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First Saturday Fever

by Mary "Slacks" Hanson

Going to the museum on a Saturday night is like going to the ... library on a Saturday night. Right? Nope. At the Brooklyn Museum of Art's "First Saturdays" program, it's cool. So cool, it was hot. Meaning that both the coat check and the auxiliary coat check were full, and so we had to carry our parkas.

But this is a good thing, I remember thinking at the time. If lugging a parka around a jam-packed museum on a Saturday night is any indication that American Civilization is not lost, then lug I will. In fact, these arty parties in Brooklyn -- and the general thriving of the BMA -- seem to be part of a boom (recently reported in the New York Times) in museum attendance nationwide.

Here's the deal. The first Saturday of every month -- next one is this Saturday, February 5 -- the museum is open, free, from 5-11 PM. There's live music, dancing, film, refreshments, and many of the regular and special exhibits are open (offering that thrilling Basil E. Frankweiler feeling).

At January's event, BG and I listened to the musical stylings of the Hawaiian swing band The Moonlighters (What can I tell you? They're Hawaiian -- well, the women play ukeleles -- and they swing), attended the screening of The Stepford Wives (which BG found almost as scary as The Rules), strolled around the museum (notably, local artists' exhibits), and coveted the splendid up-do of the lead singer of the non-Hawaiian -- but still swinging -- swing band rocking the main hall (boy can their disciples dance).

This weekend's event includes: a meet/greet/cheesecake tasting with the authors of the new Junior's cookbook; music by the Phil Miller Big Band and Tomas Rodriguez and Children of the Sun (a quartet combining Brazilian, Spanish, and American influences); Nigerian drumming and dancing by the New York Multicultural Theater Company; and a screening of Spike Lee's "Crooklyn."

First Saturdays is a great place to take a date, or to find one for next time. Why? It's a diverse crowd with good taste. The numbers create energy, yet stop short of sardines. There's tons of stuff to talk about, tons of stuff to look at in case of lull. You can ask someone to dance; you can watch the saddle-shoed floor show and wait for someone to ask you. Not as intimidating as a romantic restaurant, but you can find an intimate table for music appreciation. And art -- especially modern -- offers excellent opening lines ("What do you think that's supposed to be?").

So forget Stepford; come to Brooklyn, where both civilization and chivalry -- the good kind -- are lively and well.

Mary "Slacks" Hanson works on feature films in Austin and visits Breakup Girl in Brooklyn.

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