Seasonal longings and hormonal surges will be celebrated in a new exhibit at the Flat Iron Gallery. “Erotic/Wicker Park” features works by more than 20 neighborhood artists including curator Roberto Lopez. In keeping with the exhibit’s theme, tonight’s opening will feature DJ’d salsa, merengue, and soca music for steamy dancing and readings of erotic poetry. The exhibit runs through May 29, and the gallery is open from noon to 5 on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The opening runs from 6 to 10; it’s free. The gallery is on the second floor at 1579 N. Milwaukee. Call 252-6692 for more info.

Jack Thompson, the man who made a name for himself by counting all the dirty words on 2 Live Crew’s As Nasty As They Want To Be album, will argue for greater restrictions on pop music lyrics in a debate tonight at Northwestern University. Squaring off against him will be ACLU president and First Amendment advocate Nadine Strossen. It’s happening at 6:30 in the Alice Millar Chapel, 1870 Sheridan Road in Evanston. Tickets are $7, $3 for students. Call 708-491-2381.

Ethnobotanist Mark Plotkin has spent much of the past 15 years documenting medicinal plant use by the indigenous people of the northeastern Amazon region. He worked with the group Conservation International to establish the Shaman’s Apprentice Program, aimed at preserving thousands of years of traditional knowledge of plants which is threatened along with entire cultures bound to disappearing ecosystems. Plotkin, author of Tales of a Shaman’s Apprentice, will relate some of his experiences in the Amazon tonight in the Wilson Hall auditorium at Fermilab, Batavia Road at Route 59 in Batavia. Admission is $3 and the lecture starts at 8. Call 708-840-2787.


If you’re into dried flower arrangements, aromatherapy, or fresh pesto you may want to stop by the fifth annual Herb and Scented Plant Sale sponsored by the Friends of the Oak Park Conservatory. More than 250 types of medicinal, cooking, and ornamental plants will be on sale from 9 to 3 today at the Conservatory, 615 Garfield in Oak Park. Call 708-386-9055 for information.

This is the first day of the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s river cruise season. For $15 you get a two-hour guided boat tour of more than 50 notable riverfront buildings and the lowdown on Bertrand Goldberg, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Stanley Tigerman, and other architects who left their marks on the city. The first cruise leaves today at noon with tours running at noon weekdays, and noon and 2 Saturdays and Sundays through June 10 (when the schedule changes). The boat departs from the southwest corner of Michigan and Wacker on the lower level. You can order tickets through Ticketmaster, 902-1500, or call the foundation for more information at 922-3432 X126.

Zydeco royalty Queen Ida will take off her accordion and tie on an apron when she demonstrates how to make jambalaya, muffalettas, “true roux,” and other down-home creole specialties today at the Happy Table Cooking School inside the Famous Liquors store at 105 E. Roosevelt Road in Lombard. She’ll also sign copies of her book, Cookin’ With Queen Ida today at 1. Tickets are $15; call 708-953-8899. Ida will follow up with a concert at 8 tonight at the College of DuPage Arts Center, 22nd Street and Lambert Road in Glen Ellyn. The concert costs $19. For reservations call 708-858-3110.

The Organic Theater Company is opening its 1994 season with Minneapolis playwright Bill Corbett’s new work about an ex-con/cult deprogrammer hired to kidnap a young woman from a New Age religious group. Cash Karma opens tonight and runs through May 29. Performances are Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8, and Sundays at 7. Tickets are $12 on Fridays and Saturdays, $10 on Thursdays and Sundays. The Organic is located at 3319 N. Clark. Call 327-5588 for tickets.



The roster at Forest Park’s Forest Home Cemetery reads like a who’s who of American labor history: Bill Haywood, Emma Goldman, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Joe Hill, and Abraham Lincoln Brigade veteran Eddie Balchowsky are among those buried there. Forest Home is also the site of a monument–which had to be erected outside city limits–to the Haymarket martyrs. This being May Day, the Illinois Labor History Society is giving informal tours of the cemetery between 11 and 2 and selling copies of their biographical booklet about the folks buried there. The booklet is $3, the tour is free. Gather at the martyrs’ monument just inside the cemetery’s entrance, 863 Des Plaines Ave. in Forest Park. Forward Motion, a socialist bimonthly, is sponsoring another free tour today at 3. Call 278-0210.

