The metroplex has always been a step behind Austin when it comes to attracting the entertainment community. Austin may have a bit of an unfair advantage, housing the offices of the Texas Film Commission and hosting South By Southwest, the annual music and film festival that only seems to get bigger each year. Take a look at the "North Texas" footage in this year's X-Files movie, and you'll think that Dallas isn't even trying to keep up (Mountains in Plano? Not bloody likely.) But there are signs of life. Dallas recently hosted the second installment of the North Texas Music Festival, a diet version of South By Southwest that managed to round up such "stars" as Willie Nelson's daughter and has-been producer Eddie Kramer. And Fort Worth is belatedly making amends with its first film festival, which probably has a ways to go before it can attract some real players in the film industry. Of course, Tippi Hedren will be there, but what has she ever done besides star in The Birds and give birth to Melanie Griffith? Also on hand will be actor Barry Corbin (Northern Exposure), author and screenwriter Larry McMurtry (The Last Picture Show, Lonesome Dove), and actor M. Emmet Walsh (just about every film made in the last 20 years). It may not be much yet, but at least they're trying. The festival kicks off with "An Alfred Hitchcock Evening" on Thursday, a cocktail party and special screening of The Birds. The festival continues through Sunday with panel discussions and screenings. Tickets for "An Alfred Hitchcock Evening" are $100 in advance, $125 at the door. Tickets for the festival are $45 for a full festival pass and $17.50 for a day pass. All panels are open to the public. Sundance Square, Fort Worth. Call (817) 237-1008.
Bill Landis can communicate with the spirit world. Well, at least, he has convinced a lot of people he can. We have some news for you, Billy: We didn't buy it in Ghost, and we're not buying it now. Sure, Patrick Swayze's wooden performance didn't help, but if it is possible to channel dead souls, why hasn't someone asked Lee Harvey Oswald to answer some questions about that whole Kennedy thing? It's one of the oldest scams in the book, fooling disconsolate souls into believing their loved ones are speaking to them. All he's missing is a crystal ball and a turban. But hey, The Eclectic Viewpoint probably wouldn't even bother to host a lecture by Landis if there weren't at least some merit to his routine. Maybe Landis actually believes that he can communicate with the spirit world. More likely, he's a really good guesser. Landis will give a presentation at the Renaissance Hotel, LBJ and Midway Road, on Friday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25. Call (972) 808-0848
There is much fun to be had at the expense of the rave scene; just look at the clothing that some of those kids wear. Seriously, is there anything more ridiculous than seeing a 15-year-old kid with a 30-inch waist parading around in size-40 jeans? It should prove to be an easy target for Denton's Good/Bad Art Collective, when the group presents Liquid Rodeo, its take on the come-on-come-on-dance-dance rave scene, featuring DJ Geeky C (a longtime member of art-rock faves the Dooms U.K.) and Good/Bad member Herbal Slattery. We're not sure what to expect from the Good/Bad gang, especially with this broad of a topic. All we can promise is that it will be brilliant as usual. Liquid Rodeo starts at 9 p.m. at the Good/Bad Art Collective, 120 Exposition in Denton. Call (940) 591-1725.
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When playwright Dario Fo, author of We Won't Pay! We Won't Pay!, won the Nobel Prize this year for literature, it was considered a surprising and even controversial decision. What people didn't realize is that the Nobel Prize committee was awarding the Italian satirist for his body of work--hilarious comedies, brilliant political farces, shocking street theatre--rather than the actual play. Most of the criticism was unfounded, because We Won't Pay! We Won't Pay! is some of Fo's best work, a ingenious farce that begins with 300 housewives spontaneously stealing groceries. It contains much more than the standard mistaken-identity gags that are the lifeblood of most farces (though there is plenty of that), managing to mix politics and domestic disputes better than a night in the Clinton White House. We Won't Pay! We Won't Pay! opens on October 22 at Theatre Three, 2800 Routh. The play continues through November 22. Admission is $18-$25. Call (214) 871-3300.
God bless whoever came up with National Massage Therapy Awareness Week. Of all the made-up tributes that calendar companies come up with every year, this has to be the best one. Why? you ask. Because all this week (October 25-31), therapists from The Asten Center will be offering free five- to 10-minute chair massages at various locations throughout the area. Now, if we can just get someone to create a "Fix Your Car For Free" Week. Call the Asten Center for the location nearest you, (972) 669-3245.
For a reason that we can't place, Ed McMahon is one of our favorite celebrities. Maybe the fact that he is a celebrity at all makes us appreciate him. After all, McMahon has no visible talent other than his booming voice, which he has put to such good use as a shill for various sweepstakes contests and insurance companies since he retired from The Tonight Show. Actually, Johnny Carson retired and McMahon lost his job, but why quibble? McMahon will be in town to sign copies of his new autobiography For Laughing Out Loud, a remembrance of his half century of showbiz experience. Come to think of it, maybe McMahon isn't one of our favorite celebrities. We were thinking of the late Phil Hartman's Ed McMahon impression. Sorry. The book signing happens at Barnes & Noble, 14999 Preston Road and Belt Line, at 7:30 p.m. Call (972) 386-5898.
San Francisco's The Hi-Fives are like a touring production of That Thing You Do!, Tom Hanks' 1996 film about the one-hit "Wonders." The quartet--drummer Gary Gutfield, bassist Steve Faine, and guitarists John Denery and Chris Imlay--bounces around on stage in three-button suits and mod haircuts, pounding out short and catchy songs that sound like the Kinks and the Beatles and just about every other early-'60s British-invasion band. It's surprising, then, that the group was born in the same Bay Area punk scene that spawned bands like Green Day, Rancid, and the Mr. T Experience. Well, maybe it's not that surprising, since punk rock has always been just a louder and faster version of early-'60s rock and roll. The Hi-Fives are a throwback to when rock and roll was about girls, girls, girls, and having a little fun. Over the course of three albums--1995's Welcome to My Mind, 1996's And a Whole Lotta You!, and the just-released Get Down--the Hi-Fives have turned their passion for '60s pop into some fantastic songs, melodies that are harder to get out of your head than water after a day in a swimming pool. The Hi-Fives perform on Wednesday at Trees, 2709 Elm St. Call (214) 748-5809.