Earthly Pleasures: By this time of year, our ears bleed spontaneously each time we hear a "fa-la-la-la-la," so it's easy to forget that the Christmas classics weren't exactly fresh when December rolled around. It's time for a new set of hard-candy favorites--or, in this case, a set of tunes many hundreds of years old which are, to most of us, as grand-spanking new as the latest Smashing Pumpkins CD. Earthly Pleasures, a Dallas-based ensemble which specializes in medieval and renaissance music, rescue the holiday season with a concert appropriately titled "An Old...Old...Old...Old-Fashioned Christmas." Three women singers, accompanied by players performing on a wide range of centuries-old musical instruments like recorders, rebecs, vielles, harps, lutes, viols, and sackbuts, will deliver Christmas music from medieval England and Spain, renaissance Spain, and late renaissance Germany. Admission is $5, and $3 more gets you dessert and coffee at admission. The show kicks off at 8 p.m. at the Casa View United Methodist Church, Ferguson and Matterhorn between I-30 and I-635. For more information, call 327-6823.
The First Noel: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwaanza, et al. are really the most fun when you add children. Sure, it's old-fashioned greed which drives most kids to get excited about the holidays (and means that these days will be especially miserable for kids who have to do without), but then some things don't benefit from close scrutiny. Chances are your own favorite memories come from a childhood holiday at which you received some highly anticipated gift; the grade-school parties and the art activities and the TV specials and the family get-togethers are just the mythological build-up to the gift-giving climax. The Biblical Arts Center hopes to remind people of "the reason for the Christmas season" (you know, Christ) with its exhibit, The First Noel: Christmas Seen Through the Eyes of Metroplex Children. The juried exhibition contains artwork in various media by kids from 18 schools and churches (each institution was asked to interpret a different verse). The First Noel runs through Jan. 14 at the Biblical Arts Center, 7500 Park at Boedeker. It's free. 691-4661.
The Fantasticks: There is a phenomenon among performance groups known as "the cash cow." It's a production that is guaranteed to make money for the company for a variety of mundane or complex reasons--it's a seasonal show that people feel a duty to attend every year (you got your Nutcrackers and your Christmas Carols) or just one that, by its very blandness, has touched a universal chord and keeps people coming back to the box office. Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt's The Fantasticks falls into the latter category, but Theatre Three (a company that deserves a lucrative cash cow) has decided to take advantage of both impulses. The longest-running musical in theatrical history (the play debuted in 1960 and notched 10,000 off-Broadway performances) has become its holiday show of choice. The Fantasticks runs Friday at 8:15 p.m.; Saturday at 2:30 & 3:15 p.m.; and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. through Jan. 7 in the Quadrangle at 2800 Routh. Tickets are $15-$23. 871-2933.
Season's Greetings: Playwright Alan Ayckbourn is the British Neil Simon, an enormously successful writer whose every new play is greeted with lines in front of box offices. Ayckbourn is arguably more talented than Simon, or, at the very least, more energetic. His plays are the very essence of that oft-cited, little-mentioned genre known as "farce"--marvels of clockwork plotting, misanthropic characterizations, and, when the director knows what he or she is doing, high-wire pacing. Fort Worth's Stage West offers its umpteenth production of an Ayckbourn vehicle--this one with an appropriate holiday flavor and a much-needed dash of malice to help you recover from good cheer. Season's Greetings concerns the disastrous Christmas celebration of the Bunker family, who reunite after a long estrangement. Suffice it to say there is bed-hopping, thievery, physical shtick, and back-stabbing galore. The final two performances of Season's Greetings are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. at 3055 South University Drive in Fort Worth. Tickets are $11-$16. For more information, call (817) 924-9454.
Jamie Foxx: In a world that's about to overdose on drag, comedian Jamie Foxx created one of the more hilarious and controversial women in the late, much-lamented Fox TV show In Living Color--Wanda, the buck-toothed, bubble-butted virago whose obliviousness is an inspiration to us all. Although Wanda may have been Foxx's most famous creation on In Living Color, he's left her and the show behind to begin a career as a musician (his self-produced debut LP, Peep This, entered Billboard's R & B charts at No. 12) and resume his work as a stand-up comic (with one solo HBO special under his belt). Fans will get the chance to experience a bit of both when Foxx swoops into Dallas with his "New Year's Eve Black Comedy Explosion." Foxx, a native Texan (he grew up in Terrell and performed in the Bethlehem Baptist Church), kicks off his show at 8 p.m. at the Majestic Theatre on Elm in downtown Dallas. For ticket information, call 373-8000.
