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Philip Potempa to star in original play ‘Winchell: On the Air’ at The Center for Visual and Performing Arts

Two performances on June 10

Information provided by The Center for Visual and Performing Arts

MUNSTER, Ind. (May 30, 2021) – Journalist and author Philip Potempa will appear in a new one-man play about the life and career of infamous newspaper gossip columnist and radio personality Walter Winchell.

“Winchell: On the Air” is a 70-minute “in person” production which includes a multimedia element for audiences when it premieres with two performances June 10, 2021, at The Center for Visual and Performing Arts, located at 1040 Ridge Road in Munster, Indiana.

Walter Winchell

Winchell, who died at 74 in 1972, was hailed as one of the most powerful and influential journalists from the 1920s through the 1950s with his radio shows broadcast on ABC and his columns published in his flagship newspaper The New York Daily Mirror and read throughout the country distributed by Hearst Newspapers Syndicate.

Philip Potempa

Potempa, a journalist for three decades, is a contributing columnist for Chicago Tribune Media and he also hosts “Of Notoriety,” a weekly radio show named for his columns broadcast in Hammond, Indiana. He has spent more than 20 years researching Winchell, his impact, his legacy, and continued influence with today’s media. In addition to watching and listening to recordings of Winchell’s broadcasts, Potempa has collected more than 200 preserved original clippings of Winchell’s newspaper columns, as well as rare photos, personal correspondence, and other items related to the columnist, which he used to pen his new play “Winchell: On the Air.”

“Winchell: On the Air”

The 70-minute performance includes Winchell’s early roots and interest in journalism; his famous feuds with Ed Sullivan, talk show host Jack Parr, and rival columnists like Elsa Maxwell, Hedda Hopper, and Louella Parsons; his anti-communist platform which allied him with Senator Joseph McCarthy; and the final decade-long downward spiral of his career.

Authentic costuming for the production was easy, since Potempa has one of Winchell’s personally owned signature fedoras, which he purchased in an auction years ago. Potempa wore the hat in the 2008 Universal Pictures film “Public Enemies” starring Johnny Depp as John Dillinger, when director Michael Mann cast Potempa as a 1930s reporter who interviews Dillinger in a jailhouse scene.


Performances of “Winchell: On the Air” are staged in the spacious ballroom at The Center for Visual and Performing Arts and paired with custom-themed menu dinner. The ballroom will be transformed into a replica of the famed New York Stork Club, where booth No. 50 was always reserved as Winchell’s roost. An exhibit of Winchell’s hat, cufflinks, correspondence and rare photos will accompany the show experience. The dinner show menu features the Plaza Hotel’s cream of potato and watercress soup, Walter’s favorite stork club chicken croquet with béarnaise sauce served with swirled sweet and white mashed potatoes, and spring garden sweet peas. The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel’s signature red velvet cake will be served for dessert.

For the matinee performance, doors open at 11:30 a.m. with lunch served at noon before the 1 p.m. show. For the evening performance, doors open at 6 p.m., dinner is served at 6:30 p.m. and the show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for both performances, which includes meal and show, are $50 plus tax.

Call 219-836-1930 for tickets or visit www.cvpa.org.

The Center for Visual and Performing Arts is located at 1040 Ridge Road, Munster, Indiana.

The Lansing Journal
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