So zoo me: In the world of offbeat artist Dede LaRue, "Doberman Dominatrix" is just another day's work, along with the irresistibly characteristic mixture of social commentary, brute rapture, surreal humor and plain old puppy love evinced by LaRue's life-sized papier-mache animal creations. Her adorable, corpulent cats and prostrate pooches--along with the more risque beasts such as the one mentioned above--return tonight to the Art of Craft, 1736 Wazee St., for Surreal Safari, a one-woman menagerie of a show scheduled to remain on view at the gallery through the end of the year. An opening reception takes place from 5 to 8 this evening; for more information call 292-5564.
Stepping pretty: She's nimble, she's quick--she's Cape Breton fiddler Natalie MacMaster, who's been described time and again as "the most exciting seven minutes in show business." The lively miss from Nova Scotia not only burns up the horsehair with the elfish aplomb of a hyperactive wood sprite, but she stepdances with similar abandon--at the same time that she's fiddling, without missing a beat. MacMaster's energetic mixture of reels, courtly chamber music and electrified folk doesn't faze her, but it might take your breath away when she performs tonight at the Boulder Theater, 2030 14th St., Boulder. Cathie Ryan, former lead singer of the Celtic girl group Cherish the Ladies, opens at 7:30; for tickets, $14.70 to $16.80, call 786-7030.
Big man in town: Nobody in the lit biz could possibly handle the major American saga with more ease than Peter Matthiessen, a writer well-versed in the language of society's forward and backward traversals. His new novel, Lost Man's River, is the second in a trilogy that began with Killing Mr. Watson; it's set in the murky Florida Everglades and explores all of the epic paradoxes: fathers and sons, good and evil, pioneer spirit versus decimation of the frontier, and so on. Matthiessen will read from his book tonight at 7:30 at the Tattered Cover Book Store, 2955 E. 1st Ave. Tickets for a seat and a place in line will be given out beginning at 6:30; call 322-7727 for details.
Peaches and herbs: Fruits of the earth are the theme at the Denver Botanic Gardens Holiday Sale, a two-day affair featuring all sorts of edibles, ornaments, crafts, books and garden-related gifts for sale. Of special note, though, are the homegrown items available for purchase, including culinary seasoning packets and flavored vinegars made from herbs grown at the gardens; honey gathered and bottled by volunteers at Chatfield Arboretum; and a vast selection of dried flowers, leaves, pods, grasses and other preserved DBG flora, both loose and bundled into pre-made arrangements. Waste not, want not: The sale runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and tomorrow at the gardens, 1005 York St.; admission is free both days. For information call 370-8187.
Autumn house cleaning: How about taking care of all your junk this weekend? Today is America Recycles Day, set aside expressly for the purpose of contemplating the final destination of your daily detritus. But--here's the twist--it's also been designated IRS Problem Solving Day at the IRS district office in Denver. Ironic, ain't it? For details on where and how to recycle in your area, or to obtain a junk-mail kit equipped with name-removal cards you send to direct-marketing mailing lists, call Colorado Recycles at 231-9972. For information on special events, surf into www.americarecyclesday.org for the skinny. And if you're pulling your hair out over some arcane and seemingly unsolvable tax conundrum, call 571-4402 or 1-800-829-1040 for a face-to-face meeting with your friendly taxman: IRS representatives will be on hand to talk you through various taxing problems from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today at 600 17th St., in Dominion Plaza.
Let the sun shine in: Take the time to check out what's new these days at the Denver Art Museum, 100 W. 14th Ave. Pkwy., and you'll be in for a big surprise: The gray castle is sporting a whole new look that debuts this weekend. The museum revamp begins with a new entrance (opening opposite the Central Library onto Acoma Plaza) and restaurant (Kevin Taylor's trendy Palettes); inside the building, you'll find fresh European and American galleries with works boldly arranged thematically rather than chronologically, mint Art of the American West galleries, and even an improved museum shop. In addition, a spacious new main-floor exhibition gallery premieres with Old Masters Brought to Light: European Paintings From the National Museum of Art of Romania, which features splendid works by the likes of El Greco, Rembrandt and Tintoretto salvaged from near-destruction in war-torn Bucharest. And--as if all that weren't sufficient incentive to visit--admission to the DAM, open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, is free all weekend. Call 640-4433 for museum information; for restaurant info call 629-0889.
