RSSOffBeat With Phil Potempa

OFFBEAT: 'Oz' grandson ready to welcome 'Dorothy's Return" to big screen

OFFBEAT: 'Oz' grandson ready to welcome 'Dorothy's Return" to big screen

Many Times readers are familiar with Roger Baum, the great-grandson of L. Frank Baum, author of "The Wizard of Oz."

For years, Roger, now 75, remained a favorite celebrity guest each year at the annual Wizard of Oz Festival in Chesterton.

While his great-grandfather wrote 14 books in the "Oz" series before his death at age 62 in May 1919, Roger has 16 books to his credit since he began writing his own "Oz" series starting in 1989.

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OFFBEAT: Lauren Bacall lends vocals to animated mouse film

OFFBEAT: Lauren Bacall lends vocals to animated mouse film

Actress Lauren Bacall celebrates her 90th birthday in September.

And she's still making movies.

I've interviewed her a few times, as well as her son Stephen Bogart from her marriage to Humphrey Bogart. She's a strong-willed gal and what you see is what you get.

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OFFBEAT: Chris Lemmon coming to Chicago with stage show about dad Jack

OFFBEAT: Chris Lemmon coming to Chicago with stage show about dad Jack

This June marks 13 years since actor Jack Lemmon died in 2001 at age 76.

Producer Hershey Felder has made it his tradition as a stage performer to highlight a blend of storytelling and music for Chicagoland audiences.

In previous seasons, at his favorite venue for entertainment, The Royal George Theatre, 1641 North Halsted St. in Chicago, he's performed his acclaimed one-man show tributes such as "George Gershwin Alone" and "Maestro Bernstein." And last season, he welcomed to the stage the smash hit starring Mona Golabek in "The Pianist of Willesden Lane."

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OFFBEAT: Finally chiming in for nice spring weather with Valpo exhibit

OFFBEAT: Finally chiming in for nice spring weather with Valpo exhibit

I hope readers had a blessed Easter and Passover with family and friends.

Reader Dani Landgrebe of Valparaiso, who is also a student at Purdue North Central, tipped me off about a great way to welcome spring's long-awaited sun and warm weather.

She is part of a a service-learning team collaborating with Taltree Arboretum & Gardens in Valparaiso.

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OFFBEAT: Valparaiso actress ready for stage story of factory tragedy

OFFBEAT: Valparaiso actress ready for stage story of factory tragedy

Valparaiso actress Angie Shriner has been anticipating her return to the Chicago stage since last October, when she began the casting process for the Shattered Globe Theatre production that concludes its 22nd season with Sally Nemeth's searing drama "Mill Fire."

Directed by Producing Artistic Director Sandy Shinner, playing April 24 – June 7, at the company's new artistic home Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago, a portion of the cast's prep for rehearsals was a trek to Northwest Indiana to tour the Region's steel mills.

"Northwest Indiana audiences will relate to this story because so many families have connections to the steel mills along Lake Michigan," said Shriner, who attended Valparaiso High School and most recently lived in Buffalo, N.Y. where she appeared in three productions.

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OFFBEAT: Columnist and TV personality Dorsey Connors lived storied life

OFFBEAT: Columnist and TV personality Dorsey Connors lived storied life

This year marks the 37th anniversary since syndicated columnist Heloise took over her mother's column after she died at age 58 in 1977. The original Heloise founded the column in 1959, which was first called "The Reader's Exchange," before in 1961, when King Features began to syndicate it as "Hints from Heloise," to nearly 600 newspapers.

We've included Heloise's column here in The Times for more than 25 years.

But even before the column launched, Chicagoland readers had already embraced another "Idea Queen" a decade prior.

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OFFBEAT: Heston honored with stamp, 'Commandments' airs Saturday

OFFBEAT: Heston honored with stamp, 'Commandments' airs Saturday

Every Easter season, I always watch the Cecille B. DeMille 1956 film classic "The Ten Commandments" on television with my parents.

It's become a tradition we've been doing since I was a child, and I'm always fascinated by this movie.

Of course, it not only stars a Hollywood roll call of greats like Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Yvonne De Carlo, John Derek, Judith Anderson, Debra Paget, Nina Foch, Cedric Hardwicke, John Carradine, Vincent Price and Edward G. Robinson, but also our own local claim-to-fame Anne Baxter, who hailed from Michigan City and died too soon in 1985 at age 61.

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OFFBEAT: Streetlamp, GR launch tour today, and at Chicago's Park West for weekend

OFFBEAT: Streetlamp, GR launch tour today, and at Chicago's Park West for weekend

When Star Plaza Theatre CEO, President and Talent Buyer Charlie Blum celebrated his 25th anniversary with the stage venue at Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza in Merrillville earlier this month, he didn't have any second thoughts about who he wanted to entertain his guests.

Blum hosted a private bash, a night of magic, music and dancing, in the second floor ballroom of the Radisson Hotel Saturday, April 5 and the party featured entertainment headliners Under the Streetlamp and Gentleman's Rule, fresh from their nationally aired PBS specials and prior to their new U.S. tour.

Among those who gathered at the fete were former host of Nickelodeon's "Double Dare" and now Food Channel host and producer Marc Summers (who will also be guest host on ABC's "The View" on Friday), publicist to the stars Liz Rosenberg (who reps Madonna, Cher and Michael Buble) and entertainment attorney to the stars Steve Krone, among other glitterati.

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OFFBEAT: Good memories of 'Honeymooners' with 'good spirits' news

OFFBEAT: Good memories of 'Honeymooners' with 'good spirits' news

Just like episodes of "I Love Lucy," Jackie Gleason's CBS series "The Honeymooners" remains a timeless classic comedy and just as entertaining and enjoyable today as it was 65 years ago.

Besides the star talent of Gleason paired with incomparable Art Carney, Audrey Meadows and Joyce Randolph, the writing on "The Honeymooners" was clever and relatable.  (Randolph is the only surviving cast member left, and celebrates her 90th birthday this year).

One of my favorite episodes of "The Honeymooners" originally aired March 31, 1956, titled "The Man of the House." It has Ralph arguing with wife Alice about his role as "king of his castle." To prove his point, he invites neighbor Ed Norton over (on a work night) with the intention that the pals will drink an entire bottle of wine together "just because they can."

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OFFBEAT: Limited opportunity to see new Elaine Stritch film doc

OFFBEAT: Limited opportunity to see new Elaine Stritch film doc

When stage, film and TV legend Elaine Stritch brought her Tony Award-winning Broadway one-woman stage show to the old Shubert Theater in Chicago in 2003, I recall how my then-columnist colleague Molly Woulfe and I competed to score an interview with then-79-year-old Stritch.

Alas, her Broadway in Chicago publicist David Rosenberg informed us both, that she was only doing a limited number of media interviews and unfortunately, we didn't make the list.

Stritch, who turned 89 on Feb. 2, is still making waves, and I say with a smile we should expect no less from this great dame of entertainment.

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