People Like Us Bookstore owners Brett Shingledecker and Carrie Barnett are celebrating five years in business as Chicago's only exclusively gay and lesbian bookstore. They'll be open from noon to 9 today with free cake and punch and prizes. The store's at 3321 N. Clark. Call 248-6363.
Eugene von Bruenchenhein--who lived in the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis and died in 1983--was known, says Aron Packer, for his "chicken-bone sculptures, otherworldly paintings, and hand-built ceramics." But for the next month the Aron Packer Gallery is showing another side of von Bruenchenhein's work: a series of 50 architectural drawings and futuristic geometrics the artist mounted in a book of wallpaper samples. The drawings are made with pen, ink, ruler, french curve, and little else. The show opens tonight with a reception from 6 to 10; present will be von Bruenchenhein's friend Dan Nycz, who'll talk about the artist. It's free. The gallery, at 1579 N. Milwaukee, suite 205, is open noon to 5 Wednesday through Saturday and by appointment. The show runs through December 4. Call 862-5040.
What can bring together William Safire, quondam MTV VJ Mark Goodman, Bulls coach Phil Jackson, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Shulamit Ran, actress Marlo Thomas, and Senator Carol Moseley-Braun? It's the fourth annual Chicago Humanities Festival. This year's theme: "From Communication to Understanding." Nine sites clustered in the Loop and Near North will house more than two dozen lectures and performances by the abovementioned celebrities and many others. The festival kicks off tonight at 6 at Saint James Cathedral, 65 E. Huron, where Bernie Sahlins will present Caroline Cracraft and Canon Janet Campbell reading from the work of Dorothy Sayers. Other highlights include Safire's keynote speech Sunday at 10 AM at Orchestra Hall, 220 S. Michigan; members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performing works by Ran and other modern composers at the same place at 1 PM; Mark Goodman talking about MTV at the Art Institute, Michigan and Adams, at 2:30 PM Sunday; and Moseley-Braun on a panel called "Laughing Matters: Humor in the PC Generation," at 4 PM Sunday at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington. Admission is $3 to each event except the Orchestra Hall concert, for which tickets are $3-$10. Call 939-5212 for more.
True fans of real-estate wheeling and dealing probably won't mind going all the way to Alsip, the site of tonight's Elks Club Monopoly Tournament. The game is a benefit for the Beverly Hills University Club's scholarship fund; $40 gets you a seat. Registration begins at 7, games at 8, and there'll be free snacks and a cash bar. The Elks Club is at 11340 S. Cicero in Alsip. Call 238-4865.
The Illinois Pro-Choice Alliance Educational Fund's Clinic Escort Program--which helps make sure women can get into abortion clinics when Operation Rescue comes to town--is having a fund-raiser tonight at the China Club. Titled "Open Doors," the event features C and W duo the Texas Rubies, a seven-piece rock-jazz-blues aggregation called Hidden Colors, and Cindy Salach and Sheila Donohue doing performance poetry duets. Tix are $12 at the door, $10 in advance; things get under way at 8 at the club, 616 W. Fulton. Call 357-0084.
Kathy Chiavola, one of Nashville's premiere session singers, has done everything from opera to Prairie Home Companion to Farm Aid. On her debut album Labor of Love, she performs her own songs as well as classics like Buddy Holly's "Well, All Right" and "Distant Melody" from Peter Pan. She's appearing at the Old Town School of Folk Music, 909 W. Armitage, at 4 this afternoon. It's $8; call 525-9923.
What's Bite Me!!!!!, the one-woman performance piece by actress Denise LaGrassa, about? According to the folks at Cafe Voltaire, where she performs it today at 4:30, it encompasses "reactions to power, lust, nonsense, incense, greed, and love," has "gritty rhyme-ee beats and music to move through," and "is based on a passion for peace." LaGrassa repeats the show at 4:30 next Sunday, November 21, downstairs at the restaurant, 3231 N. Clark. She also performs it this Tuesday and Wednesday at 8 at Sheffield's, 3258 N. Sheffield. It's $7; call 477-6634.
Harvey Pekar, whose ongoing autobiography is available in the form of the comic book American Splendor, will be talking today on a variety of topics, among them comic books, stream-of-consciousness writing, jazz criticism, Robert Crumb, David Letterman, illness, doughnuts, and marriage. He starts talking at 4 in room 130 of the University of Chicago's Harper Memorial Library, 1116 E. 59th St.; admission is free. Call 702-6421.
There are two literary events at the Art Institute tonight. What may be most interesting about the author of Classical Furniture isn't his book--which one reviewer called "a solidly researched, engaging, and well-illustrated canter through the history of classicism and classical furniture"--but his famous relatives, including his mother (Princess Margaret), his father (Lord Snowdon), and his aunt (Queen Elizabeth). Furniture designer David Linley (that's Viscount Linley to you) speaks in the Fullerton Auditorium at 6. It's $15, $12 for members; make reservations at 443-3915. Or you can hear Nobel Prize winner Joseph Brodsky read from his new book, Watermark, an essay on Venice. He's appearing in the Rubloff Auditorium, also at 6. It's $5, $3 for museum members; call 443-3600. The museum's at Michigan and Adams.
The ups and downs of package tours will be discussed tonight by John Stachnik, owner of Mayflower Tours and a former prez of the National Tour Association. He'll talk about finding out what's included and what's not, the merits of escorted versus unescorted tours, and how to get along with your tour mates. Tonight's lecture is part of the monthly travel series sponsored by the city's Department of Cultural Affairs and the Savvy Traveller Bookstore. It runs from 5:30 to 6:45 in the theater of the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, and it's free. Call 263-2100 for more.
"The results of revenge keep one looking youthful and perky." That's a pearl of wisdom from Karen Finley's latest book, Enough Is Enough: Weekly Meditations for Dysfunctional Living. The saber-toothed performance artist, whose extremely black humor and feminist anger caused clashes with the National Endowment for the Arts and a not insignificant percentage of the Senate, will be talking at Barbara's Bookstore, 1350 N. Wells, at 7:30 tonight. It's free. Call 642-5044 for more.
Liz Lerman/Dance Exchange, the Washington, D.C.-based dance troupe, is doing a free lecture/demonstration today at the library before its gigs this weekend at the Dance Center of Columbia College. The group has been in residence at the center this week developing an as-yet-untitled new work that includes a cast of ten local senior citizens. They'll present parts of it today at 12:15 in the theater of the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State. Call 271-7804 for details.
Robert Blau became the Tribune's crime reporter five years ago, vowing to distance himself from the old-boy network of cops and reporters. The Cop Shop (the title refers to police HQ at 11th and State) is the sometimes amused, sometimes sober story of that struggle and of the occasional horrors of the job, from a baby scalded to death in a bathtub to the mighty El Rukns. Blau will read from his book tonight at 6 in the south room of DePaul University's Cortelyou Commons, 2324 N. Fremont. It's free; call 362-5114.
Big Bo Diddley returns to Chicago for his annual do-gooding gig for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. Hopefest--the group's annual benefit concert, now in its eighth year--will bring together Diddley and a band of local bluesmen including the Kinsey Report, Otis Clay, Eddy Clearwater, and Sugar Blue for a full evening of music and dancing. Doors open at 6:30 at the Park West, 322 W. Armitage. Tickets are $25; call 435-4548.