On a much smaller but perhaps no less important scale, the brave little Art Students League of Denver, located in the old red-brick Sherman School at 200 Grant St., has also been a veritable hard-hat zone this year, as building renovations there have kept the dust flying. The league, which provides reasonably priced high-quality art instruction, celebrates its own new look with Exhibition '97: The Hard Hat Year, this year's version of the annual ASL exhibit and sale of artwork by students and faculty. A gala opening reception with filling hors d'oeuvres, live jazz and art galore takes place tonight from 6 to 9; admission, which benefits the school and includes all of the above plus valet parking, is $65. League artwork will remain on view at the site through November 26; call 778-6990.
Better buys: Here's one way to feel a little better about conspicuous holiday consumption: If you've gotta buy, buy at the Alternative Gift Market, a sale that supports a variety of world service organizations such as UNICEF. Items available include jewelry, carved toys, handwoven scarves and other folk-art objects, with proceeds going directly to artisans. The market, located at Park Hill Congregational Church, 2600 Leyden St., is open today from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wednesday evening from 6 to 8:30, and next Saturday and Sunday afternoon; call 322-9122 for additional information.
More exotic and beautiful objects, from nesting dolls and lacquer boxes to gilt icons and translucent amber, can be found today from noon to 6 during the annual Russian Boutique and Festival at St. Augustine Orthodox Church, 55 W. 3rd Ave. Ethnic eats and a noon musical performance by accordion band Moscow Nights fill out the day's activities; for details call 781-1374 or 697-5696.
Hang it up: Anything goes at the seventh annual Bizarre Wreath Auction, one of the town's most unorthodox ways to prepare for the holidays. Featuring decorative door doughnuts made by local artists from antique fabrics, beads, collage, found objects and just about everything else, the event--a benefit for the Denver School of the Arts--begins with wreath viewing, a cocktail buffet and a silent auction from 4:30 to 6:30, then continues from 6:30 to 8 with the main event. It all happens high above ground at the Top of the Rockies, located on the 38th floor of the Qwest Tower, 555 17th St. Admission is $35; call 388-3796 or 322-2973.
Dreamgirls come true: Based on the meteoric rise of a Motown-style soul trio not unlike the Supremes, the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Dreamgirls is enjoying a local run at the Buell Theatre. But tonight is the 'Girls' night off. It's a perfect opportunity for cast members--who include Denverite Ron Kellum and former Denver Bronco Floyd Little's daughter, Kyra--to pitch in with strong voices at the Gospel Music Benefit for the Curtis Park Community Center. The event starts at 7 at New Hope Baptist Church, 3701 Colorado Blvd. Admission is $10; call 295-2399. Meanwhile, performances of Dreamgirls continue at the Buell, 14th and Curtis in the Plex, tomorrow through next Sunday; for tickets, which range in price from $15 to $50, call 893-4100 or 830-TIXS.
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Famous last words: Is the press a Royal's pain in the ass or a trusted, if public, confidant? Perhaps it's moot at this point, but that's the question explored tonight on The Princess and the Press, a Frontline segment dealing with the media's controversial relationship with Princess Diana and the rest of the British royal family. The ninety-minute PBS documentary airs on KRMA-TV/Channel 6; flip your switch to Six at 9 p.m.
Sufi bars: A little trance music never hurt anyone: Hear for yourself when the Latif Bolat Turkish Music Ensemble makes Sufi devotional music--a mystical mix of riveting rhythms, chants and reverent lyrics--tonight at 7:30 at the Mercury Cafe, 2199 California St. Performed on a variety of instruments, including drums, oud, violin and lutes, the unusual genre veers from folk to classical styles, all in a single, mesmerizing evening. Concert tickets are $8 at the door; call 733-1120.
The horror, the horror: Brace yourself--every parent's nightmare is back to haunt you. Sex? Drugs? Tattoos? No, it's Barney's Big Surprise, an innocent musical extravaganza that will have your little ones behaving like happy zombies for at least the rest of the week. Starring the favorite purple dinosaur of everyone under the age of four, along with all of his real and imaginary pals, the show arrives today at 7 at the Denver Coliseum, 4600 Humboldt St. Six additional performances continue through Sunday; for showtimes and tickets, ranging from $10 to $25, call 830-