OFFBEAT: May wine luncheon as fine as Jane Wyman's 'Falcon Crest'

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2013-05-03T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: May wine luncheon as fine as Jane Wyman's 'Falcon Crest'By Philip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

When I think of wine and the welcome of warm weather, it's the annual charity luncheon benefiting the Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra, always held in the ballroom at the Radisson Hotel in Merrillville, that comes to mind.

The Women's Association of the Northwest Indiana Symphony Society (WANISS) has its 41st Annual May Wine Brunch at 10 a.m.  May 8 at Star Plaza.

Guests stroll The Boulevard of Shoppes and celebrate the start of May and a fashion show by Alexis Finer Fashions.

The ever-popular "Best Hat Contest" returns as a favorite highlight of the event. The winner of the "hat contest" will be chosen by popular vote.

Coordinators Maryanne Battistini and Mary Anne Lahayne tell me they have two amazing hats to award as prizes, designed and donated by Polly Singer of Lexington, KY, a noted name who designs many of the hats worn by the ladies attending the Kentucky Derby Race this weekend.

I'm told one hat is valued at $300 and the other one at $250, as first and second place prizes, and third prize is a Sunday Brunch at the Center for Visual and Performing Arts in Munster, along with tickets for the latest production at Theatre at the Center.

Wonderful music, shopping, great conversation, a scrumptious lunch and many silver trays of sweet, delicious German spring wine -- with tiny heart-shaped slices of strawberries floating in each glass -- set the scene for this social event of the season.

Guests are encouraged to arrive when the doors open at 10 a.m. to browse the boutique booths. Lunch is served at 11 a.m. and tickets are still just $45. Reserve a place by calling today at (219) 836-0525, ext. 206.

While we make our own homemade dandelion wine every spring at the farm, and delicate Concord purple grape in the fall, for many, California still ranks as having some of the most embraced wine country in the world.

Television viewers got a glimpse into the drama of wine making, courtesy of the late, great Jane Wyman, for six years on the CBS prime-time soap "Falcon Crest" until the series ended in 1990.

Actor Robert Foxworth's character was always in constant battle with the scheming wine matriarch Angela Channing, played by Wyman.

Wyman, who died at age 93, in 2007, was also married to Ronald Reagan from 1940 to 1948 and shared two children, Michael, who now works as a syndicated radio personality, and late daughter Maureen, who died in 2001.

Prior to her passing, Wyman attended few public events, with one exception. She was seen in a very frail state, arm-in-arm with Nancy Reagan, attending Maureen's funeral service. Wyman was a devout Catholic, much like her actress friend Loretta Young.

(Nancy, who is about to turn 92, had attended her step-daughter's service, representing President Reagan, who was already in the final stages of Alzheimer's disease.)

I never interviewed Wyman. But when I interviewed actor Foxworth in 2002 when he was appearing in a play in Chicago, he talked about his "wine making years" on "Falcon Crest."

"It was great to be able to work with so many industry greats on our show, like Wyman, Lana Turner and Gina Lollobrigida," Foxworth said.

"And even if all of the ladies didn't always get along (referring to the reported feud on the set between Wyman and Turner), I got along with everyone just fine."

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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