At some point in life, everybody has that fantasy about leaving behind everything and everyone they know, moving to a new place and starting over. A blank slate means heady, inspiring freedom. No one knows you, or your past or any of the psychic baggage you tote around, so you can become anyone you desire. A new open mic night, like the St. Louis Writers' Underground at Lemmons Basement Bar (5800 Gravois Avenue) offers the same sort of liberation to the frustrated writer/philosopher/poet/unacknowledged genius. Don't give a name, or a title or anything, just take the stage and shout out all the truths you keep to yourself. Then melt back into the night, and savor the feeling of release and quiet that overtakes you on the way home. It's good to let those demons out once in a while. The St. Louis Writers' Underground takes place on Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. and is open to all published and unpublished writers. Call 618-277-4758 for info.
Thursday, August 14
Well, who is that carrying the risotto to table 29? Might it be...KTVI-TV news-clown Tim Ezell? And who's that supplying steak knives to the couple in the corner? Why, it's St. Louis Chief of Police Joe Mokwa! Yes, the locally famous work as waitrons for one glitzy evening at the St. Louis Crisis Nursery's Celebrity Waitress & Waiter Night. From 5-10 p.m. at the swank Luciano's Trattoria (172 Carondelet Plaza, next to the Ritz-Carlton in Clayton), newsreaders, -writers and -makers (and the odd St. Louis Rams cheerleader) ferry the food to your face for a good cause. Diners will order right off the menu, but the tips will go to the emergency shelter for children. Call 314-863-9969 for reservations. Maybe you can get Jerry Berger to toss your salad!
Friday, August 15
Each year Gitana Productions' Cecilia Nadal looks to a different corner of the globe to import some exotic talent to St. Louis for an unusual show. Her annual one-night music/dance performances have featured African, Native American, Spanish, Chinese and Brazilian acts, as well as big American names Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee and Melba Moore. This year's installment, Faces of Love: East Meets West, features New Age Japanese violinist Aska Kaneko doing her thing at the Sheldon Concert Hall (3648 Washington Avenue). Kaneko, whose output has been described as classical Japanese meets Yanni, takes the stage with noted jazz pianist Vince Evans, local jazz singer Denise Thimes, dancer Vivian Watt and a bassist and percussionist for an audio and visual jam. Show up at 8 p.m., or splurge for the VIP treatment, which includes a spread of Japanese foods, at 7 p.m. Call 314-534-1111 or visit www.gitana-inc.org for tickets, priced from $28.50-$50.
Saturday, August 16
The Japanese weekend continues with midnight screenings of Yojimbo at the Tivoli Theatre. Near the beginning of Akira Kurosawa's 1961 black-and-white film, the wind blows leaves through the dusty central square of a small Japanese town. At that point we can be absolutely certain we are watching a Western (or is that an "Eastern"?). Soon we meet the cowboys, who wear topknots instead of hats and carry swords instead of six-guns. Toshiro Mifune, looking like a rugged Robert Mitchum, is a nomadic yojimbo, or bodyguard. He tries to play two gangs of buffoonish criminals against each other to help the petrified villagers. Get ready for plenty of dismembering, killing and dark humor. The plot of this influential movie has been adapted many times, into such flicks as A Fistful of Dollars and Last Man Standing (Friday and tonight, 6350 Delmar Boulevard, 314-862-1100, $6).
Sunday, August 17
Ladies Nights are a dime a dozen. Every bar has 'em, and they're all some variation on the theme of "ladies get in for free." But is free admission really what draws the ladies (and following closely behind them, the guys) in? Any man can tell you, the ladies always want something more than what they're telling you. But what? Leon's Ladies Night at the Hi-Pointe (1001 McCausland Avenue, 314-781-4716) offers the ladies exactly what they want: free admission and '80s music. Take two or more post-college, pre-mortgage women, add some song from the synth-power-pop decade (like, say, "Big Country") and you've got a nonstop, sing-along-at-the-top-of-your-lungs dance party. DJ Leon Lamont spins all the big hits of the big-hair era, Sunday nights beginning at 8 p.m., and if the thought of sweating, singing, dancing ladies aren't enough to make the menfolk fork over the $5 cover, the '80s-era cartoons that screen throughout the evening ought to do the trick. There ain't a thirty-something man on either side of the sexual-preference fence who can resist He-Man, if you know what we mean.
Monday, August 18
Ah, Frederick's Music Lounge. Every Monday night they project movies of the bizarre and off-beat variety for your viewing pleasure, with occasional forays into serious documentary (such as their recent, well-curated program of rock & roll docs) just to mix things up. This week, they stretch their boundaries even further, with a program of back-to-back-to-back, etc., episodes of the sublime Mr. Show. After a lifetime of practically uninterrupted TV viewing, we can state authoritatively and without hyperbole that Mr. Show is a million times funnier than anything that has ever or will ever air on television. This is comedy in its purest, most intelligent form. And if you don't believe it, then you probably don't believe that a man can derail a train with his penis. For charity, of course. Frederick's is located at 4454 Chippewa Street (314-351-5711), and the shows are at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. Admission is free, and the popcorn is freshened hourly.