Bearing gifts: Billy Bryan, the first tenant at the Denver Zoo, had a luxuriant, cinnamon fur coat and was named after William Jennings Bryan, the Democratic presidential candidate of a hundred years ago. Billy, it seems, was a bear--one in a long line of popular ursines that ended with our legendary runaway polar bear babes, Klondike and Snow, who were moved last year to greener pastures in Florida. To celebrate the pair's brief local moment of glory and its own 100th anniversary, the zoo will dedicate a statue of the cute couple, circa age five months, today at 10:30 at the Northern Shores exhibit. It's also rumored that the orangutans in Primate Panorama will receive a special birthday gift following the dedication. And the zoo's biggest fans won't be left out of the festivities: Free admission is offered today for Colorado residents of any age. Visit the Denver Zoo between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.; for information call 331-4100.
Piped-in music: One of Ireland's most understated--and talented--musicians, Uilleann pipe virtuoso Liam O'Flynn, is something of a one-man band. The ancient and complicated instrument (a bagpipe-like bellows-and-airbag affair made up of three basic parts--chanter, drones and regulator keys) requires dexterity and a great deal of patience to operate, which might explain why O'Flynn is known as a sublime traditional tunesmith but a man of few words: He's too busy pushing buttons. The onetime member of seminal Celtic band Planxty and a pal of Nobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney, O'Flynn performs tonight at 7:30 at Cameron Church, 1600 S. Pearl St., with guitarist Arty McGlynn and keyboardist Rod McVey, who also appear on O'Flynn's timeless and lovely CD The Given Note. Admission is $15; call 830-TIXS for tickets or 777-0502 for information.
Another big coverup: Reach into a hat of unique occupations and you may never pick one more unlikely than artist Christo's. He and partner Jeanne-Claude have spent more than 25 years draping, wrapping and otherwise decorating huge swaths of natural landscape and imposing public buildings. What's in the works? Over the River, a giant canopy to be hung over one of six projected river sites scattered throughout the West, including a possible Colorado location on the Arkansas River near Salida. Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Works in Progress, opening today at the Robischon Gallery, 1740 Wazee St., focuses on preparatory drawings for the river undertaking, along with plans for a project in New York's Central Park. Attend an opening reception tonight from 6 to 9; a second reception for Christo and Jeanne-Claude takes place from 5 to 6 November 14 (reservations required by November 11). Also featured at the gallery are watercolors by German artist Mario Reis; both shows hang through January 4. Call 298-7788.
Ready to rumba: Perhaps the greatest of salsa's percussive pianists, Eddie Palmieri does more than you ever thought was possible with the simple clave beat that provides the solid backbone of Latin dance music. Torrid style, a jazz-dipped background and a flair for experimentation keep Palmieri at the top of his genre, making him a must-see, must-hear and must-shake-to for any lover of Afro-Cuban rhythms. Do all three tonight at 7 at the Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax Ave.; for tickets, $18, call 322-2308 or 830-TIXS.
Artworks for a small planet: The cozy, pleasant confines of Cherry Creek North's Brigitte Schluger Gallery, 265 Detroit St., usually burst with more than their share of daring color and a good dose of naive whimsicality. A new show--a shared bill of works by sculptor Michael Stano and landscape painter Henry Isaacs that opens tonight--showcases a bit of each, in keeping with the gallery's general joie de vivre. Stano's pieces--organic, intertwining animal compositions of sculptured wood--provide a three-dimensional aura, while the spontaneous, painterly pastels and acrylics by Isaacs make good use of the gallery's wall space. A reception will be held tonight from 5 to 9; works remain on view through November 30. For details call 329-3150.
Spoke for: Great deals on wheels abound at the VeloSwap, an annual swap event for bicyclists sponsored by Boulder's competitive cycling publication, VeloNews. This year's bike-barter bash, featuring new and used equipment, parts, clothing and gear of all shapes and sizes, takes place today from 9 to 3 at the Denver Merchandise Mart, I-25 and 58th Ave. Admission is $4 at the door ($2 children ages five to twelve); proceeds benefit a trio of regional nonprofit cycling organizations. For details call 440-0601, ext. 222.
Tin grand: The fine art of grocery merchandising gets raised to a whole new level of respectability today at the CANstruction Design/Build Competition, a fascinating while-you-watch benefit that's a far cry from a trip to your friendly corner market. About ten teams--sponsored by the Denver Chapter of the Society of Design Administration and the American Institute of Architects--will gather between 10 and 2 at the Denver Design Center, 595 Broadway, to build structures using canned and boxed foods that will remain on display through Wednesday, when the creations will be torn down. The food will be donated to Food Bank of the Rockies, which distributes close to 11 million pounds of food annually to hunger-relief programs throughout the region. Spectating and post-construction viewing are free, but no one said you couldn't bring a can yourself.
