The municipal Christmas tree, harvested by the city's Bureau of Forestry, is 40 feet tall and will boast more than 5,000 light bulbs once it gets put up, decorated, and officially lit. That last event happens at 4:30 today with Mayor Richie flicking the switch. Christmas carols will be provided by choral groups and the Big Bear Band along with cast members of The Phantom of the Opera and Gilligan's Island: The Musical. The Cratchit characters from the Goodman's A Christmas Carol will also be on hand. It's all free (even the candy and hot chocolate) in Daley Plaza, Washington and Dearborn. Call 744-3315 for details.
Second City alum Kevin Crowley has come up with a new show called Earth on a Platter, a play meant to parody one-man shows. Crowley is a sometime movie actor (The Package, the upcoming Hoffa) and member of WXRT's The Usual Suspects comedy team--best known in the latter as the president of the Bob Greene Fan Club. In Earth on a Platter he will be backed by a supporting cast of five other Second City alumni. The show runs Fridays and Saturdays at 7 at Second City E.T.C., 1608 N. Wells. It's $10, free if you've ever performed a one-man or -woman show and have a review to prove it. Call 337-3992.
You can get a look at Lill Street gallery's 40-some artists' studios, gallery and shop, and six classrooms at the center's annual holiday sale, starting at 7 tonight. You'll also get a chance to browse and buy the wares of studio members. Regular hours for the 17th annual Lill Street Holiday Show are Monday through Saturday 10 to 8 (Thursday until 9) and Sunday noon to 5; the show stays up until December 31. The gallery's at 1021 W. Lill; it's free to go look. Call 477-6185 for more.
Twenty-two years after his death Jimi Hendrix's legacy is secure: the electric guitar is still a deadly weapon (in the right hands), budding virtuosos still try to duplicate his sound, and the immediacy of his best recordings--that unholy burst of guitar and drums at the beginning of "All Along the Watchtower," for instance--remains potent. Hendrix would have turned 50 today; Buddy Guy's Legends, a blues nightclub owned by one of the few guitarists in the world worthy of mention in the same breath, will celebrate with music by Guy, Band of Gypsies drummer Buddy Miles, and a host of other Chicago blues, rock, and soul players. The show starts at 8, and there will be door prizes and a collection of rare Hendrix memorabilia on display. Tix cost $12 in advance and $15 at the door; the club is at 754 S. Wabash. Call 871-6453 for more.
If the tree lighting yesterday merely whetted your appetite for traditional urban holiday festivities, hie thyself back downtown for the city's annual Holiday Parade. The usual contingent of high school bands, hot-air balloons, floats, and local celebrities will traipse up Michigan Avenue from Balbo to Wacker, starting at noon. It's free; call 935-8747.
In order to clear the air over the latest effort from provocateur, controversialist, activist, and--oops, almost forgot!--filmmaker Spike Lee, the Guild Complex has assembled tonight's panel to talk about the film Malcolm X and its loaded subject. On the dais: Abdul Alkalimat, author of Malcolm for Beginners and an organizer of a major conference on the man held two years ago; N'Digo editor Hermene Hartman; and the Reader's own Jonathan Rosenbaum. Things get under way at 6 at HotHouse, 1565 N. Milwaukee. It's $5; call 278-2210.
If you've been faithfully attending the classes presented by the Ad/Vice Squad, an organization dedicated to radical sex education and promoting "safe, sane, consensual fun," you should be ready for the group's year-end exam and summary. "Radical Review: First Annual Test," including "Return of the Rubber Report" (a discussion of attitudes toward safe sex), starts at 3 this afternoon at Ann Sather, 929 W. Belmont. It's $5; call 342-2815.
"In sexual terms, a fetish can be anything not manifestly sexual that has been invested with erotic appeal. For instance, a man whose first physical contact with other men occurred in sports may make a fetish out of football helmets or jockstraps, while a man who has cast long looks from windows at telephone repairmen or construction workers may eroticize hard hats, or utility belts festooned with tools. Leather--its look, smell, and feel--is a familiar fetish, and for some men one whiff of cowhide can induce an erection." This passage, from the chapter "Fetish" in The New Joy of Gay Sex, is accompanied by a portrait of a guy with a large "S" shaved into his head who's licking the sole of the boot of his otherwise naked partner. It's one of the more family-values-oriented passages from the book's more than 100 essays, ranging from "Bottoms Up" to "Water Sports," all illustrated by those trademark line drawings. One of the book's two authors, Charles Silverstein, will sign the new edition of this popular classic at 7:30 tonight at People Like Us Books, 3321 N. Clark. It's free, but the book costs $30; call 248-6363 for info.
Today is World AIDS Awareness Day and Day Without Art, and an enormous cross-section of the city's cultural community is set to mark the occasion. Notably, Randolph Street Gallery is organizing a silent procession up Michigan Avenue from Congress to Randolph at noon. Look for a solo bagpiper leading a horse-drawn hearse and a long row of mourners bearing black wreaths. Call 666-7737 for details. The procession will eventually meet up with members of ACT UP Chicago and a "ritual dance" in Daley Plaza, Washington and Dearborn, organized by the AIDS Pastoral Care Network and Test Positive Aware. That starts at 12:30 PM; call 975-8057. Between noon and 1 a candlelight vigil will be kept at the of corner of Superior and Franklin. Call 649-0065 for details. A two-day conference called "AIDS: Images, Actions, Analysis" sponsored by the School of the Art Institute, at the school auditorium, Columbus and Jackson, also begins today. Admission is $40, $20 for seniors and students, free for SAIC students; call 443-3711. Other city museums, from the Art Institute and the Museum of Science and Industry to the Chicago Children's Museum and the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, will participate in sponsoring programs and shrouding certain works. Even Marshall Field's will be stenciling the Day Without Art logo on its store windows facing Washington between Wabash and State. For details on these or other events, call the Day Without Art committee at 348-8014 or 226-5149.
Besides being an irresponsible international lender that requires virtually constant bailing out by the federal government for its ill-advised foreign loans, Citibank also happens to be the largest issuer of bank cards; the bank claims that credit-card fraud costs the country more than $3 billion dollars a year. One of Citibank's solutions to the problem is credit cards that carry the owner's photograph. On another front, the bank has teamed up with the U.S. Secret Service and the Postal Service for a pair of free seminars on fraud and how to avoid it: today it's at 5:30 in the video theater at the downtown library, 400 S. State; tomorrow it's at 6 at the Courtyard Marriott, 30 E. Hubbard. Admission is free, but you should call ahead for reservations: 792-6132.
You can get a free taste of the Northlight Theatre's Smoke on the Mountain at 12:15 today at the Chicago Cultural Center. The production is supposed to be a "foot-stomping, hand-clapping bluegrass gospel comedy musical" that tells the story of the 1938 reunion concert of the Sanders Family singers. An hour of tuneful excerpts will be presented in the center theater, 78 E. Washington. Call 744-1424 for more.