Memoriam Carol Channing

Darling Carol Channing

Broadway, West End, Hollywood legend and global icon.

I have such fond memories of working on HELLO, DOLLY! with her. She was an amazing treasure that can never be replaced. She was the life of many industry parties I attended… with an uncanny ability to remember nearly everybody’s names.  Such a joy, such a star. In my opinion, the golden age of Broadway died with her.


Carol Channing was born Jan 31, 1921, in Seattle and died Jan 15, 2019 at 12:31am in Rancho Mirage, California, age 97 of natural causes after suffering multiple strokes in 2018.  At the age of 7, after seeing Ethel Waters perform, she decided she wanted to become an entertainer.

She was married 4 times (3 that ended in divorce) a novelist Theodore Naidish; pro footballer Alexander Carson (father of her only child Channing); television producer Charles Lowe (Carol sued for divorce in 1998, alleging that he misappropriated her funds and remarked that they only had sex twice in 4 decades) and finally, Harry Kullijian, her childhood sweetheart from 70 years before who died in 2011.

Carol Channing performing with Pearl Bailey 1973 on CBS Television

Pearl Bailey & Carol Channing in a 1973 CBS TV Special

She famously played the matchmaking widow Dolly Levi, star of HELLO, DOLLY! more than 5,000 times across 3 Broadway runs from the 1960s to the 1990s and on tours around the world (the last in 1996, when she was in her 70s.).  The unstoppable Channing only had 1 unscheduled absence (she missed half a show in Kalamazoo, Michigan due to food poisoning).   Others who have subsequently played her role include Pearl Bailey, Phyllis Diller, Betty Grable, Ethel Merman, Martha Raye, Ginger Rogers, Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Bernadette Peters and Betty Buckley.

She additionally originated the role of Lorelei Lee in GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES.  She appeared in more Broadway musicals – WONDERFUL TOWN, THE VAMP, SHOW GIRL and in 1974, starred in the Broadway sequel to GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES, entitled LORELEI.

She often appeared on television and in nightclubs, for a time partnering with George Burns in Las Vegas and a national tour.  On television, she appeared as an entertainer on variety shows, from The Ed Sullivan Show in the 1950s to Hollywood Squares. She had a standout performance as The White Queen in the 1985 TV production of Alice in Wonderland, and had the first of many TV specials in 1966, An Evening with Carol Channing. In 1986, Channing appeared on Sesame Street and sang a parody of the song “Hello, Dolly!” called “Hello, Sammy!

Carol Channing RasberriesHer most successful film role, co-starring with Jule Andrews, was as the nightclub singer Muzzy Van Hossmere, fond of quaffing champagne and proclaiming “raspberries!” in Thoroughly Modern Millie, which brought her an Oscar nomination in 1968.

She also appeared with a young Clint Eastwood in the 1956 movie The First Traveling Saleslady starring Ginger Rogers, and in the 1968 movie, Skidoo.

Carol Channings half time show at the 1970 Super BowlThe NFL and Carol Channing say she came out to sing “When the Saints Go Marching In” at halftime of Super Bowl IV on January 11, 1970 at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans, Louisiana, making her the first solo performance artist to star at the Super Bowl. The show featured the Southern University marching band tribute to Mardi Gras and a reenactment of the 1815 Battle of New Orleans, with cannons, smoke and soldiers.  She stated that her performance was requested “just about a week before the Super Bowl,” which meant there was no time for a pre-show run-through. Apparently, Channing was so well received that she was invited back for Super Bowl VI on January 16, 1972 again at Tulane Stadium, as part of a “Salute to Louis Armstrong” with Ella Fitzgerald, making her the first Super Bowl repeat performer as well.

President Richard Nixon put together an “enemies list” of people who’d opposed him or his policies. This list included journalists, labor leaders, antiwar activists and civil rights activists; it also listed performers including Carol Channing. Other celebrities on the 1st Enemies list included Paul Newman, Walt Disney, Gregory Peck, Tony Randall, Joe Namath and Barbra Streisand. In 1980, she stated, “At first I felt terrible, then I realized… that no matter what I do the rest of my life… I’ll never do anything as distinguished as getting on Nixon’s enemy list.”  One possible explanation was her closeness with both the Kennedy clan and Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson… at 1964’s Democratic National Convention, Channing serenaded LBJ with “Hello, Lyndon!” (a tweaked version of the popular “Hello, Dolly!“).

Carol Channing will always be remembered by the LGBT community as a gay icon.   Channing said in a 2013 interview: “A stamp of approval from the gay community is almost a guarantee of success.  Just ask Liza Minnelli, Bette Midler, or Cher.”

Carol Channing Broadway LightsCarol Channing, who is survived by her son, cartoonist Channing Carson, passed away 16 days shy of her 98th birthday, and on the eve of the 55th anniversary of the opening night of HELLO, DOLLY! at the St. James Theatre on Broadway which had its opening night on Jan. 16, 1964. Broadway dimmed its lights in tribute to her impact and memory to the theatrical legend in New York for one minute on Wednesday, January 16 at exactly 7:45pm.

For more information about Carol as Dolly, visit Richard Skipper’s fantastic HELLO, DOLLY!


Toby Awards Trophy Carol Channingtoby awards
In 2000, Ms. Channing was the recipient of a Toby Award.

Click for details.

SM WeChatSM WeChat Channel
🇨🇳 in China, all foreign sites are blocked, scan my WeChat Channel QR to watch:
QR WeChat Channel

Carol Channing LIFE Magazine Comic

Carol Channing AMEX How To Buy a Diamond

Carol Channing TIME Magazine

Carol Channing LIFE Magazine Hello Dolly

Carol Channing TV Guide

Hello, Dolly! Broadway tour in Vancouver starring Carol Channing

Toby Simkin’s Broadway Entertainment, LLC
dba within China as: 沈途彬商务咨询(上海)有限公司

– ~ ~  {:-)-:}  ~ ~ – | | | |

Facebook #PreservingHistory1ShowAtATime

Biography | Portfolio | Blog | Consulting | Theatre History | AustralAsia Live | ObituariesContact