Thursday September 7 The sportin' life: One of sports journalism's most erudite practitioners, Frank Deford, takes time off from his duties at National Public Radio and Vanity Fair magazine to host a dinner and program tonight at 6:30 at the Marriott City Center, 17th and California streets. Deford will lend his wit to a tribute to University of Colorado women's basketball coach Ceal Barry, this year's recipient of the Athena Award, given annually to an outstanding professional woman. How outstanding? Barry's team was undefeated in league play last year, the Buffaloes are consistently serious contenders for the NCAA's national title, and Barry's been named Big Eight Coach of the Year three years running. Proceeds benefit SafeHouse Denver; tickets are $55 ($110 gets you into a pre-dinner patron party). For reservations call 368-4747.
Tweedy birds: When country-punk band Uncle Tupelo unceremoniously split up after an acclaimed last album, co-leader Jeff Tweedy didn't waste any time in moving on: Sans partner Jay Farrar, he built up a new-and-old repertoire and, with most of the rest of the Tupelos, formed Wilco. The result is somewhat brighter, leaving any residual thrash and angst behind for a glowing, countrified sound bolstered by fine songwriting, clean arrangements and little else. Which works just fine. Hear Wilco tonight at 8 at the Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax; admission is $11. Call 322-2308 or 1-800-444-SEAT for information and tickets.
Friday September 8 Major score: The big business of sports has trickled all the way down to the junior level, where eight-year-old sports-card wheeler-dealers are as likely to make sound investments as the sharpest Wall Street broker. (Who doesn't lament the missing mint-condition goodies Mom trashed years ago?) The Rocky Mountain Collectors Classic, today through Sunday at Currigan Hall, 1324 Champa St., caters to all, featuring more than 200 dealers of hard-to-find cards, autographs, pogs, pennants and the kind of memorabilia you never did manage to rescue from the garbage. But no collectors' event would be complete without a few stars on deck: Among the bona fide sports heroes offering John Hancocks to the masses are gridiron great "Broadway Joe" Namath, head-first slider Pete Rose, eloquent Negro Leaguer Buck O'Neil and the Legendary Ladies of Baseball. Admission to the event, open from 3 to 8 today, 10 to 6 Saturday and 10 to 4 Sunday, is $5 in advance ($7 at the door, $12 for a weekend pass). For additional information call 733-4878.
A chirp thing: It takes more than a beautiful voice to charm an audience clean off its feet, although the one belonging to Irish songstress Maura O'Connell is easily one of the sweetest instruments on any continent. O'Connell also has a gentle, sylvan stage presence that will hook you from the moment she opens her mouth and begins to sing. She'll appear, as guest of the Swallow Hill Music Association, tonight at 8 at the Houston Fine Arts Center, Montview Ave. and Quebec St. Admission is $15 ($13 Swallow Hill members); to reserve a seat call 1-800-444-SEAT, or dial 777-1003 for information.
Saturday September 9 Bead our lips: Beads are as old as history. Used both for ornamentation and as currency, they've always been valuable, perhaps simply because they're beautiful--whether stitched onto fabric, woven on thread, strung on cord or left alone. The Loveland Museum/Gallery, 5th and Lincoln in Loveland, takes a look at fabulous beadwork from around the world in a new exhibition, Contemporary Beads and Beadwork: Innovative Directions. Related events that continue throughout the show's run include workshops, lectures, demonstrations and a bead bazaar. To kick things off, some of the 49 artists represented will give a panel discussion today at 3 p.m.; later, at 7, Kathlyn Moss, co-editor of the exhibit's catalogue, will speak, followed by an opening reception from 8 to 10. It's off the beaten track for Denverites, but it's a must for bead people. The show continues through November 26; call 1-970-962-2410 for details.
NOW or never: The summer season at Boulder's Chautauqua Auditorium ends tonight, when the local dance troupe Helander & Company hits the stage with NOW, a collection of five thematically related dance pieces about time. Included is "Moment of Measure," a work inspired by author Alan Lightman's book Einstein's Dream that unfolds in dream time and features performers--some of them non-dancers--of all ages. Helander's fancy takes flight at 8; for tickets, $14, call 440-7666. Chautauqua is located above 9th and Baseline in Boulder.
Schooner or later: It's stein-raising time, fraus 'n' frauleins--the first of the fall beerfests is here. Small and friendly, the Tabernash Brewing Company Oktoberfest Celebration, held from noon to 4 this afternoon, features Tabernash's German-style beers--as close as it comes to the real thing in Colorado--with plenty of grilled brats and stone-fired breads to keep you from bathing too long in all the suds. Your $5 admission will benefit the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Leukemia Society of America; Tabernash is located north of Coors Field, at 205 Denargo Market. Call 293-2337 for additional information.