At first someone plays him. The imitation is solid but not spectacular; the actor has the voice down, the cigar, tennis shorts. Maybe you'd know the impression without an introduction, but it goes like this: In 1971, when Melvin Van Peebles needed some bread to finish his revolutionary pic Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, he called his pal Bill. Bill had money. Bill asked his wife if he could give it to Melvin. His wife said sure. Bill gave it. The moment is re-enacted in Mario Van Peebles' Baadasssss! T.K. Carter plays Bill. Then, without warning, at film's end the real Bill Cosby shows up talking about how Melvin did this, did that, got there first, got there best, ain't nobody better before or since, all kind and lovely and beautiful words. Suddenly you're moved. Baadasssss!, the riotous movie about the making of a righteous movie, gives way to a man bigger than all of it--the Wizard of Cos, without whom none of it would have been possible. He was there first, on TV and the stand-up stage. He may not have made the most noise, but he said as much as anyone about everything--being a father, being a son, being a husband, being a man. Cosby, who's at the Music Hall at Fair Park on May 1 at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., retreated into his fame--made too many bad movies, too many trips to the TV well, got too much Pudding Pop brain-freeze--but he's still the best, the biggest, the baadasssssest. Tickets are $37.50 to $52.50. Call 214-373-8000. --Robert Wilonsky
Eight for Cinco
Hispanic culture will be on display this week in all its colorful glory. Celebrating Cinco de Mayo, a program by Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklorico, will honor Mexican history and celebrate the country's traditional dance forms. Matinee performances, which will be geared toward children, are May 3 through May 5 at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. at the Majestic Theater, 1925 Elm St. There will also be two evening shows: one on May 4 at the Majestic at 7:30 p.m. and one on May 6 at the Latino Cultural Center, 2600 Live Oak St., at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $3 to $10. Call 214-880-0137 to purchase tickets for the May 4 evening performance. Call 214-828-0181 for all other shows. --Rhonda Reinhart
Give 'Em a Hand
Child's Play gave puppets such a bad rap. Honestly, most of them aren't sadistic killers. And if Chucky didn't traumatize you for life, the Lone Star Puppet Guild wants to show you the nicer side of dummies. The sixth annual National Day of Puppetry event takes place Saturday at the Bath House Cultural Center, 521 E. Lawther Drive, where visitors can watch puppet-related plays and parades and budding ventriloquists can receive a helping hand with the craft (a hand we're sure is stuck into the butt of a little wooden creature). This year's theme is "Puppets on the Lake," although we figure it'll take only one frustrated ventriloquist to change the whole thing to "Puppets in the Lake." Admission is free. Call 214-670-8749. --Sam Machkovech
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Anything--and everything--goes in The Full Monty
What gets you out of the house? There's topless. Or, better yet, the full monty. Then there's the discount lunch buffet. Six British blokes do it all, dishing out their "prime" to the public in the musical comedy The Full Monty. How far will unemployed men go to make ends meet and regain self-confidence along the way? Far enough to make the elderly women in the front row giggle and relive the glory days of their youth. It's a well-needed stretch of the imagination, reverse exploitation served with a laugh, a song and a tender heart. See the 10-time Tony nominee at Bass Performance Hall, 525 Commerce St., Fort Worth, beginning May 4 with performances Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 7 p.m. or Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets start at $25. Call Bass at 817-212-4280 or Casa Mañana at 817-332-2272. --Danna Berger
Collins reads art aloud
There is a simple elegance to his work bereft of the hubris that snatches and claims other poets--separating them with their hyper-education from their would-be audience. With Billy Collins there is none of that, and only a pen more learned than mine could imitate his greatness. Billy is fond of writing poems about writing poems. He's more than that, of course, more than some postmodern slickster. He's funny, with humor as nuanced as his grace. He's the former U.S. poet laureate and perhaps the first since Robert Frost on the tongues of the general public, his collections finding even the aliterate. He's reading in Dallas on May 1 at 7:30 p.m. in the Horchow Auditorium, where tickets are $25 for the public and $20 for Dallas' literati. Call 214-922-1200 for more information. --Paul Kix