Events for the week

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december 31
Garrison Keillor: As it so often does for life's other little inexplicables, The Simpsons cuts right to the mystery of Garrison Keillor's popularity when Homer, Marge, and the kids sit watching a TV performance by a Keilloresque performer whose flat-voiced use of words like "apple-cheeked" sends his live audience into hysterics. Homer, convinced that the Simpsons' lack of appreciation for the storyteller can be chalked up to bad TV reception, begins to kick the television and shout, "Be more funny!" There's no doubting Garrison Keillor's massive popularity, and he has often featured some killer musicians on his "Prairie Home Companion" broadcast, but for some of us, his celebration of simple lives lacks the bite and compelling detail of Jean Shepherd. And then there's that little matter of Keillor's rarely cited but bitter misanthropy, which mixes garishly with the homespun blanket he displays. Keillor comes to Dallas for a live New Year's Eve broadcast of "A Prairie Home Companion," with special guests opera singers Jan Grissom and Julian Patrick and Austin singer-songwriter Wayne Hancock. Keillor performs at 8 p.m. at the Music Hall in Fair Park. Tickets are $25-$55, and tickets for pre- and post-show parties are $45. Call (214) 373-8000.

Fort Worth Formal: It's ironic, but not surprising, that after decades of being harangued by homophobes for their promiscuity, gays and lesbians who attempted to gain legal recognition of their monogamous unions would receive a resounding raspberry called DOMA. Promiscuity, hardly exclusive to homosexuals, was really never the issue anyway; men doing things that only women were supposed to do, and vice versa, was the real rub for individuals whose identity depends on strict gender codes. Disappointing though DOMA was, the institutionalization of "the gay lifestyle" continues with events like The Fort Worth Formal, which for seven years now has provided a kind of "prom we never had"/New Year's Eve celebration. Proceeds benefit groups that champion gay/lesbian rights and the eradication of the HIV virus. The Fort Worth Formal happens 8 p.m.-1 a.m. in the Will Rogers Memorial Center of the Amon G. Carter, Jr. Exhibit Hall. For ticket info call (817) 877-5544.

Czech Club New Year's: It's a shame to pay fifty bucks just to sit inside some crowded, smoky bar and receive a plastic noisemaker at midnight when you can fork over a measly $10 and dance your behind off to the eastern European rhythms of a veteran polka band. The Harvesters are the headliners at this year's Czech Club New Year's Eve celebration, where beer, mixers, wine, and champagne are available for sale but cannot be taken into (or out of) the club. And at the Czech Club, unlike many other New Year's celebrations, kids are encouraged to attend. The Czech Club party happens 8:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m. at 4930 Military Parkway. Tickets are $7.50-$10. Call (214) 381-9072.

Don Walser and the Pure Texas Band: For those of us whose waistlines exceed our ages by at least a decade of digits, veteran Texas musician Don Walser is living proof that style knows no height-weight ratio. At 62 years of age and 350 pounds, Walser takes the stage with a supremely confident smile, then opens that smile to reveal the source of his confidence--a multi-octave voice that slips in and out of yodeling like a stunt pilot weaves through the clouds. Walser and his backup band, The Pure Texas Band, swoop into town for a Sons of Hermann Hall show that will highlight classic country composers like Faron Young, Merle Travis, and Bob Wills. The show is at 9 p.m.-1 a.m. at Sons of Hermann Hall, 3414 Elm at Exposition. Tickets are $17-$30. Call (214) 747-4422.

New Year's Eve Spectacular: If you want a louder, smokier, more hormonal, but still cheap way to greet 1997, check out the mammoth New Year's Eve Spectacular at Deep Ellum Live. Slowpoke, UFOFU, Baboon, Dooms U.K., Comet, Centromatic, and Peter Schmidt, many of whom have appeared on the Dallas Observer's two Scene Heard collections, compose the bill for this all-ages show. New Year's Eve Spectacular starts at 8 p.m. at Deep Ellum Live, 2727 Canton at Crowdus. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 the day of the show. Call (214) 373-8000.

january 1
New Year's Day Psychic Fair: There are predictions, and then there are hopes. The thing about psychic readers is, you never know if the stuff they're telling you about the future is more of the latter than the former. Before blowing out your birthday candles, for instance, you can make wishes that Democrats stop resembling Republicans and that bourbon becomes a lo-cal, vitamin-rich drink. However, if you attend the New Year's Day edition of Dallas' oldest and largest psychic fair, pay 15 bucks for a ten-minute reading, and learn all these things will come true, you may begin to believe the forces of the universe await your bidding. When the inevitable disappointment sets in after these events do not transpire, just remember that the psychic reader was only meant to entertain and stimulate the imagination, not accurately predict the future. Even then, you'll begin 1997 in a good mood. The Psychic Fair happens noon-6 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Select Hotel on LBJ and Jupiter Road. Admission is $7, plus $15 per 10-minute reading. Call (214) 241-4876.

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Jimmy Fowler