New Year's Eve offers many possibilities for your amusement. Most of them revolve around drinking, looking sexy and making out when Dick Clark announces the arrival of 2004. The Disco, Tech, Toga and Battery Ball at Three-1-Three (313 East Main Street in Belleville, 618-239-6885) offers more of the same, only Dick Clark is replaced by a slew of local DJs (including Rob Gray, DJ Rob Dorsano and DJ Gee Bee, among others), a free dinner buffet with Champagne toast and a $5 discount for those who wear togas. That covers the "Disco, Tech and Toga" portion of the name, but what's up with the "Battery" reference? You can take off another $5 if you bring a "battery-operated" device (and cell phones and pagers don't count). If you're still unclear about what the organizers want, there will be a "sexy nut and bolt match-up game," and they ain't talking about a construction project. Tickets are $30 before the aforementioned discounts, and doors open at 8 p.m.
Thursday, January 1
Kevin Day will not soon forget the day he had to chop the ice on the Mississippi River so that he could perform at his annual New Year's Day Water-Ski at the Arch. As far as we can tell, this year's holiday doesn't look to be that frigid, but Day reports that regardless, the January water temperature will be pretty close to freezing. That means that the dozen or so barefoot and traditional water-skiers will have a bracing dip at around noon on the riverfront near the base of the Arch. The St. Louis Wheelchair Athletic Association benefit is free to watch, but donations for the group are welcome. Day promises that Brown Sugar, his chocolate lab puppy, will ride the waves with him and that some of the more experienced water-skiers may form a pyramid. Call 314-768-5325 for more info.
Friday, January 2
You have to wonder if Richard Dawson is a kettle of disease these days, what with the prolific contestant-kissing he did on Family Feud 25 years ago. We're pretty sure that the kids in City Improv's Comedy Feud do not suck face with a dozen strangers nightly, but they do take greater risks than Dawson ever did -- game shows are easy; comedy is hard. Comedy Feud takes its logo from Family Feud but is actually similar to Whose Line is It Anyway?. Troupe members play various competitive improvisational comedy "games," and then the audience votes to choose the winners. Tonight's performances begin at 7:30 and 10 p.m.; the 7:30 p.m. show is okay for Grandma, while the occasional dick joke pokes its way into the 10 p.m. show. Call 314-241-1527 for reservations ($8 to $10, 1820 Market Street inside St. Louis Union Station, www.cityimprov.com).
Saturday, January 3
Of all the planets in our solar system, Mars is the favorite. Saturn is regal, Neptune is mysterious in its aloofness, but Mars is the crazy neighbor who brings out the best in us. From John Carter of Mars to Marvin the Martian, no other planet has inspired the human imagination more. NASA has another mission to Mars due to arrive any day, and to celebrate, the folks at the James S. McDonnell Planetarium at the St. Louis Science Center (5050 Oakland Avenue, 314-289-4400) are throwing a Mars Landing Party. Between 7 and 10 p.m. they will screen H.G. Wells' classic War of the Worlds, they'll hand out collectible Mars cardboard discs (other planets will be available throughout 2004), and the NASA-created animation of the Mars landing will be shown, along with a steady feed of the NASA Select Channel and a special Mars star show by the Zeiss Planetarium Model IX Projector. It's gonna be quite an evening of Martian Madness, and it's all free. Hail, Mars!
Sunday, January 4
For those unfamiliar with MTV's Made program, the show involves taking a willing volunteer with a particular dream and training them to make that dream come true. Past Mades have revolved around a girl joining her high school football team, a tomboy becoming a pageant contestant and a heavy boy competing in a triathlon. These transformations take an hour, they all seem to require an emotional breakdown of some sort, and they usually culminate in the participant becoming more photogenic. How very MTV. Anyway, MTV and the Made producers will be at the Halo Bar (6161 Delmar Boulevard, call 636-625-0200 for info) from 1 to 4 p.m. in search of young ladies five-foot-seven and taller who wish to become models. Crying on cue is not a required skill, but it may come in handy.
Monday, January 5
John Belushi claimed that the one essential element for a great comedy writer was a "big chunk of meat dangling between the legs." Who knew John was a poet/philosopher? There's an episode of the Upright Citizens Brigade wherein a five-year-old boy named Donny (rhymes with "Johnny," no?) sports an enormous comedy-writer-essential element. In deadpan, local-news-documentary fashion, the UCB fakes a benefit album and concert to fund a reduction in Donny's comedy endowment and, in the process, lampoons self-serving rock stars, newscasters, overprotective yuppie parents and a couple of other things, most of which are obscured by the gratuitous digital blurring of Donny's talent. The fact that the episode was co-written by Amy Poehler, now of Belushi's Saturday Night Live, just makes it funnier (and also invalidates Belushi's misogynistic belief system). The clever, subversive writing of the UCB is sorely lacking in today's TV Land, but you can see the first ten episodes at Frederick's Music Lounge (4454 Chippewa Street, 314-351-5711). Admission is free, happy hour starts at 5 p.m., and the laughs will be plentiful.
Tuesday, January 6
Step onto the artfully polished and cracked concrete floors of the Elliot Smith Gallery and step out into the gorgeous worlds of five talented landscape painters. Jeff Aeling's Thunderstorm, New Mexico depicts clouds above a Southwestern plain. Harold Gregor's Illinois Flatscape #75 is an aerial view of a farm compound during the long shadows of the crepuscular hour. Ahzad Bogosian's Last Edge of the Storm is a moody oil-on-wood painting of dark trees in the distance; the curious work measures 5.25 by 24.25 inches. Michael Dubina, who is famous for painting on shaped canvasses with beveled edges, contributes the luminous Daybreak Over Secret Pond. Ken Worley's distinctive paintings of stylized, unnaturally colored trees are actually painted with a stick, Brice Marden-style. Five Artists Explore the Landscape, featuring these works and many more, is on view through January 17 at 4729 McPherson Avenue (314-361-4800, free, www.elliotsmith.com).