Thrills for the week

February 20
Zoot up: The plain truth is that grownups never outgrow the juvenile yearning to dig around in Mommy and Daddy's closet and play dress-up. So give in. Step into those old-fashioned puttin'-on-the-Ritz duds, hit the dance floor and give your girl (or guy) a whirl across it. At Zoot Suit, a '30s-, '40s- and '50s-themed party thrown this evening at the Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax Ave., by Moments Notice Entertainment, you can do martinis and the mambo, win prizes for the best period costumes, and tap your toes to swing and salsa music provided by the Savoy Orchestra and Club Tropicale. Sounds like fun, doesn't it? You may have grown up, but you were never meant to give up playtime. Admission is $7 in advance ($8 at the door); call 322-2308.

February 21
Wildwood flower: Merle Haggard, a champion himself of the common salt of the earth, once called Iris DeMent "the best singer I've ever heard." One reason is because there are few singers--or songwriters--truer or more untainted than DeMent, whose first gig was in a church choir. Her heartfelt, country-tinged tunes have grown tougher over time, but they still come through with an unspoiled sense of honesty. DeMent puts some of that newfound punch into songs from her latest album, The Way I Should, with help from her band, the Troublemakers, tonight at 7:30 at the Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax Ave. For tickets, $14 in advance ($15 day of show), call 830-TIXS.

A funny thing happened on my way to the end of the story: Here's one comedian who will never beat you to the punch: Fidgety standup Jake Johannsen makes a point of going out of his way for a nice, long, oral walk in the woods--where he might discover a flying saucer full of aliens or a problem toaster or a vegetarian girlfriend--before ever even considering putting a wrap on his hilarious yarn. It's a shtick guaranteed to make you a little nervous, but the chuckles induced are antidote enough. Johannsen meanders around today through Sunday during several sets at the Comedy Works; admission ranges from $12 to $17.

Also stopping in later this week at the Larimer Square club is Louie Anderson, another standup boasting national recognition--in this case, for his sad-sack reminiscences of childhood and beyond. The big-time comic, a television and cartoon star who's gotten plenty of laugh leverage out of poking fun at his own big-time girth, performs at 8 p.m. Monday and Tuesday; tickets are $25.

The Comedy Works is located at 1226 15th St.; call 595-3637 for reservations and information.

February 22
Lost horizon: Imagine a better world. But first, consider the building in which it resides--in this one, you step through the door into a splendidly detailed Moorish fantasy. Inside, there's music. Art. Magic. Wine. Hearty brews. Food. Dancing. As you ascend into this heavenly place, the mood changes on each level. There's jazz on one floor, the ragin' Zukes of Zydeco on another, and strong coffee and artsy conversation when you get to the top. Cigars? You've got 'em--in a tent outside where you can puff stogies to your heart's content without blowing smoke in the face of anyone who doesn't want it there. Believe it or not, the name of this Shangri-La is Artopia '97, and it can found right here in Denver, tonight at 8. Billed as a "one-night celebration of sensual stimulation," Artopia takes place at the new Eulipions Cultural Center at 18th Ave. and Sherman St.; for advance tickets, $15 (they're $20 at the door), call 777-6887 or drop by Jax Fish House, LoDo's Bar and Grill or any Diedrich Coffee shop.

February 23
Just folk: Folksinger Tom Paxton found his calling a long time ago, back in the 1960s. His songs, classics in the mold of "What Did You Learn in School Today?" and "The Last Thing on My Mind," are so representative, they've become the very fabric and vernacular of the American folk-music movement, as instantly recognizable as anything floating around in the public domain. But Paxton isn't lost in the irrelevant past--his newer songs, which can be heard tonight at the Oriental Theater, 4335 W. 44th Ave., continue to deal with up-to-date concerns. Canadian performer Connie Kaldor opens for Paxton at 7; for tickets, $13 to $15 ($5 for children), call 1-800-444-SEAT.

Cody of the West: Buffalo Bill, historical figure and beloved showman of the Wild West, is scheduled to make an appearance today at the annual Buffalo Bill Cody Birthday Celebration being thrown at the Buffalo Bill Memorial Museum on Lookout Mountain. So is Buffalo Bill. And who'll be standing right next to him? Buffalo Bill.

What's going on? For the 151st anniversary of Cody's birth, a whole gang of flowing-haired, mustachioed lookalikes who've turned up at similar celebrations over the years will get together to help cut the cake. Presiding over the festivities will be main man Colonel Al Huffman, the museum's official Buffalo Bill impersonator. But that's not all: Along with the aforementioned refreshments, there'll be buffalo-chip-throwing contests for children and adults, miniature horse rides, Western movies, and live music and rope tricks.

The rootin'-tootin' revelry begins at noon and ends at 4; the museum is a thirty-minute drive from downtown Golden at exit 256 off I-70. Admission is free; call 526-0744.

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