting tonight. His current project is producing The Funny Bone of the Beast, a feature-length documentary on his travels in South Africa. He'll speak at the Three Arts Club, 1300 N. Dearborn, at 6. It's $20, $10 for members. Call 509-8000 for reservations.
Journalist Tom Bates was a graduate student at Madison in 1970 when the University of Wisconsin's Army Math Research Center was bombed, later lost a teaching job because of his participation in war protests, and ultimately became a well-known California reporter. He's also written Rads, the story of the New Year's Gang, the group of activists responsible for the bombing. Bates will be at the University of Chicago Bookstore, 970 E. 58th, today at 2. It's free. Call 702-7712 for more.
Technically the Day of the Dead has passed, but the Mi Raza Arts Consortium celebrates the opening of its annual holiday exhibit today, on the birthday of its dedicatee, Pedro Infante, the beloved Mexican singer and movie actor who was killed in a plane crash in 1957. Past honorees have included Pancho Villa, Emiliano Zapata, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Vincent van Gogh, and the Aztec Empire. The opening begins with free performances by the Latino Experimental Theater Company and the Teatro Latino--both, appropriately enough, on the theme of death--at 4 at the Pilsen-Little Village Community Mental Health Center, 2319 S. Damen. The performance and puppet show will be followed by a free reception at La Corona restaurant, Loomis and 18th Street, beginning at 8. Call 226-5864 for more.
Distaff restaurateurs, unite! The Roundtable for Women in Foodservice is presenting Patricia Asp, president of ServiceMaster Food Management Services Company, speaking on "Women Breaking Through the Glass Ceiling in Food Service" tonight. It's at the Bones restaurant, 7110 N. Lincoln in Lincolnwood, at 6. It's $15, $10 for members. Call 878-8766 for more.
The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, a collection of social service agencies, shelters, and religious groups, is staging a fund-raiser tonight, its fourth annual shindig starring Bo Diddley. He'll be joined by Koko Taylor, Junior Wells, Otis Clay, and Buddy Miles. It's at the Park West, 322 W. Armitage; music and an accompanying silent auction run from 6:30 PM to 2 AM. Tix are $25; call 435-4548 for more.
It turns out that Joe Bob Briggs was just using film criticism as a stepping stone to cultural commentary generally. First came the philosophical tome The Cosmic Wisdom of Joe Bob Briggs; then came Briggs's appearances on the Comedy Channel's coverage of the Democratic and Republican conventions. Now Briggs has produced Iron Joe Bob, his take on the men's movement and relationships among the "assorted sexes." You can hear about it at a reading tonight at the Evanston Kroch's and Brentano's, 1711 Sherman in Evanston, at 7:30. It's free, but the book costs $19. Call 708-328-7220 for more.