America's flirtation with all things '80s is about to go thermonuclear, blossoming into a full-on sweaty love affair. DJ Les Aaron (sigh) and DJ Johnny Orr spin the hits of the neon decade at Miso on Meramec (16 North Meramec Avenue; call 314-863-7888 for times and cover, if any) in the debut of Totally '80s Wednesdays. They promise to play only the "good stuff," none of that cheesy crap you can get on any half-assed Razor & Tie compilation album. Believe it, because Les Aaron doesn't do anything half-assed. You want classic Cure, or a deeper cut from the Housemartins, or any Gary Numan track besides "Cars"? Look to Les. Parachute pants, Vision Streetwear berets and different-colored Chuck high-tops are not mandatory, but if you want to catch Les' eye, well, do what you have to do. Maybe he'll play a special cut just for you ("Obsession," anyone?).
Thursday, April 22
Hang on to your Playbills, theater buffs. You have not one but two productions of Cabaret to choose from this evening. Washington University's All Student Theatre presents its version of the Kander and Ebb musical at 8 p.m. in the glorious out-of-doors, on the Brookings Quadrangle (on the Wash. U. campus, Forsyth and Skinker boulevards; call 314-935-7281 for tickets). Tickets are $5 to $6, or $10 if you'd like the VIP on-the-stage seating. The AST production runs Wednesday, April 21, through Saturday, April 24, so if you'd rather see it another day, you can step-shuffle-step-jazz-hands on up to the Touhill Performing Arts Center (on the UMSL campus, 1 University Drive; 314-516-4949) for the UMSL Department of Theatre, Dance and Media Arts' production of Cabaret. Many, but not all, of the roles in this Cabaret will be played by UMSL students, and the show runs from Thursday, April 22, through Saturday, April 24 (all shows start at 7:30 p.m.). Tickets are $6 to $12. See both versions and experience the joys of live theater, where no two productions of the same story are ever alike.
Friday, April 23
The McDonald (Michael, that is) is not known for his dancing. He's known for the Doobie Brothers song "Takin' It to the Streets," which, coincidentally, is this spring's COCAdance theme. Tonight's the kick-off to National Dance Week and the first night to catch the hour-long jazz, tap and modern dance performance by COCA's teen company and professional alumni (at 7 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Saturday, April 24, and Sunday, April 25; 524 Trinity Avenue, 314-725-6555, www.cocastl.org). Tickets are $17 and are available through MetroTix (314-534-1111) or at the COCA box office.
And if you'd prefer to actually dance and watch dance, Ladies Night at Lo (500 North 15th Street, 314-621-8930) with DJ Hypnotique, Femme Fatality and the Superstars of Love is for you. Admission is $5, and drink specials for the girls are $2 until midnight (when the all-male-stripper dance revue begins; Dance Week indeed).
Saturday, April 24
If you spend enough time with artists, you'll soon notice something that sets them apart from those who have chosen other vocations: These people really know how to party. Witness the frivolity yourself at Art Is Everything, a multimedia show thrown by Washington University's SEEN art collective. Between 5 and 9 p.m., the stretch of Cherokee Street from Fort Gondo (3151 Cherokee Street, 314-772-3628) to Art Parts (just up the street from Gondo) to Radio Cherokee (3227 Cherokee Street, 314-773-2164) will host a panoply of art and performance. Installation art, poetry, theater pieces, puppetry and barbecue (hopefully not at the same time) will explode into being at every turn. Add musical performances and the X-factor of young artists partying in the luxurious spring air, and you have a recipe for who-knows-what. It should be a good time, and there is no admission charge; still, you know the old saw about "starving artists," so donate what you can, then step back and watch the world change.
Sunday, April 25
If you haven't been to the American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog (1721 South Mason Road, 314-821-3647) anytime in recent memory, well, don't you think you oughta go now? Located in beautiful Queeny Park, the MotD sports one of the best collections of canine-centric art to be found in the metro area. Photos of dogs, sculptures of dogs, oil paintings of dogs: They have it all. Even better, you can take your dog in the museum with you, as long as Dr. Barkapotomous is leashed and you're courteous about picking up his steaming piles of "art criticism." And if you show up around 1:30 p.m., you can meet the guest dog of the week, the greyhound, and learn a little about this noble dog's rich history. Them fancy breeds' butts smell superb, don't they, Dr. B.? Admission is $1 for kids, $2.50 for seniors and $5 for adults. Notice there's no charge for the pup.
Monday, April 26
Every April you make the same promise to yourself: "This National Poetry Month, I will write a poem a day or add at least 100 lines per week to my epic poem, Gilgamesh II: Tiamat's Revenge." And what happens? A week into it, Gilgamesh languishes on the corner of your desk under a bag of Rollitos. Maybe next year. Now that you've admitted defeat, head over to Left Bank Books (399 North Euclid Avenue, 314-367-6731) at 7 p.m. for their National Poetry Month Celebration. Local poets Becky Ellis, Loy Ledbetter, Robert Nazarene and Marilyn Probe will read from their successfully completed works, and then everyone enjoys a wine reception. If free poetry and wine don't inspire you to get back to work with Gilgamesh, well, maybe that's a sign that you should leave the wordsmithing to the experts.
Tuesday, April 27
Poor white zin has gotten itself all tangled up with cheap, silly wines that come in boxes and jugs. But the zinfandel grape can make a serious wine too; just ask the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP), a nonprofit organization that is "dedicated to advancing public knowledge of and appreciation for American zinfandel and its unique place in our culture and history," according to their Web site, www.zinfandel.org. Of course, there are all kinds of styles and flavors of zinfandels -- red wines even -- and today is the day to learn about and taste zins from more than 50 ZAP wineries in California. St. Louis is the third stop of five on ZAP's Zin in the City Tour (Millennium Hotel, 200 South Fourth Street, 530-274-4900). The tasting is from 6 to 8 p.m., and tickets can be ordered at ZAP's Web site and are $44 in advance, $45 at the door.