Early on August 16, 1977, Elvis Presley, sitting atop his throne, keeled over dead. This great American bathroom tragedy is being memorialized this weekend at a couple of events. The Improv Institute, at 2319 W. Belmont, is holding an Elvis Weekend, in which the comedy troupe will be asking for Elvis-related improvisational subjects: song titles, occupations, or lines from his movies–even, says the group, things you don’t like about Priscilla (that hair!). Show times are 8 tonight and 8 and 10:30 tomorrow. Tix are $10, $5 if you can sing a line from an Elvis song. Call 929-2323 for details. Bub City’s Second Annual All-Elvis Weekend includes best Elvis impersonator and best Priscilla look-alike contests (tonight) and music from the Burning Hunks of Love (tonight and tomorrow night), plus free jelly doughnuts and fried peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches. Things get under way at 8:30 both nights; the club’s at 901 W. Weed. There’s no cover charge. Call 266-1200.
The Chicago . . . Together Against AIDS Party at the Pier is a massive effort by Chicago entertainers to raise money for direct care of those suffering from AIDS-related illnesses. The affair runs from noon to 9:30 today with five stages all over the pier and the usual food and fun. Highlights: a kids’ gospel group called Soul Children of Chicago at 12:30; a fashion show by local designers at 2:15; the Joel Hall Dancers at 3:50; and a performance by a cast of Second City alums, including Nora Dunn and Tim Kazurinsky, at 7. Admission is $10, $7 for kids under 12. Navy Pier is at 600 E. Grand. Call 541-9022 for more.
For those who haven’t already burned out on summer street festivals, there’s this weekend’s Wicker Park Greening Festival, held in and around Wicker Park. There’ll be tours of the neighborhood’s many restored Victorian houses, garage sales, and lots of music and food and artists’ booths in the park itself, which is at 1425 N. Damen. The fair runs from noon to 8 today, noon to 6 tomorrow. General admission is $2; house tours cost $10 (but you get a guidebook full of historical info). Call 342-1966 for details.
On the other hand, if city life is beginning to give you a pain, hie thee to the Morton Arboretum’s Saturday Ramble, a one-and-a-half-hour guided nature walk through parts of the arboretum’s 1,500 acres, concentrating on the natural history of Illinois’ savannas and prairies. It starts at 1 PM at the arboretum’s visitor center. There’s a $5-per-car admission fee, plus an additional $1.50 per person ($4.50 maximum per family) for the ramble. It’s on Route 53 just north of the East-West Tollway, aka I-88, in Lisle; call 708-719-2465.
The Korean Buddhist monk and teacher Kwanjo Sunim despaired of conveying the profundity of Buddhist thought to his fellow man until in 1977 he hit upon the idea of using photographs instead of scripture. “I decided,” he wrote, “to appeal to visual imagery in order to reach people’s hearts. I started going around with a camera around my neck instead of meditation beads. My appearance was so outrageous . . . that I became a laughing stock. I was very discouraged . . . but I practiced patience and continued to persevere.” A selection of Kwanjo Sunim’s acclaimed photography of monastic life opens today at the Zen Buddhist Temple, 1710 W. Cornelia, with a reception from 3 to 5. The show will be open daily from 11 to 4 through September 15. Admission is free. More at 528-8685.
The 20-year-old Illiana Club of Traditional Jazz–which, as its name implies, brings together jazz lovers from Illinois and Indiana–is holding its monthly concert this afternoon. Featured: the Chuck Hedges Swingtet, which features Hedges on clarinet, John Bany on string bass, Dave Baney on guitar, Duane Thamm on vibes, and Charlie Braugham on drums. The show’s at the Glendora House, 10225 S. Harlem in Chicago Ridge. It runs from 2 to 6; admission is eight bucks at the door, six in advance. Call 646-0411 or 708-755-8312.
Two venerable Chicago institutions are currently running a couple of rather gruesome exhibitions. At the Field Museum through November 21 is an exhibit of photographs of animal skulls by Francois Robert, Swiss born but currently a Chicago resident. The 35 shots in the show include skulls from a tiger, a giraffe, a turtle, and a grouper. “The unique and highly specialized shape of each skull underscores the astonishing diversity of life on earth,” note the folks at the museum. The exhibit is in the South Gallery, and it’s free with museum admission, which is $5, $3 for kids. The address is Roosevelt Road and Lake Shore Drive; the museum’s open 9 to 5 daily. Call 922-9410 for more. Just across the way at the Shedd Aquarium is an exhibit called Silent Witness: How Scientists Solve Crimes Against Wildlife, up through September 15. At ten “crime study” stations, kids can look at forensic evidence of the sort that allows conservation cops at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to track down people who poach endangered species. The aquarium’s open from 9 to 6 daily; admission is $4, $3 for kids under 12 and seniors, double if you want to go to the new Oceanarium too. On Thursdays the aquarium’s free and Oceanarium admission is $4, $3 for kids and seniors. It’s at 1200 S. Lake Shore Drive; call 939-2438.
The participants in Head Exam: The First Free Improvisation Festival at the HotHouse this month say they were inspired by British guitarist Derek Bailey’s improvisational get-togethers in London. The idea is for free-form aficionados “to explore the results of a purely improvised context: no compositions, no fixed structures, and no safety net,” says the HotHouse’s Marguerite Horberg. They’ll do it tonight and the next two Tuesdays at 8 PM; tonight’s musicians are Jeb Bishop, Bob Marsh, Ken Vandermark, and Weasel Walter. Admission is $5. The HotHouse is at 1565 N. Milwaukee; call 235-2334.
The fifth annual O.P.J. Memorial Concert is held by Dr. Odie Payne III in memory of his father, Odie Payne Jr. (“O.P.J.”). The father’s Odie Payne Big Band was a south-side institution; the son, a practicing physician as well as a musician, leads a band through jazz, blues, rap, and hip-hop numbers at the annual show. It’s at West Pullman Park, 401 W. 123rd St., at 7 tonight, and free. Details at 873-1276 or 538-5422.
Bingo Balls is a one-woman performance piece by Columbia College student Donna Miller. According to the folks at Cafe Voltaire, where the show is playing tonight, “This piece comically explores the various angles of language through movement, text, and visuals” as it traces the growth of the performer from childhood to adulthood. It’s at 7 tonight at the club, 3231 N. Clark; cover is $6. Call 528-3136.
The ninth annual Newberry Library Book Fair begins this afternoon with an associates-only preview from 4 to 8. If you’re not a library contributor, you have to wait until tomorrow to get a look at the selection of used books the Newberry has collected this year. The fair’s open tomorrow from 4 to 8, Saturday from 10 to 5, and Sunday from noon to 5 at the library, 60 W. Walton. Also on Saturday, in conjunction with the fair, are the library’s annual Bughouse Square Debates in Washington Square Park, for which the library collects speakers to debate hot topics on–literally–old-fashioned soapboxes. The debates run from noon to 5; the park is just across Walton from the Newberry. Admission to fair and debates is free; more info at 943-9090.
Of Andrej Roublev, Andrei Tarkovsky’s challenging, surrealistic 1966 epic about the Russian painter, critic J. Hoberman wrote: “Violent, even gory, for a Soviet film, Andrej Roublev was set against the carnage of the Tatar invasions. . . . Its pale-eyed, other-worldly hero wandered across a landscape of forlorn splendor–observing suffering peasants, hallucinating the scriptures, working for brutal nobles.” The film shows as part of the Film Center’s “The Sacred and Profane in Russian Cinema” series, tonight at 6. The Film Center is at Columbus and Jackson. Admission is $5, $3 for members; 443-3737.