A pretension-free event, thanks to chimp artiste

So, you think an art-show opening just sounds a little too hoity-toity?

Not last weekend's big opening night at the American Dime Museum. There, you found a steady stream of casually clad folks scoping out a retrospective by the famed B-more artiste Betsy the Chimp. The late Baltimore Zoo resident gained fame in the 1950s for her avant-garde finger-paintings. One fan at the Friday-night party, Arbutus "Beauty" Arbuthnot, said she simply had to come downtown from Cockeysville, where she now works as a governess, to see the show because it brought back memories of the 1970s, when she lived in San Francisco with a chimp. And a capuchin monkey, a woolly monkey, a black spider monkey and a squirrel monkey. After that experience, taking care of a couple of kids has gotta be a breeze.


One highlight of the show is the letter to museum director Dick Horne from former mayor/governor/current Maryland comptroller William Donald Schaefer.

"Dear Mr. Horne," it reads, "Yes, I remember ... Betsy the Chimp. I became a student of Betsy's, studying her paintings. I rated some of her paintings above those I saw in the Louvre in Paris!"


If the shoe store fits

If you were in Hampden last week, you might've noticed that film crew inside a certain shop there. It all began when filmmaker -- and former Baltimorean -- Cynthia Salzman Mondell came home from Dallas for the holidays. She was strolling 36th Street when she saw Ma Petite Shoe and "flipped out." Seems Cynthia has just started work on her new documentary, Sole Sister, about (what else?) women's obsession with shoes. Imagine her delight when she spotted a store that indulges two of womankind's major yens: shoes and chocolate. Naturally, Cynthia just had to include the store in her doc, which explores the mental, psychological and spiritual connection females have with their footwear. She hopes to have Sole Sister released in nine months to a year. If we're lucky, maybe it'll even show up at the Maryland Film Festival (hint, hint). Meanwhile, you can go online to to share your own shoe story with Cynthia and check out other flicks she and hubby Allen Mondell have produced.

Foxy lady

Then there are the famous folks who appear in front of the camera. And in Charm City. Spotted at a Ravens game here a couple of weeks ago: Hollywood beauty Vivica A. Fox of Soul Food and Independence Day renown. Vivica just wrapped up a role in the coming film Beauty Shop -- the follow-up flick to the Barbershop films -- which was shot here. We hear she didn't exactly fade into the crowd, decked out in a puffy pinky-purple fur. Or was it faux?

A favorite thing

Speaking of getting dressed up, haul on those lederhosen and head to the Meyerhoff Saturday night. It's time once again, kids, for Sing-Along Sound of Music. This thing is a hoot. You can dress up as any of the characters from the movie and compete in a costume contest. Or just come casual. You'll get a bag of "props" at the door. Just before the movie starts, you'll be instructed about how and when to use them during the movie (like when you wave a little flower during "Edelweiss"). You're also invited to cheer the heroes and hiss the villains -- as well as talk back to the screen. And, let's not forget that famous bouncing ball that leads you through the lyrics of all the songs.

Now, if you're a serious Sound of Music buff and don't appreciate audience intervention, best stay home and rent it. But, if you've always wanted to perform in the Meyerhoff, here's your chance. Tickets are $9-$34 for kids, $18-$34 for adults. Call 410-783-8000.

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