Artist S. DeGrane's new show includes one work called Police diKKKs and another called The Man With the Biggest Penis in the Universe. Both are crude black-and-white paper cutouts: the first involves a melding of guns and genitals; the second is accurately described by its title. Her show opens tonight at 7 with a free reception at the Enid Okla Homa gallery, 233 W. Huron, and stays up through March 10. Regular gallery hours are 11 to 7 Wednesday through Saturday. Call 787-6011 for more.
Here's the first of many Valentine's Day events this weekend: You can learn to salsa tonight at a pre-Valentine's Day dance put on by the Nicaragua Solidarity Committee and Casa Nicaragua. Lessons begin at 9, followed by dancing to the Afro-Caribbean rhythms of Orchestra Nabori. It's on the third floor of the Flat Iron Building, 1579 N. Milwaukee, tickets cost $10 to $15, depending on what you can afford. Call 276-5626 for info.
Paula Killen's 11 Minutes Max revue--in which emcee Killen presides over a series of performance pieces, none longer than 11 minutes--continues tonight with Soul Sisters With a License to Thrill--the Valentine Version. The show, with a few lineup changes from night to night, runs at 11 for three Fridays at the Theatre Building, 1225 W. Belmont. Tonight's show includes Cindy Salach and Anita Loomis, music from Anna C. Bahow and C-ROD, and lots more. It's $7; call 327-5252 for info.
Got an invention you want to market? The Inventors' Council and the Business, Science, and Technology department of the Harold Washington Library have teamed up for a free inventors' workshop today at 10:30 in the fourth-floor meeting room of the library, 400 S. State. The group will hand out some awards, show off some new inventions, and dispense general tips for inventors. Call 747-4450 for more.
Leather attire is not required for the Leather Fetish Bar Night put on by the Chicagoland Discussion Group, a nonprofit organization dedicated to open examination of alternative life-styles and fetishes. On the agenda: a presentation on bondage and leather gear by one Paul C. It's $5, in the back room of the AA Meat Market bar, 2933 N. Lincoln, at 6:30. Call 281-1097 for details.
More Valentine's Day doings: At HotHouse, 1565 N. Milwaukee, the Sweethearts Ball will feature a "love nest" room that amorous couples can rent out for 15-minute periods to--well, to do whatever they can while John "Sinatra" Connors serenades them with appropriate torch songs. Music for the ball itself will be provided by Dan Boadi and Ghanatta Internationale. Tarot readers and couples counselors will be on hand for the "romantically blocked." Cartoonist Lynda Barry hosts; tix are $15. Things get under way at 8 PM; call 235-2334.
Modern Railroader magazine says that the zeal of a quarter of a million serious railroaders and that of countless additional amateurs combine to make model trains a $180-million-a-year industry. If you're one of those enthusiasts, you probably already know about the Great Midwest Train Show, now celebrating its 20th year at the Du Page County Fairgrounds. Show officials say they'll have more than 500 tables of trains for sale every Sunday at the fairgrounds, at Country Farm Road and Manchester in Wheaton. The show's open from 10 to 4; admission is $4, with kids free. Call 708-834-0653.
Walter Jacobson, the WBBM commentator who dramatized the plight of the homeless by going undercover on the streets of Chicago, today provides the celebrity appeal for a fund-raising walk to benefit the homeless. The Winter Walk raises money for Sarah's Circle, the Uptown drop-in center for homeless women. The plan is for volunteers to raise money through pledges for the walk, which runs from 1:30 to 3:30. It begins and ends at the shelter, 4554 N. Broadway. Call 728-1014 for details.
Maestro Subgum & the Whole singer Jenny Magnus takes a buswoman's holiday today with Old Time Moon Tunes for Lovers and Ex-Lovers, a concert of torch songs with piano accompaniment by Joe Tech. It's from 2 to 4 today at HotHouse, 1565 N. Milwaukee, and costs $6; call 235-2334.
If you think you're going to get lucky tonight, get yourself over to Condoms Now, which is giving out 10,000 free condoms in honor of the 16th annual National Condom Week. Anyone who walks into the store through next Saturday gets one. Condoms Now is at 11 W. Division; it's open from noon until midnight Sunday through Thursday and till 4 AM Friday and Saturday. Call 649-8500 for info.
The Ethics Film Festival at the Illinois Institute of Technology continues today with Bruce Beresford's Breaker Morant, the story of an unfair court-martial during the Boer War. It's in the university's Hermann Hall Ballroom, 40 W. 33rd St. Things get under way at 4. There will be a discussion afterward about the ethical issues raised by the film; similar goings-on are planned for Oliver Stone's Wall Street next Tuesday, same time and place, and Sidney Lumet's profile of police corruption, Prince of the City, the Tuesday after that. It's all free, but you should call 567-3017 for reservations.
Wu Ningkun grew up in nationalist China, studied at the University of Chicago, and returned home in 1951 to teach under the country's new regime. But within a few years he had been condemned as a government enemy and had to undergo forced reeducation in a labor camp. He tells his story in A Single Tear: A Family's Persecution, Love, and Endurance in Communist China. He'll sign copies of the book from 1 to 3 today at the University of Chicago Bookstore, 970 E. 58th St. It's free; call 702-7712 for more.
Architect Frank Gehry, hailed by Time magazine as a designer on a par with Eames and Wright, speaks at 8:30 tonight as part of the Chicago Institute for Architecture and Urbanism's lecture series. Gehry's recent works include the American Center in Paris and a new building at the University of Toledo; his latest project is the Disney Auditorium in LA. The evening begins at the Charnley House, 1365 N. Astor, with a reception at 7:30; the talk is at the Graham Foundation, 4 W. Burton. It's $25, $5 for students, and free to members of the sponsoring CIAU; call 951-8006.
U. of C. graduate student Mitchell Duneier hung out for several years with a group of south-side men at the Valois "See Your Food" Cafeteria on 53rd Street. He got to know a group of regulars; his portrait of their personalities, hopes, and fears became Slim's Table: Race, Respectability, and Masculinity, an excerpt of which ran in these pages last summer. He'll talk about his book at 5:30 PM in the Video Theater at the Harold Washington Library, 400 S. State. It's free; call 747-4022.
Chicago's NARAS chapter--that's the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, which oversees the Grammys--is saluting midwestern Grammy nominees at a party at the China Club, 616 W. Fulton. You can see a performance by songwriter Howard Levy of Bela Fleck & the Flecktones (up for best instrumental composition), Eddie Blazonczyk & the Versatones (up for best polka album), jazz singer Kirsten Gustafson, and members of the rock band Enuff Z'Nuff playing acoustically at the party, which starts at 7 PM and costs ten bucks. Call 786-1121 for more.
Stephen Wade is a lot of things: a banjoist, a clog dancer, a storyteller, and a folksinger. His one-man show of American stories, On the Way Home, has wowed 'em across the country. Tonight he's doing a special performance of the show to benefit the Jack Conroy Fellowship at the Newberry Library. The library's raising money to establish a fellowship for study of Conroy's papers and the manuscripts of other modern midwestern writers. It's at the Halsted Theatre Centre, 2700 N. Halsted, at 8; tickets cost $25. Call 943-9090, ext. 310 for reservations.