OFFBEAT: Hats favorite crowning moment of WANISS May Wine

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2014-04-30T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: Hats favorite crowning moment of WANISS May WineBy Philip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

The last time I served as a judge for the annual Women's Association of the Northwest Indiana Symphony Society May Wine Brunch, it was 2009 and a tough "topper" competition.

Charlotte A. Strowhorn, president of WANISS, as well as event chairman, has asked me to return to my judging duties once again, after a five-year absence, for this year's hat contest for the 42nd annual brunch event at 10 a.m. Wednesday, May 14 in the Celebrity Ballroom at Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza.

As I mentioned in previous columns, I believe the reason film director Michael Mann selected my Chicago audition in 2008 for my role in his Universal Pictures "Public Enemies" motion picture with Johnny Depp was because I mentioned I was wearing a fedora and cuff links once owned and worn by the late, legendary gossip columnist Walter Winchell.

And on that same subject, Winchell's West Coast counterpart Hedda Hopper made elegant over-the-top hats her trademark, insisting it was impossible for stars to ignore her at a function while she was underneath one of her crowning creations.

I don't take my famed movie prop crown out very often, but just as I did at the May 2009 Wine Brunch, I'll be wearing Winchell's hat for next month's charity occasion.

Wonderful music, shopping, great conversation, a scrumptious lunch and many floating silver trays of sweet, delicious wine with tiny heart-shaped slices of strawberries in each glass set the scene. In the past, celebrity guests included greats such as entertainers Shirley Jones and Carol Lawrence. This year, Soloist Katie Reeves will entertain at 1 p.m., followed by raffle drawings.

Guests are encouraged to arrive when the doors open at 10 a.m. to browse boutique booths. Lunch is at noon. Tickets are still just $45 each and reservations are required by Tuesday, May 6 by calling (219) 836-0525, Ext. 206.

As for Winchell and his trademark fedora, he was so attached to his hat he made sure it was always a part of his public attire, which became a favorite feuding point with his entertainment enemy Ed Sullivan.

Long before Sullivan launched his now iconic variety TV show in 1949, he began his media career as a newspaper sportswriter for The New York Evening Graphic, where Winchell was his more famous newsroom colleague. When Winchell left his position to take his gossip column to The New York Daily Mirror (where he could enjoy national syndication by working for William Randolph Hearst), Sullivan was promoted to take over Winchell's role as theater columnist. When the newspaper closed in 1932, Sullivan's column was later carried in The New York Daily News. Sullivan found success in the new medium of television on CBS, prompted NBC to hire Winchell to host his own rival failed variety TV show canceled in 1960. TV executives attempted to persuade Winchell to not wear his hat while serving as a TV host, explaining it appeared rude to wear his hat inside while being seen by TV viewers. But he refused!

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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