How does someone become almost someone else, as Tom Bradshaw has become Almost Willie Nelson? The answer is simpler than you might think. In 1987, then-used-car-salesman Bradshaw grew a beard and dressed up as Nelson for his company's Halloween party. His act was more convincing than he imagined it would be. "I've been Almost Willie ever since," he says. Almost Willie isn't quite Willie, and he'll be the first to admit it. He's honed his costume flawlessly, having even blasted a hole in his guitar. His voice is pleasant enough, but real Willie is tough to match. The Austin Chronicle's Melissa Sattley made note of Almost Willie's musical inferiority back in 2001, calling him "Decidedly not Willie Nelson" in that regard. To which the performer retorted, "If I did it perfect, I wouldn't be Almost."
Bradshaw takes his act seriously. Seriously enough to refer to himself as Almost Willie even on his chipper, twangy voice-mail greeting. Seriously enough to take the act on the road "twelve months out of the year" on top of two weekly gigs here in town, wandering the City Market on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and hopping onstage at Winslow's Barbecue on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Most impressively, he's earned the respect of Real Willie's fans. When he attends Nelson shows in his finest Willie garb, he's obligated to spend the whole night letting one group of fans after another buy him drinks.
Almost Willie speaks at various Mid-Continent Library locations this week. For information, call 816-521-7221.-- Gina Kaufmann
On Mass Street
Downtown Lawrence shows its art.
Maybe you shunned First Friday last week for a neighborhood Fourth of July bash. Or maybe you went downtown in an effort to look at art but were distracted by the display of spirit at the Liberty Memorial. You can make up for it this week at the Downtown Friday Gallery Walk in Lawrence. Compared with the Crossroads extravaganza, it's a more low-key affair that typically boasts fewer wacky characters. But Massachusetts Street never fails to charm. Look at it as a relaxed art experience -- or a night away from the Kansas City scene. Downtown Lawrence galleries opening their doors from 7 to 9 p.m. include the Lawrence Arts Center, the Lawrence Public Library, Fields Gallery, Southwest and More, Signs of Life and Silver Works. For more information, call 785-843-2787.-- Sarah Smarsh
Naughtier Than Thou
Promising actual burlesque in addition to "pagan dancing and bad drag," and charging only a $12 cover, Late Night Theatre's Burlesque Naughty Show is surely marked in pen on many calendars. Late Night impresario Ron Megee says the fund-raiser will help allay the costs of the blindingly bright new johns and keep the troupe rolling until next month's new show, Dirty Dangerous Little Liaisons. The planned deconstruction of the movie that had Glenn Close declaring war against a vulpine John Malkovich while poor Michelle Pfeiffer lay dying from having been deceptively deflowered is just too delicious to anticipate.-- Steve Walker
Samurai, Sailors and Felt
Ancient Future, an installation by recent Kansas City Art Institute grad Jon Peck, opens tonight at Your Face, 925 West 17th Street. In his first local solo show, Peck uses sculpture and drawing to merge images from different cultures: Aztec motifs adorn Japanese samurai, and religious icons enter the bawdy realm of sailor tattoos. The goal is to allow viewers to "experience the crossbreeding of art and craft, sacred and profane, traditional and experimental, past and future." Is that all? To lighten things up, Peck forgoes canvas and clay for felt and construction paper, and introduces interactive elements to his pieces. The reception starts at 6 p.m. For more information, call 816-472-1854.-- Smarsh