David Sedaris’ Animal Tales, D.C.’s Gay Art, and Ari Onassis on the West End

Plus, Ben Harper’s new super group, a spellbinding John Lennon biopic, and London’s Fetish Weekend

Ronnie Wood: Spend or Expend, The Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, OH, Now through November 21
Surprise, surprise! Ronnie Wood’s a man who wears many hats. The Rolling Stones guitarist is also a painter and mixed media artist, and his first major exhibition has opened in Ohio. Before he wore those famous fingers down with The Bird, Faces, and The Jeff Beck Group, Wood was toiling away with a paintbrush. It’s evident now where his inspiration comes from—most of the lovingly crafted portraits are of his Stones bandmates. Who better to capture the wide mid-song snarl of Mick Jagger than the man who’s been standing next to him since 1975? Here’s the best of both worlds: a tribute to rock and a little insight into the mind of one of this generation’s finest musicians.

Onassis, Novello Theatre, London, In previews, Runs October 12 – February 5
Aristotle Onassis’ life has all the makings of a great tabloid drama: sex, power, and lots and lots of money. The Greek shipping billionaire wed former first lady Jackie Kennedy, bedded Maria Callas, and dodged the FBI. His life is finally getting the West End treatment with a new play written by Martin Sherman. Inhabiting the titular role is Tony winner Robert Lindsay, (Richard III, Oliver! and Me and My Girl) returning to the stage after a 25-year absence. Peter Evans’ hailed biography Nemesis provides all the juicy details of Onassis’ waning days, including some unfounded conspiracy theories—did he help finance RFK’s assassination? This one’s so good, critics are predicting it’ll hit Broadway next year. Go ahead, see it now in London—just be sure to hit up Greece while you’re over there.

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary
Thank god David Sedaris is back, we were starting to enjoy life a little too much. The droll satirist returns September 28 with a new set of essays, only this time he’s traded life in London for hovels and litter boxes. All the stories are written from an animal’s perspective, and we have to say we’re grateful for a fresh take—even if the cats and toads are only there to shine light on human foibles. The titular furry couple is a sort of Romeo and Juliet driven apart by their close-minded family, and written with a healthy dose of Sedaris’ wit. Think of these tales as Aesop’s fables for the NPR set.

As I Call You Down
A Fistful of Mercy formed earlier this year, a big-name collaboration between the always delightful Ben Harper, Beatles heir Dhani Harrison, and the supremely underrated Joseph Arthur. The super group has been low-key so far, but their debut album finally drops October 5 on Harrison’s own record label before their 10-city trek across the country. Harper’s resonant blues combines beautifully with the trio’s soulful vocals. Plenty of acoustic guitars make this the perfect record to ease you straight into fall. It’s nice to see rock stars get a little earnest. Especially hypnotic is the track “A Fistful of Mercy.”

There Are Many of Us
For all those who found Where the Wild Things Are slightly disappointing, Spike Jonze offers up an extremely satisfying peace offering with the DVD release of his short film I’m Here. The Los Angeles-set love story between two robots was one of the best things to hit the web this year (seriously, venture off YouTube every once in a while and there’s actual quality out there). With the help of McSweeney’s, Jonze is releasing the film, its soundtrack, and behind-the-scenes insight into the making of the heartfelt tale that critics called “haunting, whimsical and overwhelmingly heartbreaking.” An added bonus: the lovesick boy robot is voiced by Hollywood “It” boy Andrew Garfield, star of Never Let Me Go, The Social Network, and our future Spider-Man. Buy this set, and say you saw him—or at least his android counterpart—when.

Nowhere Boy
Billed as the “extraordinary untold story of John Lennon,” this skillfully well-done biopic is finally, finally getting its U.S. release starting in limited release on October 8 (coincidentally, one day before what would have been Lennon’s 70th birthday). Aaron Johnson (last seen in green tights in Kick-Ass) plays 15-year-old Lennon in his troubled early days forming the group The Quarrymen, and later The Beatles. A May-December romance was also started on-set between artist-turned-director Sam Taylor-Wood and Johnson, who’s 23 years her junior. Beware, cynical Hollywood: the couple just had a child together. But aside from the backstage drama, don’t take it on our word that the film is a must-see—even Yoko Ono turned out for last week’s New York premiere.

Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, National Portrait Gallery, Washington D.C., October 30 – February 13, 2011
Capitol Hill is finally going gay. Well…sort of. This massive new exhibition focuses on artists who defied gender norms and explored sexuality in their works, and art’s depictions of sexuality and desire and how they evolved over time. Heady stuff, to be sure. Among the 100 works are those by John Singer Sargent, Georgia O’Keeffe, David Hockney, Jasper Johns, and Andy Warhol. Few eminent New York museums have dared to touch on gay themes—and this one does include straight artists, too—so it’s refreshing that D.C. is finally linking artists’ sexuality to their often complicated relationships with society.

The Good Wife
Sure, you may turn up your nose at primetime TV not titled Boardwalk Empire or Mad Men, but here’s a reason not to. Julianna Margulies is back as a formidable headliner on September 28 for the second season of this addictive CBS drama. The first year saw her on a rollercoaster ride as the scorned wife of a cheating, corrupt politician (Chris Noth, still in possession of that mix of smile and smirk that made Mr. Big irresistible). Instead of wallowing behind a wall of paparazzi, Alicia Florrick goes back to work, and Jenny Sanford and Silda Spitzer finally have a worthy role model. But it’s not all dry courtroom drama—throw in a love triangle with her boss, and the Emmy winning Archie Panjabi as her brittle coworker, and The Good Wife is far more entertaining than any real-life scandal. Plus, you don’t feel guilty ogling someone else’s downfall. Remember, none of this is real.

International London Fetish Weekend, October 1 – 3
Come one, come all to “get your fetish fix” at the third annual Fetish Weekend in London, the self-proclaimed “fetish capital of the world.” The well-heeled fashionistas of London Fashion Week are nowhere to be seen, replaced this weekend by leatherclad, thigh-high boot wearing fans of S&M. For the uninitiated, there are plenty of workshops, including the enticingly named “Fire Play.” The headline event, Torture Garden’s Fetish Ball, takes place on Saturday—with, of course, a strictly enforced fantasy dress code. And on Sunday, you can’t miss the adult pajama party, complete with kinky fairy tales. Certainly not made for the meek, but head out if you’re adventurous.

The Kazanjian Red Diamond, American Museum of National History, New York, On display now
The gleaming cases at Tiffany have nothing on this scarlet beauty. Typically known as the “dinosaur museum,” the American Museum of Natural History recently received an infusion of bling with a new collection of rare diamonds. Among the highlights are blue-green, orange-yellow, and purplish-pink stones, but the must-see gem is the dazzling Kazanjian Red Diamond, sparkling “as vivid as a drop of blood splashed on a white diamond.” The 5.05 emerald cut was discovered in South Africa in the 1920s, then had a wild ride through Amsterdam, New York, Germany, and Bavaria, where it was mistaken for a ruby. Thankfully, its origins were straightened out and jewel-obsessed Manhattanites now have a new piece of eye candy.

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