Delray Beach's main drag, Atlantic Avenue, will be off-limits to cars between 4:30 and 11 p.m. today so that crowds can cruise the strip and check out its shops, art galleries, and restaurants. During Art and Jazz on the Avenue, which the city hosts five times a year, pedestrian cruising tunes will be provided by more than 25 groups. And while the event's title emphasizes jazz, the groups will also offer rock 'n' roll, contemporary pop, Dixieland swing, and blues. Several spots just off Atlantic are prime for listening, including Grove Square, Atlantic Plaza at Veteran's Park, and the Ocean City Lumber Co. shopping and entertainment complex. And bars and clubs will remain open well after the street reopens so that revelers can party on. Taking place between Swinton and NE Seventh avenues in downtown Delray Beach, the event is free. Call 561-279-1380.
By the time big-band swing hit its stride in the '30s, Fort Lauderdale's historic Stranahan House was hitting middle age, having served as town trading post, the residence of pioneer Frank Stranahan, a rooming house, and a series of restaurants. Now the popular revival of the big-band sound will help the ongoing revival of the 97-year-old house. Admission fees from tonight's New River by Night outdoor concert will be turned over to Stranahan House Inc., which operates the restored structure as a museum. Steve Gryb and His Big Band will play swing standards from the '30s and '40s, such as "Take the 'A' Train," "In the Mood," and "Chattanooga Choo-Choo." The band will also perform jazz tunes from the '50s, '60s, and '70s. Stranahan House is located on Las Olas Boulevard at SE Sixth Avenue. The concert will take place from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. tonight, and food and beverage concessions will be available. Admission is $3. For more information call 954-524-4736.
He turned 50 just last year, and already Freddick Bratcher is being called the "granddaddy" of Miami choreographers. But middle age has done nothing to dull his cutting-edge sensibilities. He continues to dance and sets his steps to everything from Bach to James Brown. "His choreography style is whimsical and upbeat," says Jolie Cummings, president of the Freddick Bratcher and Company dance troupe. Bratcher picked up some of his moves while dancing with the prestigious Alvin Ailey and Martha Graham companies. In 1976 he arrived in Miami to take over as artistic director of Fusion Dance Company. Four years later he founded his own company, now comprised of ten dancers representing a South Florida-style multiethnic mix. Bratcher will join his troupe for tonight's 8 p.m. performance, which includes the premiere of guest choreographer Gerard Ebitz's Reunion, set to traditional Celtic music. Also on the dance card: Suite James, featuring a medley of James Brown tunes; What You Fittna to Done Did, set to the postbop jazz of Bobby McFerrin; and Any Which Way You Can, accompanied by a Willie Dixon blues score. The company will perform at the Hollywood Central Performing Arts Center, 1770 Monroe St., Hollywood. Tickets cost $10 and $18.50. Call 954-924-8175.
A talent search for the sun-'n'-skin TV series Baywatch? We thought it sounded like an oxymoron, too, but by the end of the month, one woman (presumably bikini-friendly) and one man (a beach stud type, no doubt) from South Florida will be on their way to Los Angeles for a Baywatch shoot. And one local band (rock 'n' roll, preferably) will win a shot at getting a song recorded for the next Baywatch soundtrack. All three spots are up for grabs during the Chili Pepper Baywatch Club Search Tour, taking place every Sunday this month and leading up to a final showdown May 31. Contestants sashay down the runway in the latest fashions during the clubwear round and strip down to nearly nothing for the swimsuit round. Bands, meanwhile, battle on the outdoor stage, pumping out sets of their best originals. The male and female finalists will travel to L.A. and appear as extras in an upcoming episode of Baywatch, then audition for permanent roles. The winning South Florida band gets to submit an original song for possible inclusion on the soundtrack. Each event takes place from 7:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. at the Chili Pepper, 200 W. Broward Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Admission is $5. Call 954-525-5996.
If you're into water-skiing, you can forget the hassle of towing a boat to the lake, paying for gas, and finding a driver. Back in the '60s, German engineer Bruno Rixen did away with the need for a boat by designing Ski-Rixen, an ingenious ski-tow system. The water-skier grabs hold of a rope attached to an overhead cable, which is supported by a series of towers and pulled at variable speeds by an electric motor. The system can accommodate up to eight people -- on water skis, wakeboards, or kneeboards -- simultaneously. To give cable-skiing a shot, head to Quiet Waters Park (6601 N. Powerline Rd., Deerfield Beach), where the 35-acre man-made lake lives up to the park's name: There are no noisy motorboats, just the soft hum of electric motors. Cost is $14 per hour or $25 for the entire day, including equipment. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Call 954-360-1315 or 954-429-0215 for more information.
"You can't take a 1000-page book and turn it into a two-hour movie without losing a lot," says Nora Natke. Filmmakers did plenty of slicing and dicing to condense the 1996 David Balducci novel Absolute Power, about an aging jewel-thief who witnesses a murder involving the President of the United States. "When you read the book, it was like reading the prequel and the sequel to the movie," says Natke, a long-time librarian who analyzes books and their film versions during her lecture Better Than the Movie. With more than 30 years of experience in the book biz, she has plenty of insight. But isn't a librarian apt to be biased? "Nine times out of ten, the book is better than the movie," Natke says, predictably. But she admits there are exceptions, such as the movie version of The Turning Point (1977), starring Mikhail Baryshnikov. "In the movie, you get to see the ballet, which is only talked about in the book," explains Natke, who will speak at 2 p.m. today at South Regional/BCC Library, 7300 Pines Blvd., Pembroke Pines. Admission is free. Call 954-963-8825.
A "Golden Age" is usually declared by historians after it happens. But back in 1989, the National Conference of Artists -- founded in 1959 by venerables of the black art world, including Elizabeth Catlett and Dr. Margaret Burroughs -- proclaimed one in advance. "Pretty bold," admits Miami painter and sculptor Dinizulu Gene Tinnie, who will lecture on The Golden Age of Black Art: 19902000. So just what did the conference have in mind when it made such a statement? Tinnie says the idea was to motivate black artists to create better work, to promote mentoring, and to establish art as a integral part of society, just as it is in Africa. "The whole idea [of art] is of celebrating ancestors and documenting special occasions, making the world better for future generations," Tinney explains. His 12:30 p.m. talk is part of the Lunch & Art lecture series at the Schacknow Museum of Fine Art (2855 Coral Springs Dr., Coral Springs), during which a gourmet lunch gives attendees a meal to go along with their food for thought. Cost is $15; advanced payment is required. Call 954-340-4200.