Vega recollections: A little less strident and a bit more sensual than you may remember her, Suzanne Vega continues to refine her songwriting, as evidenced by the tunes on her latest album, Nine Objects of Desire. Guided by husband and studio knob-twiddler of the moment Mitchell Froom, who produced her last two discs and plays in her band, Vega seems to be heading in the direction of what Entertainment Weekly called "industrial folk" and Rolling Stone proclaimed "beyond borders." Now, there's a modern piece of work. Vega's No Cheap Thrill Tour (with a band that also includes drummer Pete Thomas of Elvis Costello and the Attractions fame) stops over tonight at 8 at the Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax Ave.; for tickets, $18.50, call 830-TIXS.
Take your picks: We're happy to report that E-Town, Boulder's own ecologically sound public-radio program, is alive and well and still dishing up sweet combinations of exceptional musicians along with its socially conscientious eco-babble at the Boulder Theater, 2030 14th St., Boulder. You can sit in tonight when eccentric guitar whiz Leo Kottke--also a very funny man--and peerless bluegrass traditionalist Del McCoury drop by around 7 for an audiotaping session. Kottke's 25-plus solid years of exemplary six- and twelve-string picking precede him gloriously, while McCoury carries on in Bill Monroe's footsteps with a classic backwoods gusto, backed by a sparkling string band. Tickets are $9 in advance ($11 day of show); call 786-7030.
Just another band from East L.A.? An understatement, at the very least. Los Angelenos Los Lobos have taken their blend of roots music and unsurpassed musicianship far beyond the confines of their old neighborhood, instead creating something uniquely American and, therefore, in a state of constant evolution. You can't go wrong buying a ticket to see this band--they always rock their hearts out. Los Lobos perform tonight at 8 at the Ogden Theatre, 935 E. Colfax; for tickets, $18.50, call 830-2525 or 1-800-444-SEAT.
Leader of the pack: Experimental film, like any avant-garde art form worth its salt, has its fair share of groundbreaking gurus. CU-Boulder's film guru happens to be Stan Brakhage, renowned in his field and around the world. His most recent work, involving painting directly onto film, will be featured tonight at 8--as will Brakhage himself, who appears in person at the screening--in room N141 of the Sibel-Wolle Fine Arts Building, CU-Boulder campus, as part of the school's ongoing First Person Cinema series. Admission is $2; call 492-1531 for information.
Life lessons: If the name of Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa brings to mind only his stunning portfolio of samurai war epics, that's a good start. But you still don't know what you're missing. The master director's social drama Ikiru, starring Kurosawa stable stalwart Takashi Shimura (he played head honcho of the Seven Samurai), is a human tale set in more modern times and cleanly devoid of detailed period costumes, sweeping pageantry and rolling heads. Instead, Shimura--as a simple, unexceptional man who is dying of cancer--explores the meaning of life. Dark-hearted yet poignant, Ikiru stands out as a true classic, making it a wonderful addition to the Denver Art Museum's fall series of modern Japanese films. It screens tonight at 7:30 at the Acoma City Center, 1080 Acoma St. In addition, a choice of soup, yaki soba noodle salad, grilled Teriyaki tofu or chicken and pickled daikon, provided by the City Spirit Cafe, will be available beginning at 6:30 p.m. Film admission prices are $3 to $5; call 640-2428 for information or 623-2349 for advance tickets.
Butler did it: A Pulitzer Prize is already under this guy's belt--so what more dazzling work of fiction can author Robert Olen Butler now pull out of his hat? The answer to that question might be found in Butler's new, well-crafted short-story collection, Tabloid Dreams, from which he'll read tonight at the Tattered Cover Book Store, 2955 E. 1st Ave. Butler offers autographs and National Enquirer-style insights at 7:30 p.m.; for more information call 322-7727.
21st-century schizoid men: Songwriter and guitarist M. Doughty of Soul Coughing sees the band "as this sort of a V.U. meter, with heartbreak on the left and nonsense on the right." Can't you just picture it? "The needle twitches constantly from side to side," adds Doughty. You will, too, when you hear the poppy deluge of sampled sounds, keyboard-generated "guitar" solos, slo-mo voices and a lot of other noises you weren't expecting to hear--all tied together by commanding drumbeats and the direct tones of Sebastien Steinberg's upright bass--making up the unique, trippy melange that Soul Coughing calls music. Hear it tonight at the Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder, where Geggy Tah opens at 9; for tickets, $8.40, call 447-0095 or 1-800-444-