Over the years pro wrestling phenomenon Jerry Lawler has racked up 13 championships, three marriages, two kids, and spots all over radio, TV, and film. Now he's published a memoir, It's Good to Be the King...Sometimes, in which he refers to himself in both the first and third person, occasionally in the same sentence: "In 1976, I'd been in wrestling a few years but Jerry Lawler was already the King," he writes in the first chapter. When not tooting his own horn, he discusses his infamous "feud" with Andy Kaufman and dishes dirt on his tussles with former WWF champ Bret Hart and WWE head Vince McMahon. He also explains that, yes, those TV matches are choreographed beforehand--but sometimes the losers try to deviate from the script. He'll sign autographs tonight from 7:30 to 9 at the Carquest World of Wheels, a custom car show that also features the Chi-Town Tear-Down Pit Crew Competition, in which local auto-tech students race to completely disassemble and reconstruct an engine; contests are at noon and 3 on Saturday and at 1 on Sunday. The show's open today from 11 to 11 and runs through Sunday, February 2, at McCormick Place East, 2301 S. Lake Shore Dr. in Chicago. Tickets are $14 for adults, $5 for kids 12 and under. Call 708-354-4014 or see www.worldofwheels.com for more.
Chicago-based artist Jin Soo Kim has spent the past few weeks arranging a trail of broken furniture, a TV antenna, lightbulbs, an antique wooden ironing board, pieces of Styrofoam, copper-wrapped garden hose, and other found objects along one long wall of the Chicago Cultural Center's Sidney R. Yates Gallery. The installation, Prepositions, "flows horizontally, like a river," explains the Cultural Center's Gregory Knight, who curated the retrospective it's part of, Jin Soo Kim: Twenty Years, 1983-2003. The exhibit, which includes the Korean-born Kim's bound and wrapped early sculptural takes on chairs, several cagelike wire structures, and her more minimalist recent work, goes up today and runs through April 6 at the CCC, 78 E. Washington, Chicago. The gallery's open 10 to 7 Monday through Wednesday, 10 to 9 Thursday, 10 to 6 Friday, 10 to 5 Saturday, and 11 to 5 Sunday. It's free; call 312-744-6630.
If this were a balmy winter Sunday in New Orleans, you could hop a streetcar for the Garden District, stroll into Commander's Palace, and treat yourself to a few hours of some of the best food and music in the world. If you're reading this chances are you're suffering through another miserable, frigid morning in the midwest, but lucky for you the Cabin Fever Jazz series at Lake Forest's Gorton Community Center opens today with two performances of early jazz, including Dixieland, by the Red Rose Ragtime Jazz Band and a New Orleans-style brunch provided by Froggy's restaurant. At press time they were only taking standby reservations for the meal, so you might have to whip up the bananas Foster at home before you head over. The music starts at 1 and 4 at the center, 400 East Illinois Rd. in Lake Forest. Concert tickets are $15; call 847-234-6060.
In real life, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X never met, but in Jeff Stetson's The Meeting the two sit down for a heart-to-heart in a Harlem hotel room a week before Malcolm X is killed. Pin Points Theatre of Washington, D.C., will present the award-winning play, which contrasts the public styles and strategies of the two leaders but also emphasizes their humor and humanity, at 7:30 tonight in Harper College's Business and Social Science Center Theatre (room J143), 1200 W. Algonquin in Palatine. (A 1997 touring production was "deeply engaging," according to Reader critic Lawrence Bommer.) Tickets are $7, $6 for students, $5 for seniors and Harper students. Call 847-925-6100.
Sunny Jacobs, a Florida woman who spent 16 years in prison before she was cleared of the murder of two police officers, emerged from solitary confinement in 1992 with her vocal cords atrophied and permanently damaged; her common-law husband, convicted with her, was executed in 1990. "A case like hers really brings home what's wrong with the system," said Marlo Thomas, who portrays Jacobs in the new play The Exonerated, recently in the Boston Herald. "I asked how it was possible she wasn't bitter--how could she bring herself to this point where she didn't have the feeling for revenge. And she said...that there's a power out there that's greater than the system, and if she had faith in it, it would answer her." Written by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, directed by Bob Balaban, and starring Thomas and Brian Dennehy, the touring production of the play--which is based on court transcripts and interviews with former death row inmates--opens tonight at 8 and runs through February 16 at the Shubert Theatre, 22 W. Monroe, Chicago. Tickets range from $15 to $65; call 312-902-1400 or see the Theater listings for more.
Harlem Renaissance writer Zora Neale Hurston was a sharp wit and independent spirit who lied about her age, drove a red convertible, won a scholarship to Barnard College, and dubbed her white patrons "Negrotarians." But the author of 1937's Their Eyes Were Watching God was living in a Florida welfare home when she died in 1960, and her books were out of print when Alice Walker went searching for her unmarked grave in 1973. Walker's enthusiasm for Hurston helped lead to a revival of interest in her work that has continued to build over the years; now she's the subject of two recent volumes--Carla Kaplan's collection Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters and Valerie Boyd's comprehensive biography Wrapped in Rainbows--and the U.S. Postal Service just printed 70 million copies of a commemorative stamp, to be unveiled locally at tonight's celebration of Hurston's life and work. Boyd will discuss and sign her book at the event, which takes place from 6 to 8:30 at the Carter G. Woodson Regional Library, 9525 S. Halsted in Chicago (312-745-2080).
Before the 1956 publication of Kenneth Stampp's The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South, scholarship on African-American slave culture was generally patronizing and Eurocentric, says Columbia College history professor and dean of liberal arts and sciences Cheryl Johnson-Odim. "The primary culprit was a lack of knowledge fueled by racism," she says to explain scholars' ignorance of the importance of African culture to the experience of slaves. "Knowledge and identification of Africanisms in 'mainstream' culture is where the cutting-edge scholarship is now happening," she adds. Johnson-Odim will elaborate further in a free lecture tonight at 6 called Africa in America: Memory, Mythology, and Historical Revisioning. The event is part of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Columbia College's "Intersections" series and takes place in the fifth-floor east meeting room of the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, Chicago (312-744-6630).
The two-year-old Nommo Gathering Black Writers' Collective boasts some 80 members who write poetry, fiction, or sketch comedy; the group also offers literary programs to Chicago-area youth through Northeastern Illinois University's Center for Inner City Studies. The group has invited local singer and poet Ugochi Nwaogwugwu--who at press time had made the semifinals on Star Search--to headline tonight's fund-raiser, Juba, Jazz and Jive; the bill also includes the Derrick Bounds Ensemble with Toi, pianist Audra Wilson, and 12-year-old piano prodigy Lirjon Fisnique. It's from 8 to 11 at HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo, Chicago. Tickets are $12, and there's a two-drink minimum; call 312-362-9707.