New Year's Eve Events: If you've checked the Observer's "New Year's Guide" and still aren't quite sure what you want to do on a night when you'd better have fun or you're the loneliest, most unpopular sack of human garbage on the face of the planet, then here we offer some New Year's Eve celebrations with flair. For folks who know how to cut a rug or just enjoy the kind of ethnic-flavored, big band-influenced music that brings to mind images of blue-hairs swaying on a cornmeal-slicked floor, then consider attending the Czech Club. Music is performed by Fabulous Six, the doors open at 8:30 p.m., there's no hard liquor served, and, best of all, admission is only $7.50-$10. For info, call 278-3939. The Gryphon Players deliver a little culture with your drinking binge with a benefit performance of George Bernard Shaw's How He Lied To Her Husband. The evening, which also includes a dessert buffet and champagne, kicks off at 9 p.m. at the Theater on Elm Street, 3202 Elm. Tickets are $25-$40. For a Tejano-flavored New Year's that's guaranteed to get your feetmoving and your blood pressure rising, check out the "Tejano New Year's Bash"with headliners Shelly Lares and La Tropa Fa. The evening kicks off at 7 pm in Hall C of the Dallas Convention Center. Tickets are $35. Call 373-8000. May we suggest avoiding the drunk drivers, staying home, drinking yourself silly, and falling into bed (or better yet, invite a friend to fall into bed with you)? That way, the only one who gets hurt is your liver.
Deborah Harry: What an excellent way to start your new year--by returning to the (now unperoxided) roots of so much of what is called "alternative" music. Deborah Harry along with ex-lover/musical collaborator Chris Stein and, to a lesser extent, the other members of Blondie, did it first, did it slicker, and best of all, did it with a sense of humor that's sorely lacking in contemporary alt-rock. Everybody knows that Harry is Madonna's wicked stepmother--although Ms. Ciccone is barely fit to gyrate in Harry's shadow--but it's the combination of studio slickness and driving, thrusting songs you can dance to and enjoy the lyrics of that's the real inheritance Harry and Company left behind. The fact that she's being honored by performing with canned music in tiny clubs seems a little sad--where's the Blondie tribute album, anyway?--but any chance to see the sly Deb should not be missed. Doors open at 8 p.m. at Eden 2000, 5500 Greenville. For ticket information, call 373-8000.
New Year's Day Psychic Fair: It comes around as regular as the lunar orbit every couple of months in Dallas, but this is a very special time of year, one that demands you become proactive and prepare for the challenges ahead in 1996. We're talking, of course, about Dallas' oldest and largest Psychic Fair, which features over 40 different professional readers. Forget stuffed-shirt institutions like the A.M.A. and the Catholic Church; these are the real time-tested disciplines--tarot cards, astrology, palmistry, crystal balls, channelers, past-life clairvoyants, and more. A vendor's area serves as a kind of head shop for your psychic needs, with tons of "lifestyle" accessories--crystals, candles, angels, jewelry, etc. The New Year's Day Psychic Fair happens noon to 7 p.m. at the Dallas Park Central Hotel, LBJ and Coit. Admission is $7, but each reading costs $10. For more information, call 241-4876.
Pretty Baby: As part of its First Monday Classics series, the USA Film Festival revives a movie that's perhaps riper for controversy today than when it was released almost 17 years ago. The fact that the French writer-director Louis Malle, one of the world cinema's great character portraitists, died just a few weeks ago is even more reason to check out his postcard-pretty, black-hearted period drama Pretty Baby. Needless to say, most of the publicity that surrounded the film's release focussed on the screen debut of Brooke Shields as the bee-stung-lipped daughter of an alcoholic prostitute (Susan Sarandon) who is saved from a life in The Biz by a kind-hearted if slightly creepy photographer (Keith Carradine), who makes Shields his bride. While the film hardly condones the exploitation of children, Malle was enough of a provocateur to photograph Shields as he might any other sexy ingŽnue. Screenwriter Polly Platt, who co-wrote the film, discusses her memories of Malle at the Dallas screening. Pretty Baby screens Jan. 1 at 7:30 p.m. at the AMC Glen Lakes, 9450 North Central, and Jan. 2 at 7:30 p.m. in the AMC Sundance 11, 304 Houston in downtown Fort Worth. Tickets are $6.50. 821-NEWS.
Gay 101: A Texas Congressman recently committed an "outrage of the week," duly noted by the bruising, brawling CNN political discussion show "Capital Gang." He wants to spend a few million to investigate the 50-year-old Kinsey report on human sexuality because, among other problems with it, he thinks the study is gay propaganda. Politicians are forever making asses of themselves over sex, whether it be an act they've committed or one they don't want others to commit, but to be fair, most doctors don't fare much better, including Kinsey and the researchers behind this year's Chicago Institute Report. From Freudian theories of arrested development to Simon LeVay's sliced-up hypothalami, the question is always the same--what "causes" homosexuality? The Gay & Lesbian Community Center sponsors one of its three-hour discussion-information sessions, "Gay 101: The Basic Facts About Homosexuality," which provides all the latest info on biological, legal, cultural, political, and religious issues surrounding homosexuality. Come with an open mind and strong opinions. It's free and gets under way at 6:30 p.m. at 2701 Reagan at Brown. For information, call 528-9254.