Sound Bites TRICK-OR-TREAT ON CONGRESS STREET: The thermometer measuring contributions to the Rialto Foundation outside the Rialto Theatre has shown little movement over the last few months, indicating the pool of funds remains rather stagnant. But if the painted-on mercury isn't rising, the barometer measuring activity surrounding the project gives an entirely different reading: The Rialto Foundation has been busy getting the theater ready for business. Nightmare on Congress Street, a Halloween extravaganza, is the first in a series of events planned to give the ailing theater a financial booster shot.

Part of the reason fundraising has taken a back seat is becuase of what longtime Rialto volunteer Jeb Schoonover perceives as "a need to re-establish credibility with the general public," a credibilty repeatedly called into question by rumors surrounding the legal entanglements of Rialto co-founders Schoonover and Paul Bear. Schoonover hopes that having the theater functioning will finally dispel any lingering doubts that the project is moving forward.

The past year has charted a rocky course for the Rialto and its advocates, with seemingly endless trials and tribulations. But with a new board of directors and legal matters now in hand, the day on which the Rialto is not only restored to full operation but also safely entrusted to its custodial non-profit foundation is on the horizon.

Meetings with the City of Tucson and Tucson Fire Department officials helped establish and implement plans to bring the theater up to code. Ongoing projects include the installation of a sprinkler system, plumbing improvements and the demodernization/ restoration of the building's facade. Plans to rebuild the original double-entrance design flanking a central ticket kiosk are also in the works. It's anticipated that all the necessary modifications will be completed by October 31, with the actual date of reopening pending final inspection approval.

The Foundation's greatest hurdle involves re-instatement of the $218,000 Arizona Heritage Fund Grant awarded to the Foundation in the fall of 1996. Because of the whirl of legal problems surrounding the project, a conservative Arizona State Parks board voted to rescind the grant in July. Even if settlement negotiations currently underway are successful, the Rialto Foundation will still need to raise an additional $70,000 to match the Heritage award. Hence the thermometer.

Performances at the Rialto Theater, as well as events like Nightmare on Congress Street, are part of a larger vision of economic and cultural prosperity downtown.

"There's so much rhetoric about the revitalization of downtown, and the Rialto is an obvious, immediate and substantial contribution to that end," says Schoonover. "We need a multi-use, user-friendly venue to host not only alternative shows, but sit-down concerts, dance and theatrical productions."

Thus, even though Nightmare on Congress Street is being staged primarily as a benefit for the Rialto Theater, the event's focus speaks to that wider vision to establish downtown as the center of entertainment and culture in Tucson.

The festival, which involves blocking off Congress Street for wild pedestrian rollicking, is modeled after a decades-long Halloween tradition that began here in the 1920s. The city is behind the project, granting permission to block off Congress between Herbert and Fifth avenues.

Both indoor and outdoor stages cover all the bases, allowing for a Pandora's box of spooky backdrops and skeletal decorations. Featured entertainment includes Billy Bacon and the Forbidden Pigs, Al Perry, The Phantom Limbs, The Kings of Pleasure, The Oblivians, James Dead, Chris Burroughs and Creosote, plus Rage in the Cage Wrestling, costume contests--the works! Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 on the day of the show. Call 622-8848 for more information. For more information on the Rialto Theatre, call 740-0126.

HOT PICK: The Kings of Pleasure have announced plans to record a live CD on Tuesday, November 4, and where else but at The Shelter? Every Tuesday night for well over a year, The Kings of Pleasure, squeezed in under JFK's gleaming orange grin, have played to a packed house of enthusiastic cocktail swingers. Band leader Mike Hebert has signed on some new members, welcoming the addition of drummer Ralph Gilmore as well as a new horn section. The band plans to record eight new originals and two favorite covers for release in December, to coincide with a planned west coast tour. As all Tuesday regulars are well aware, space is always at a premium. Plan to arrive early--The Kings are set to swing at 10 p.m. Tickets for this show are $4, available in advance at The Shelter, 4155 E. Grant Road. Call 325-1345 for more information.

LAST NOTES: Costume parties abound this week, many with high-dollar prizes for the best-dressed. The New West up at Ina and I-10 offers a $3,000 grand prize at their bash! The following is a smattering of events at which to rattle your bones this Halloween, with haunts featuring live music in addition to the usual costumed affair:

The Nimbus Brewing Company, 3850 E. 44th St., offers an array of some of Tucson's rowdiest sons with a bash beginning promptly at 8 p.m. Join the Wise Guys, Helldriver, Al Foul & the Shakes and Feast Upon Cactus Thorns (F.U.C.T.) for a costume party of Satanic dimensions. Call 745-9175 for more information.

The 3rd Stone Bar and Grill, 500 N. Fourth Ave., parties down with local favorites Shoebomb, with costume, cocktails and all the trimmings. Call 628-8844 for more information.

For eastside fiends, Berky's Bar, 5769 E. Speedway, features the 13th and final Halloween performance of the Blue Lizards. It's the end of an era, folks. The Blue Lizards will be disbanding in 1998, playing weekend shows exclusively at Berky's on Speedway until the new year. Call 296-1981 for more information. TW

--Lisa Weeks

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