Okay, so you've kissed the Pope's ring. Now it's time to get to know some really important people. Like Lonnie Johnson, the inventor of the Super Soaker squirt gun, who "changed the face of water pistols," according to Rini Paiva, co-curator of American Innovation, a new exhibition that features creations by women and minority inventors. Then there's Bette Nesmith Graham, the secretary who came up with Liquid Paper in the 1950s and changed the face of crossing things out--in addition to giving the world her son Mike, who grew up to be a Monkee. The exhibit, which features text, photographs, and video tributes to Johnson, Graham, Pasty Sherman (the brains behind Scotchgard), and nine others, runs through May 2 at Inventure Place, 221 South Broadway in Akron. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today; admission is $7.50 for adults, $6 for kids ages three to seventeen. Call 330-762-4463.
Tremont artist and poet Steven B. Smith moved to Cleveland from Baltimore in 1972, and not for the Lenten fish fries: "I came here for another man's wife," he says. She got divorced and married somebody else; Smith devoted himself to his art, sorting through neighborhood scrap piles to unearth holy cards, dented TV trays, and heirloom photographs of forgotten people. He incorporated that blend of religious imagery and post-industrial residue into mixed-media collages--and has kept it up for the past quarter-century. Funny and poignant, but with rough edges worthy of a tetanus shot, the resulting works remove the sentimentality from the sacred, without stooping to sacrilege. Some of Smith's works are on exhibit through tomorrow at the new M.G. Solymos Gallery (14309 Madison Avenue in Lakewood). Hours are 2 to 6 p.m. today and Sunday. For more information, call 216-221-2015.
Dance Theatre of Harlem stages a series of neoclassical ballet performances this week in conjunction with a four-day residency at Cuyahoga Community College. In addition to its work at the school, the troupe, which started out in 1969 in Harlem in response to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., will present a weekend program that includes Dougla, a tribute to the descendants of East Indian and African slaves; The Joplin Dances, a ragtime number with live musical accompaniment; and Firebird, which revisits Igor Stravinsky's 1909 story ballet in a rain forest, rather than its original Russian woodland setting. The public performances take place tonight at 7:45 in the Allen Theatre in Playhouse Square, 1407 Euclid Avenue. Tickets are $10, $17, and $25; call 216-241-6000. The troupe will also give a short free performance today at noon at the Allen.
Big, hairy guys toting big, fuzzy stuffed animals are charter members of ABATE, a statewide motorcycle club that hosts charitable toy runs for kids several times a year. They'll be kicking up some dust tonight at their Meltdown Party, a public blowout that features music by the Burnt River Band (blues-based Southern rock, and one of Cleveland's oldest biker bands), free buffalo wings, and, to wash it all down, a twenty-minute professional fire-eating show by Cleveland's own Blaze and Leather. Motor on down to Sheridan's, 8635 Darrow Road (Route 91) in Twinsburg. Admission is $5; call 330-425-7830.
From the greens of Wembley Stadium (where he backed up Nine Inch Nails), to the all-weather carpeting of Wilbert's Bar & Grille, Marky Ray has been around. The deep-throated vocalist and guitarist is joined in his latest band, 3-D, by guitarist Michael Purkhiser, who played in the 1980s with the Walking Clampetts, a rockabilly band that shook the aluminum siding off clubs in Kent and Akron with its wicked version of "Viva Las Vegas." 3-D will perform tonight with wispy duo Poplolly, which recently snagged its first big break--a gig at this year's South by Southwest music festival in Austin--without having ever played live. At 10 p.m. at Wilbert's, 1360 West 9th Street, 216-771-2583. Tickets are $6.
There are a million naked stories in the naked city, and they've all been crammed into one film--Nicholas Baker's Unmade Beds, a sick and twisted send-up of the New York singles scene. Once called the "most sadistic director in British film," Baker delves into the delusional lives of four nightclub irregulars out looking for that special someone, who may or may not be a professional wrestler. For Brenda Monte, a former lap dancer who shares her bra size (38D) like some people share recipes, Mr. Right is in his early fifties, preferably Italian, with "all his hair and teeth," and deep pockets that she can probe. "He doesn't have to be handsome," she adds. "And he doesn't have to take me to dinner. But he can get me things I need . . . like carpeting." Unmade Beds disrobes tonight at 8:45 p.m. at the Cleveland Cinematheque, 11141 Euclid Avenue. Tickets are $6; call 216-421-7450 for more information.
Known in lasso circles as "The Thunder From Down Under," Australian rodeo rider Darrell Diefenbach grabs the bull by the horns--without using his hands, because he's in the World's Toughest Rodeo. (Sitting backwards on the beast, he hangs on with his legs.) He'll be joined in hee-haw heaven today by four teams of professional buckaroos, who'll compete in saddle bronc riding, bull riding, and barrel racing, culminating in a "let 'er rip" championship round in which the top riders get judged on control, speed, and buck-ability. When testosterone levels get a mite too high, rodeo clown Keith Isley puts things in perspective with Pee Wee, his 22-inch-high pony. "He's a little studmuffin," says Isley of his mount. "He looks like a huge Chia Pet." The hoofing-and-hollering starts at 2 p.m. at Gund Arena, 100 Gateway Plaza. Tickets are $10, $16, and $20, half price for children twelve and under. Call 216-241-2121.
Junior Frankensteins really get to stir things up in the Kids Color Lab, an interactive area at the Rainbow Children's Museum, where kids can pretend they're scientists or step on a stage and see their shadows projected eight times over in all the colors of the spectrum. In the Artists Studio--an exhibit that explores modern artists' use of color and pattern, from the dots of Georges Seurat to the polygons of Piet Mondrian--they can create pictures with crayons, paints, and colored chalk, then take home what they create or hang it up at the museum. At 10730 Euclid Avenue, 216-791-5437. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for children; the museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Glam-punk band the Sinisters may look silly, poofed out in patent leather and faux fur (see '80s hairspray metal). But they rock, in an Iggy and the Stooges and MC5 way. The Toronto band shares a double bill with the Hurricanes, a bunch of punk cut-ups led by Kevin Orr, former frontman of the slashing-and-burning TKOs, a popular but defunct Cleveland group. "Their shows turn into a bloody mess," says promoter Doug Niemczura of the Hurricanes. "But they said the same thing about the Candy Snatchers [when they came to Cleveland], and they weren't too awful bloody." The veins open at 10 p.m. at Pat's in the Flats, West 3rd Street and Literary Road, 216-431-1129. Admission is $5.
Janis Joplin's private side--much more introspective than her rock and roll persona--is revealed in letters she wrote to her family in Port Arthur, Texas. Those letters, which eloquently express the pain of separation from her family and detail her everyday life on the road, are collected in the book Love, Janis, written by her sister, Laura. A stage version of the book, with musical direction by Big Brother and the Holding Company founder Sam Andrew, comes to the Cleveland Play House, 8500 Euclid Avenue, this week and runs through April 4. Tonight's preview performance starts at 8 p.m. Preview tickets are $25; call 216-795-7000.