Lickin'-good art

Pretty much everyone knows the rules in art museums: don't run, don't shout, don't touch, don't get too close. But long-time Minneapolis Institute of Arts guard Tim Piowtrowski had to improvise a new one recently when, in a routine check of Gallery 308, he noticed a little girl getting way too involved with Nicolas de Largillière's luscious 1699 portrait of a French aristocrat, Catherine Coustard, the Marquise of Castelnau, and her son Léonor. "Please don't lick the art," he warned as the kid leaned in for another surreptitious slurp of the Marquise's delicious blueberry-colored gown. Seizing a marketing opportunity, the museum's shop has printed up a line of "Please don't lick the art" T-shirts. Pale blue, all cotton, $22.50 each. The painting was unharmed.


Senior A+E Editor •

Tim Campbell

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Comments • Christine Ledbetter

Vereen, un(hair)plugged

Showman Ben Vereen was all lyricism and levity Monday night at the Dakota. The Rat Pack acolyte knows how to sell a song, poignantly delivering numbers by Sammy Davis Jr. ("Mr. Bojangles") and Frank Sinatra ("My Way"), impersonating Louis Armstrong on a duet of "They Can't Take That Away From Me" with Tina ("Ella") Fabrique and sang show tunes from "Wicked," "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Pippin," for which he won a Tony. "When I was in 'Hair,' I had hair," he said, fingering his shiny pate.


American idlers

If you were touring America, what would you do with a day off in the Twin Cities? On Monday, the day before their concert at Target Center, three "American Idol" finalists -- Michael Sarver, Danny Gokey and Matt Giraud -- went to the State Fair with Casey Carlson, the "Idol" contestant from Eden Prairie. Scott MacIntyre had one of the best meals of his life at 112 Eatery. Anoop Desai got together with an old high school friend. Megan Joy hung out with her old "Idol" roommate, Jesse Langseth. But this year's top dog spent the day working: Kris Allen went over to former Semisonic frontman Dan Wilson's house in south Minneapolis to write songs for his album, due Nov. 17. Allen and Wilson, who won a Grammy for co-writing the Dixie Chicks' "Not Ready to Make Nice," started two tunes and will likely finish them via long distance.


Playing with 'Dynamite'

Minneapolis producer William Pohlad's new film distribution company Apparition won't be all period dramas and deep-thinking art films. The firm will open the blaxploitation comedy "Black Dynamite" in limited markets outside the Twin Cities Oct. 16. The film, a hit on the festival circuit, is an "Austin Powers"-style spoof of 1970s black crime fighter movies. Michael Jai White, who also co-wrote the screenplay, plays the swaggering title character, leaving broken bodies and ecstatic ladies in his wake wherever his mission takes him. Apparition's other releases include this month's "Bright Star," a 19th-century literary romance from director Jane Campion; November's "The Young Victoria," with Emily Blunt as Queen Victoria in the turbulent first years of her reign, and "The Tree of Life," a drama starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn slated for release before year's end.


Breezy Weezy & Jeezy

Ever since 50 Cent made them wait outside for 2 1/2 hours in a snowstorm, local hip-hop fans know better than to expect a rap show to operate on time. So imagine I.W.'s surprise when we got a schedule from Xcel Center staff for Tuesday's America's Most Wanted Tour, starring Lil' Wayne, that listed such start times as "6:52" and "7:57." Lo and behold, the stars all took the stage on schedule. Of course, that's easy to do with a show so heavily based in pre-recorded vocals. Soulja Boy had so many people in his entourage, he had somebody to pull off his bling when it got too heavy for him. Young Jeezy, however, didn't get the help he wanted when he asked fans to hold up their cell phones to light up the arena, which was half-empty. "Damn, I thought there were more people here!" he yelled when the upper deck and back rows failed to light up.


A rapper walks into a comic book store ...

Big Brain Comics has become the Twin Cities' headquarters for comic book-loving hip-hop stars. Pioneering producer Pete Rock stopped in Aug. 22 to pick up the latest Hulk story line (his tour played First Avenue that night). Last week, Posdnuos of the legendary group De La Soul bought a stack of Marvel comics at the downtown shop, a day after playing his own show at First Ave. While comic book fans are known for being big geeks, Big Brain employee Clarence Thrun doesn't wear his fanboy on his sleeve. But he's a huge De La Soul fan and couldn't stop himself from showering the rapper with praise. "That was like the one time I geeked out," Thrun admitted. "Then I just shut up and crawled away. He was super awesome and shook my hand."