This week’s lesson in driving was learned the hard way by Mr. Hoopla, who rear-ended another car (actually, not just anyone’s car, but that’s neither here nor there) after momentarily glancing down at his brand-new-for-Christmas Sirius radio unit. If any lawyers out there know whether or not Howard Stern can be sued for damages, please contact me ASAP.
FRIDAY, January 20
The year is young, but it’s already looking like a good one for wacky press releases with the arrival of this missive: “New dance craze sweeps Los Angeles . . . Yoko Ishida will be performing all of her favorites along with the Para Para dancers, who embody the dance craze unleashed by the red-hot Para Para Paradise video games.” I have no idea what it all means — but I smell a lambada! What’s that you say? The Japanese d-craze is old news? Well, then The Para Para Dance Tour may be your first and last chance to experience the Japanese line-dancing sensation with Ms. Ishida. Sam Goody, 1000 Universal Center Dr., Universal CityWalk; Fri., Jan. 20, 7 p.m.; free.
The Art of Bleeding — that zany performance troupe “dedicated to providing alarmingly unorthodox theatrical programs in safety education” — is back with a new show dubbed The Poison Show. Starring Abram the Safety Ape, RT the Robot Teacher and Dr. Moody, along with Margaret Cho, the “infernal stripteuse” Satanica, and a contortionist who goes by the name Toy Surprise. Just beware if anybody asks you to “name your poison.” California Institute of Abnormal Arts, 11334 Burbank Blvd., N. Hollywood; Fri., Jan. 20, 9 p.m.; $10. (818) 546-2735.
SATURDAY, January 21
They’re fabulous. They’re monsters. They’re the Fabulous Monsters Performance Group, and they’re debuting Shadowplay in Toyland, incorporating Balinese-style shadow puppets and fairy tales, à la Brothers Grimm. They’ve won awards for this type of thing in the past, so we’re confident your time will be well spent. Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica; Thurs.-Sat., Jan. 19-21, 8:30 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 22, 7:30 p.m.; $18. (310) 315-1459.
SUNDAY, January 22
Claiming to be the rejected offspring of Ethel Merman and Ernest Borgnine’s failed 38-day marriage — doesn’t everybody? — Varla Jean Merman is the man in a dress who manages to bring a more creative characterization to the whole man-in-a-dress thing, which is often a drag. In the new I’m Not Paying For This!, the man behind the makeup, Jeffery Roberson, has created a show that explores the Seven Deadly Sins. L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center’s Renberg Theater, 1125 N. McCadden Place, Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; Jan. 19-Feb. 5. (323) 860-7300.
MONDAY, January 23
The art — yes, I said art — of ventriloquism is rarely associated with Broadway, but Jay Johnson, whom you may remember from Soap, is heading to the Great White Way after this brief L.A. run with Jay Johnson: The Two and Only! Johnson, if this press release is to be believed, “has converted generations of ventriloquist-avoiding Americans with his charm, anarchy and innovative wit” while “he deconstructs and demonstrates his lifelong obsession.” So if your kid plays alone in his room with his puppets, there’s hope for him. The Brentwood Theater, Veterans Administration grounds, 11301 Wilshire Blvd., West L.A.; Jan. 20-Feb. 19; $30-$85. (310) 479-3636.
TUESDAY, January 24
The following event explains itself: Single Women of a Certain Age: 29 Women Writers on the Unmarried Midlife, Romantic Escapades, Heavy Petting, Empty Nests, Shifting Shapes and Serene Independence. Merrill Markoe, Wendy Merrill, Cameron Tuttle, Debra Ginsberg, Anne Buelteman and editor Jane Ganahl read and laugh through their tears. Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Blvd., W. Hollywood; Tues., Jan. 24, 7 p.m.; free (therapy extra). (310) 659-3110.
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WEDNESDAY, January 25
Does this sound odd to you: “Be prepared to experience all styles of dance covering everything from Modern Dance to Hip-Hop!” Isn’t that a pretty short leap? Aren’t there numerous other dance styles outside those two? Like, where’s the Lindy? Or the Para Para? In any case, Carnival: Choreographer’s Ball is where you’ll see the hottest collection of dance from the industry’s top choreographers. Pssst: Diana Ross “is expected” to attend. Key Club, 9041 Sunset Blvd., W. Hollywood; Wed., Jan. 25, 9 p.m.; $20. (310) 274-5800.
THURSDAY, January 26
Of all the Ratherisms he’s accumulated over his career, I still like, “This race is tight like a too-small bathing suit on a too-long ride home from the beach,” though, “Frankly, we don’t know whether to wind the watch or to bark at the moon” is another gem. Who knows what you’ll hear Dan Rather, or, as he was known in the Molyneaux home, “Dan Rather Than Walter” say when he has the mike for two evenings during the Music Center Speaker Series? Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave., downtown; Thurs., Jan. 26, 8 p.m.; $50. (213) 972-3494.?