The phrase "Suburban Empire" conjures a wealth of ideas: It could be the title of a spectacularly sick and twisted violent video game making its way to shelves this Christmas, or it could be the name of the last film George Lucas is allowed to pitch before he gets checked into a nursing home and pumped full of meds. In reality, though, the words refer to the newest exhibit at the Aurora History Museum, titled 1950s Suburban Empire.
Walking through the show, viewers are welcomed into the world of the Empire Family. Three dioramas -- kitchen, living room and a child's bedroom -- nostalgically display the family's Eisenhower-era existence, replete with an old Magic Chef oven, Kelvinator stove and Electrolux vacuum. As the intruders eyeball antique Aurora Borealis yearbooks and dusty Colorado license plates with pictures of skiers in caps, mother Ethel Empire chirps incessantly, offering the vintage chatter that kept most patriarchs back then just a bit on edge.
The real gems of the display are the film reels that play on a loop. Watching the duck-and-cover atomic-bomb defense instruction is at once hilarious and terrifying. The educational cartoon shows Bert the Turtle ducking into his shell while a stern voice warns that "an atomic bomb could burn you worse than a bad sunburn." The shots of children diving between desks, jungle gyms and bridges with self-satisfied smiles tattooed across their faces, certain of their safety, is worth the price of admission alone -- which is, of course, free.
The show runs through February 6 at the museum, 15051 East Alameda Parkway. For information, call 303-739-6660. -- Adam Cayton-Holland
A special assignment for G.I. Joe
One 1967 G.I. Joe on eBay -- good condition -- with only slight remains of vampire blood that my brother and I used to cover him with after pitching him down a hill in his Jeep.
My brother's Joe would actually go for upwards of $200, and the Jeep (if we hadn't wrecked it so many times) would be worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $800, according to Lanny Linenberger, owner of one of the largest collections of G.I. Joes anywhere. Linenberger began collecting them when he was a kid and now has more than 200 Joes, guns, tanks and other war paraphernalia worth about $10,000. He and a few friends have built dioramas that include hand-painted scenes from World War II, the Vietnam War and even a scene from present-day Baghdad, complete with military vehicles and weapons. Those tableaux, part of G.I. Joe, a tribute to the plastic warrior's fortieth anniversary, will be on display through April 30 at the Denver Museum of Miniatures, 1880 Gaylord Street. Admission is $4 to $5. If you look close, you might even see a George Clooney or a Brad Pitt Joe. For information, call 303-322-1054 or visit www.dmmdt.com. -- Jerri Theil
Once the stockings have been greedily ripped from the chimney where they were hung with such care, and the children have manhandled everything Saint Nick left there, why continue to let them get all up in your hair? Take them to Starz FilmCenter, 900 Auraria Parkway, where they can sit and just stare. On Christmas Day, kids can ogle to their hearts' content at a special screening of I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown. The 2003 addition to the Peanuts canon stars Rerun, Lucy and Linus's skeptical younger brother, on a quest for a dog of his own. The movie starts at 4:30 p.m. Tickets are $4; kids under three get in free. For information, call 303-820-FILM, or log on to www.denverfilm.org -- Adam Cayton-Holland
The Fort hosts Las Posadas
There's no place like the Fort restaurant to celebrate the Mexican Christmas tradition of Las Posadas (Spanish for "the inn" or "the lodgings"), and there's no time like Christmas Eve to do it. From 5 to 6:30 tonight, take part in an outdoor candlelight procession that commemorates the travails of Mary and Joseph as they sought shelter in Bethlehem for Jesus's birth. See them receive no quarter from coldhearted Bethlehemites before eventually being welcomed into cozy Yule-night digs; enjoy a radiant choir, mariachi strains, English and Spanish carols, complimentary tamales, cookies, cider, and even a piñata when the travelers finally find hospitable entry. The Western-themed Fort is located at 19192 Highway 8 in Morrison, off C-470; Las Posadas will be enacted by members of the Tesoro Foundation, a non-profit organization that preserves regional and historic culture. For information, call 303-839-1671 or go to www.tesorofoundation.org. -- Ben Hiller