Erin Brockovich's story is so compelling, not even Julia Roberts could screw it up. The real Brockovich talks it up at tonight's Project Love's 10th anniversary celebration, The Power of One -- An Evening With Erin Brockovich. The organization has spent the past decade prepping teens for adulthood through community events and leadership training. Brockovich, who blew the whistle on toxic groundwater spills in a California town, had kids in mind when she scored a $333 million settlement against Pacific Gas and Electric in 1996. Hear all about it at 7:30 at Executive Caterers of Landerhaven, 6111 Landerhaven Drive in Mayfield Heights. Tickets range from $20 (for students) to $50 (which includes a dessert reception with Brockovich). Call 216-593-0020 for more information.
Friday, May 21
The hundred or so guys participating in today's Real Men Cook will be dishing out everything from bean salad to cheesecake. News anchors (like Jack Marschall), councilmen (like Jay Westbrook), and CEOs (like Center for Families and Children's Lee Fisher) will be there, spoons in hand, ready to tell you all about their spicy chili and fabulous potatoes. It all benefits the Women's Alliance for Recovery Services, which has hosted the event for 16 years. Get ready for some mighty fine eats from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Holiday Inn Select -- City Centre (1111 Lakeside Avenue). Tickets are $11 in advance, $12 at the door; call 216-575-9120.
Saturday, May 22
GuitarMania II: Encore in 2004 officially launches Memorial Day weekend, but you can get an eyeful of some of the giant axes at Tower City now. Nearly 100 10-foot fiberglass models of Fender Stratocasters -- artfully jazzed up for the occasion -- will grace the Rock Hall and other local sites throughout the summer. The sneak peeks at Tower City include several designs by local artists, including Craig Petersen's "Lady Liberty" and Corlette Baylock's "The Fender Funder." This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the Strat. What better way to celebrate than with an instrument twice the size of Prince? They're up through November at Tower City Center, 230 West Huron Road. Admission is free. Call 216-623-4750 for more information.
Mystery writer Shelly Reuben's day job is as a private detective. She's investigated fires from her New York office for more than 20 years. No surprise then that her latest book, Weeping, is about a suspicious blaze and sassy arson investigator Fritillary Quinn's quest for the truth. "The most difficult writing I ever do is when it gets close to being personal," Reuben says. "There's a sense of commitment to accuracy. But when it's just unadulterated fiction, it's so much fun. You can just fly with it." Can we assume there's a little bit of Shelly in Tilly? "I never wanted to steal from my own life," she says. "But we [do share] a passion for fire." Reuben is at Joseph-Beth Booksellers (24519 Cedar Road in Lyndhurst) at 2 p.m. Admission is free; call 216-691-7000.
Sunday, May 23
Art House celebrates Salvador Dalí's 100th birthday with a Hello, Dalí party, which comes complete with Spanish music and food. A silent auction is also happening, but don't expect to find any of the surrealist's work on the table. Instead, original art from local painters, restaurant gift certificates, and theater tickets are up for grabs. It takes place 1 to 4 p.m. at Art House, 3119 Denison Avenue. Tickets are $35 and $60 (which includes a souvenir); call 216-398-8556. Afterward, head to the Cleveland Cinematheque (11141 East Boulevard), which is showing a pair of experimental films -- 1929's Un Chien Andalou and the following year's L'Age d'Or -- that Salvador Dalí made with Luis Buñuel. You won't soon forget scenes in which a woman's eye is slit and ants pour out of a hand wound. And look quick for Dalí himself, as a donkey-dragging priest, in Andalou. They screen at 8:55 p.m. Admission is $8; call 216-421-7450.
Monday, May 24
Phoenix emo rockers Reubens Accomplice wrap their songs in warm, cozy pop hooks, which propel their second album, The Bull, the Balloon, and the Family. Their engaging sound makes up for the occasional slips into the genre's cavern of doom: melodramatic readings of songs about stuff that means a lot to them (in this case, their desert life). They're at the Agora (5000 Euclid Avenue) at 6 tonight. Tickets are $10; call 216-241-5555.
Tuesday, May 25
On its debut album, The Hold Steady Almost Killed Me, Brooklyn's Hold Steady plays post-punk guitar rawk that cribs religiously from both classic-rock playlists and sweat-drenched club acts. Leader Craig Finn used to be in Minneapolis' arty noisemakers Lifter Puller. He's more accessible here, bringing ringing riffs and chunky power chords to straightforward songs that never skirt the issues. The Hold Steady plays the Beachland Tavern (15711 Waterloo Road) at 9 tonight with the Thermals. Tickets are $8, available by calling 216-383-1124.
Wednesday, May 26
Mary Roach says she quickly got used to corpses when she was researching Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. "It's amazing how you adjust to these surreal and grotesque scenarios," she says. "People have a capacity to adapt to things." The sharp, informative bestseller (which just came out in paperback) looks at 2,000 years' worth of dead people's contributions to science, both medical (from heart transplants to cosmetic surgery) and criminal (they were used to test the first guillotines). "There's a lot of imagination in the use of the human body," Roach says. "There's a bizarre variety of things bodies have done through history." She discusses and signs Stiff at 7 p.m. at Joseph-Beth Booksellers, 13217 Shaker Square. Admission is free. Call 216-751-3300 for more information.