But for Hamburger fans, there's no mistaking the real deal. The message boards of the unofficial Neil Hamburger Web site (www.neilhamburger.tvheaven.com) brim with accolades and affection from posters who happily identify themselves as his "fan(atics)."
"Some of 'em do have emotional problems. I don't know if that qualifies them as fanatics," Hamburger says. "But they can get very enthusiastic, and it's nice to have a handful out of a few hundred people who just love the show. Hopefully, at a fan convention, we'll get all the people who love me and not the sourpusses."
In addition to Hamburger's performance, the convention features trivia games, a pizza contest, and performances by local rockers Tales From the Birdbath, the Bindle Stiffs, and Brodie Hubbard.
Spectators will also be treated to screenings of the films Left for Dead in Malaysia, A Moment in Time With Neil Hamburger, and America's Funnyman, along with various shorts, including an Australian animated series featuring Hamburger's voice. "Anything to keep people awake, or keep people from wandering across the street to Circle K," he says.
The shebang starts at 6 p.m. at Hollywood Alley, 2610 West Baseline in Mesa. Tickets cost $8. Call 480-820-7117. -- Niki D'Andrea
MAC to the Future
Arts in the right place
The newly minted Mesa Arts Center gets a head start on its official debut (a September 17 gala starring Mr. Broadway, Michael Crawford) with three simultaneous art openings on Tuesday, September 13, at MAC's Mesa Contemporary Arts facility. The exhibitions include a magnificent series of landscapes by Ellen Wagener, who explores the artistic tension that exists on the border separating the Valley's developed lands from its fast-diminishing desert; prints from the Armstrong-Prior Archives; and artwork and mammoth fiberglass sculpture by "barrio" artist Luis Jimenez (an example of Jimenez's work is pictured). Admission is $3.50, free on Thursdays. MAC is located at 1 East Main Street. Call 480-644-6500 or visit www.mesaartscenter.com. -- Clay McNear
Playing doctor at the Buttes
Ever since unshaven Lothario George Clooney ambled onto television screens clad in surgical scrubs more than a decade ago, the utilitarian togs have become a fashion statement for those looking to ape the medical set. Even local charity Positive Impact will utilize the garments' growing popularity at its fourth annual Scrub Ball, scheduled at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, September 10, at Tempe's Wyndham Buttes Resort, 2000 Westcourt Way. Attendees at the event -- which benefits children, adults, and families facing catastrophic medical crises -- will be provided scrubs to wear either "for a casual and comfortable evening" or to be decorated for a costume contest. Event organizer Pam Gerber says last year's event featured couples decked out as pirates, sock-hoppers, and even punk rockers. Other activities planned for the party include dinner, dancing, auctions, and entertainment by Chuck E. Baby and the All-Stars. Call 602-703-2828 or visit www.positiveimpactinc.org. -- Benjamin Leatherman
Love Among the Ruins
Author finds learning in loss
After September 11, 2001, "I went out of my mind," says Ray Madaghiele, "and into my heart," where he found the inspiration to ride his bicycle across the United States, speaking at fire stations and inviting folks to share experiences and honor our public servants. "We saw people drop everything to serve each other unconditionally, with love. Creating peace in ourselves creates peace in the world." Madaghiele traveled from Phoenix to Ground Zero in 70 days, with his wife, Lyn, following in a truck. The Madaghieles visit Borders Books & Music, 2402 East Camelback, at 3 p.m. Saturday, September 10, for a signing of the new book Ray of Hope for Peace. Call 602-957-6660 or visit rayofhopeforpeace.com. -- Julie Peterson
School daze at Dos Gringos
The "back-to-school blues" can only truly be understood by the college set. They must fight over who gets the last dog-eared "required" textbook, sell their kidneys on eBay to overpay for said book, then lug around those rolling bags that sound like machine guns when the plastic wheels start to crack. It's enough to make you want to get drunk and careen down a giant Slip 'N' Slide, like the one at Dos Gringos Trailer Park, 1001 East Eighth Street in Tempe. You can do just that at the club's "Back to School Party" on Saturday, September 10. The free fete features $3 beers, "Gringoritas," and Donkey Punch; $4 wells and calls; a full food menu; and a 5,000-gallon swimming pool. The soiree starts at 11 a.m. and lasts until close. The first 100 people to arrive receive a free tee shirt. Call 480-968-7879. -- By Niki D'Andrea