Bony waifs, step aside! Ms. Large & Lovely of 1994 will be crowned at a pageant this afternoon at the Holiday Inn City Centre, 300 E. Ohio. The pageant, created to highlight the ample charms of full-figured women, is the climax of a two-day convention sponsored by the Dimensions Plus-Size Model Agency along with several clothing companies. In addition to seminars running all day Saturday on modeling, fitness, makeup, and pageantry, talent scouts will be scouring the convention, offering opportunities to lucky big-boned gals. The pageant starts at 4, and admission is $15. Call 708-799-4580 for tickets and info.


Along with color TV and a hot toddy, a comfy rocking chair can soothe almost any crisis. Conveniently preceding Mother’s Day, Sawbridge Studios is opening its new show Rockers: An Urban Oasis today, featuring handmade rockers. The show runs through May 31 at Sawbridge Studios, 406 N. Clark. It’s open from 10 to 6 on weekdays, Thursdays til 9, and from 10 to 5 on Saturdays. Call 828-0055 for more.

In his book Viva Las Vegas, Alan Hess argues that Sin City has evolved from a strip of motels into the prototypical urban center of the 90s. Hess, who’s also a syndicated architecture critic, will explain this theory tonight at a lecture at the Graham Foundation, 4 W. Burton Place. Admission to the 8 PM lecture is free. 787-4071 for more.


As part of Expresiones Latinas, a two-week Latino arts festival, a panel of local journalists will examine portrayals of Latinos in the mass media. Panelists include La Raza publisher Luis Rossi, Exito! managing editor Sandra Aponte, Sun-Times VP Dennis Britton, and Reader contributor Achy Obejas. The discussion runs from 1:30 to 3 today at Columbia College’s Hokin Annex, 623 S. Wabash. Admission is free. For information call 663-1600 ext. 459.

Running 101, an eight-week health and safety clinic, begins today at Saint Joseph Hospital. It’s hosted by the Chicago Area Runners Association. Learn about flexibility, injury prevention, nutrition, cross training, and buying shoes each Tuesday at 6:30 at the hospital, 2800 N. Lake Shore Dr. The clinic costs $45, $35 for CARA members. Register by calling 666-9836.


Big Bird is in trouble, this time with a witch who envies his yellowness. Sleeping Birdie, produced by Sesame Street Live, opens tonight at the Rosemont Horizon, Mannheim Road between Higgins and Touhy in Rosemont. Unless they’ve all been poisoned by the influence of a certain purple dinosaur, the audience members’ enthusiasm should be nearly as entertaining as what’s happening onstage. Tickets are $9.50 and $10.50. Show times are tonight and Thursday at 7:30, Friday at 10:30 and 7:30, Saturday at 10:30 and 2, and Sunday at 1 and 4:30. For tickets call 559-1212.

Joan Hess, author of Poisoned Pins and Tickled to Death, will be joined by Dorothy Cannell, who wrote Femmes Fatal, and How to Murder Your Mother-in-Law, for a discussion of the lighter side of murder, at 57th St. Books, 1301 E. 57th Street. It’s tonight at 7:30. Admission is free; call 684-1300.

Nestled in Ovett, Mississippi, Camp Sister Spirit is one of two things: an educational retreat center and safe haven for women or a beachhead of satanic lesbianism in the heart of the Bible Belt. Some local residents clearly believe it’s the latter, and the women there have been subject to all sorts of ugly harrassment. Queer Nation and the Women’s Action Coalition are sponsoring a benefit for the camp, featuring performances by Word of Mouth, Handsome Family, Gena’s Bouquet, Elysium, and Jamie Paradise. It’s tonight at 8 at Schuba’s, 3159 N. Southport. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door. Call 477-1804 for tickets and info.


One of Abe Lincoln’s most famous cases, the highly political federal murder trial of the People versus Harrison, will be the subject of a Chicago Bar Association program today in the Dirksen Federal Building, 219 S. Dearborn. The event includes a reenactment of the trial and a panel discussion featuring Cullen Davis, director of the Lincoln Legal Papers. It runs from 3 to 6 in courtroom 2541. Admission is free, but seating is limited. Call 554-2056 for reservations.

Black Fire: The Making of an American Revolutionary is the autobiography of Nelson Peery, an African American who grew up in the racism and poverty of the Depression and later volunteered for military service only to find his country fighting fascism with a segregated army. The book documents his transformation from idealistic youth into radical activist. Peery will be reading and recounting stories from his memoir tonight at 7:30 at Barbara’s Bookstore, 3130 N. Broadway. Admission is free. Call 477-0411 for more information.