Sometimes, as they say, a cigar is just a cigar. Like when lovers of cancerous cheroots congregate at O'Brien's restaurant for a Year of the Cigar! cocktail party. From 4 to 7 today cigar lovers can sample the odiferous offerings of companies like Diana Silvius, Fonseca, Partagas, Por Larranaga, and Arturo Fuente. Twenty-five big ones get you the smokes, one free cocktail, hors d'oeuvres, and a chance to compete in a longest-ash contest. Whee. The event is sponsored by the Up Down Tobacco Shop and Chicago Cigar Connoisseurs. O'Brien's is at 1528 N. Wells. Call 337-8025 for reservations.
Artemisia Gallery has long dreamed of establishing a mentoring program to assist female art students in making the jump into the real world. With help from the MacArthur Foundation, last year they set up such a program, pairing ten recent graduates with Artemisia members. Through the end of the month at the gallery, you can see the mentor-influenced work of this talented ten in a show called Ten Emerging. The show's free opening reception is tonight from 5 to 8 at the gallery, 700 W. Carpenter. See gallery listings in Section Two or call 226-7323 for more.
David "Beez" Barry, a stalwart Starlight Foundation volunteer who died playing softball last summer, will be memorialized at a 16-inch softball tourney this weekend in Evanston. To raise money for the foundation, which grants wishes to terminally ill children, 28 men's teams and 32 coed ones will compete from 8 to 11 tonight, 8 to 5 tomorrow, and 9 to 5 Sunday in James Park, Oakton and Dodge in Evanston. It's free to go and watch. Call 269-5188.
The Great Books Foundation, founded in 1947 by Robert Maynard Hutchins, convenes A Gathering of Equals from 9:30 to 3:30 today at the Harold Washington Library, where small groups of Chicagoans will discuss quintessentially democratic documents like the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter From a Birmingham Jail." It's too late to sign up to participate in the discussion groups, but afterward a panel discussion on Lincoln's second inaugural address--that's the "with malice toward none, with charity for all" one--is free and open to the public. That's from 4:30 to 6 PM in the downstairs auditorium of the library, 400 S. State. Call 332-5870.
Few journalists are as committed as Elijah Lovejoy, the 19th-century Missouri and downstate Illinois publisher whose antislavery views got his press torched and ultimately cost him his life. Lovejoy's story is a favorite of Senator Paul Simon, a former newspaper guy himself, who published a biography of Lovejoy in 1964. Simon will read from and talk about his revised edition of the bio, Freedom's Champion, at Border's Books & Music, 830 N. Michigan, today at 2. It's free. Call 573-0564.
For last summer's Underground Press Conference 250 writers, zine publishers, and educators from across the country converged on DePaul University. This year's version, scheduled for mid-August, promises Factsheet Five's obsessive-in-chief R. Seth Friedman and Northwestern J-school prof Abe Peck, formerly of Seed, as speakers. To raise money for the conference, its sponsor, the Mary Kuntz Press, holds a reading tonight featuring David Hernandez of Street Sounds, who'll perform with his band and read from his new poetry collection Elvis Is Dead, But at Least He Isn't Gaining Any Weight. Four other Mary Kuntz Press authors are also reading: Lisa Kucharski, author of Mirrors Blink; Tim W. Brown, whose four interconnected short stories make up The Toy Store; Cheryl Townsend, whose new book is Pseudo Cop; and Batya Goldman, author of Oval Beach. Ten bucks gets you the reading and two of the books. It's at 8 tonight on the third floor of the Flatiron Building, 1579 N. Milwaukee. Call 486-0685.
At its 1995 banquet the People's Weekly World newspaper salutes workers in Decatur with speeches by David Watts, president of the locked-out Staley workers' union, and Larry Solomon, leader of the Caterpillar strikers. It starts at 2 at the Hickory Pit restaurant, 2801 S. Halsted. It's $25, $13 for kids. Call 842-5665 for more.
The benefit fashion show Beggars' Banquet brings together local costume designers and duds from discriminating resale stores like Hubba Hubba, Strange Cargo, Flashy Trash, and Beatnix. Actors from companies such as Lookingglass, Steppenwolf, Second City, and the Goodman will model the clothes and provide other diversions at the fund-raiser, which benefits the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and the Pillar Studio, a not-for-profit theater company. The $10 admission includes music from Tart and Into the Green. Things get under way at 7 PM at Crobar, 1543 N. Kingsbury. Call 922-2322 for reservations.
Abandoned by the Light, an exhibit of 33 black-and-white shots by an African-American photographer who calls himself Ronin--from a Japanese word for outcast--continues at Northwestern's Dittmar Memorial Gallery this week. The artist says the show "examines the inner dimension of a man whose forefathers experienced great suffering and whose environment terrorizes him, creating inner fears and outer resentments." The gallery, in the Norris University Center, 1999 South Campus Drive in Evanston, is open 8 AM to 10 PM daily. Admission is free. Call 708-491-2350 for more.
In the short story "Big Blonde" Dorothy Parker limned her most full-bodied and memorable creation, one Hazel, and unblinkingly charted her descent from marginal good-time girl to doomed floozy. Since 1991 Shirley Anderson's one-woman show based on the story has had a few incarnations around town; now she'd like to take it to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. To help pay for her trip, she's performing Big Blonde tonight, tomorrow, and Wednesday at 8 at Live Bait Theater, 3914 N. Clark. It's $8. Call 871-1212 for more.
Swanky clothing designers meet this morning to benefit the Chicago Christian Industrial League, which claims to operate the midwest's largest homeless shelter. The 7:30 breakfast reception costs $10 plus a donation of a new or nearly new article of clothing. You can also buy raffle tickets for a selection of one-of-a-kind shirts that have been customized by a bevy of local designers. It's in the second-floor conference center of the Chicago Apparel Center, 350 N. Orleans. Call 372-4811.
The exhibition MFA '95 collects works by the latest crop of graduates from the University of Chicago's Midway Studios, which was founded by sculptor Lorado Taft nearly a century ago and now houses the school's fine arts programs. The work of students Erik S. Lieber, Morgan Santander, Karen Louise Wilson, Anthony Elms, Marc Fischer, Duncan Webb, and Louis Brandt will be on display through August 27 at the Smart Museum of Art, 5550 S. Greenwood. It opens with a free reception tonight from 5:30 to 8. Call 702-0200 for more.
Muki Tsur, a leader in the Israeli kibbutz movement, speaks today on The Crisis in the Kibbutz Movement: Creative Solutions in a Changing Israel. A free presentation of the Labor Zionist Alliance and the American Jewish Congress, it starts at 7:30 tonight in the Beth Emet Synagogue, 1224 Dempster in Evanston. Call 973-3924 for details.
Felice Picano, one of a group of writers who started a boom in gay literature in the late 1970s, will read from his latest, Like People in History, tonight at 7:30 at Unabridged Books, 3251 N. Broadway. Edmund White called the novel, which spans four decades in American life, a gay Gone With the Wind. The reading is free; call 883-9119.
Tonight at Je t'aime N.A.M.E., a pre-Bastille Day benefit for the gallery, Urban Twang, Mint Aundry, and Poi Dog Pondering's Frank Orrall will supposedly storm the Empty Bottle. It starts at 8 at the club, 1035 N. Western. Admission is $15, $10 for N.A.M.E. members. Call 554-0671.
Little known fact: the name of Gilligan's ship, the S.S. Minnow, is a tribute, albeit a misspelled one, to President Kennedy's FCC Chairman Newton Minow, the first person to call TV a "vast wasteland." Today at 4:30 at Waterstone's Booksellers, 840 N. Michigan, Minow talks about the new book he's written with Craig LaMay, Abandoned in the Wasteland: Children, Television and the First Amendment. Call 587-8080.
Fans of Tony 'n' Tina's Wedding--the participatory play that has proved a lasting hit off Broadway and at Piper's Alley--can help celebrate the show's second anniversary in Chicago tonight at 10:30 at Drink, where the cast will be on hand to party and give away prizes. It's free for women, $2 for men. Drink is at 541 W. Fulton. Call 441-0818.