BroadwayWorld is deeply saddened to report the passing of the legendary Carol Channing. Channing died at 12:31am on Tuesday, January 15th, 2019, at home in Rancho Mirage, CA of natural causes.
B Harlan Boll, Channing’s publicist, released the following statement:
It is with extreme heartache, that I have to announce the passing of an original Industry Pioneer, Legend and Icon – Miss Carol Channing. I admired her before I met her, and have loved her since the day she stepped … or fell rather … into my life. It is so very hard to see the final curtain lower on a woman who has been a daily part of my life for more than a third of it. We supported each other, cried with each other, argued with each other, but always ended up laughing with each other. Saying good-bye is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, but I know that when I feel those uncontrollable urges to laugh at everything and/or nothing at all, it will be because she is with me, tickling my funny bone.
Carol was born Jan 31, 1921 in Seattle, Washington, the daughter of a prominent newspaper editor, who was very active in the Christian Science movement. At just two weeks of age, her father’s work took the family to San Francisco, where Carol was raised, schooled and eventually found work as a model. Through determination, hard work, and her family’s support (not to mention a mandatory IQ test for which she scored one of the highest recorded results), Carol was able to attend Bennington College in Vermont that had one of the few existing arts programs in the country, majoring in drama and dance.
A recipient of the 1995 Lifetime Achievement Tony Award, Ms. Channing has been a star of international acclaim since a Time magazine cover story hailed her performance as Lorelei Lee in “Gentleman Prefer Blondes” writing; “Perhaps once in a decade a nova explodes above the Great White Way with enough brilliance to re-illumine the whole gaudy legend of show business.” Since her 1948 Broadway debut in Blitzstein’s “No For An Answer,” her Broadway appearances have included “So Proudly We Hail,” “Let’s Face It,” “Lend An Ear,” “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” “Show Girl,” “Pygmalion,” “The Millionairess,” “The Vamp,” “Four On A Garden,” and “Wonderful Town.” In addition to receiving a special Tony Award in 1968, she won the Tony Award in 1964 for her legendary portrayal of Dolly Levi in Jerry Herman‘s “Hello, Dolly!”
Jacqueline Kennedy and her two children made their first public appearance after JFK’s death by seeing her perform in “Hello, Dolly!” and later visited her backstage. She has since played the role in over 5000 performances, without missing a single performance. She then toured with her own revue, “Carol Channing and Her Ten Stout Hearted Men” and critically acclaimed tours of “Jerry’s Girls” and “Legends,” in which she co-starred with Mary Martin.
Ms. Channing’s happiest film project was in the role of Muzzy in “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” which earned her an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe Award. Other films include “Paid In Full,” “The First Traveling Saleslady” (giving new comer Clint Eastwoodhis first on screen kiss), “Skidoo,” “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” “Archie and Mehitabel” and “Thumbelina.”
Ms. Channing TV specials, include “Broadway at the Hollywood Bowl,” “Carol Channing‘s Los Angeles,” “Carol Channing and Pearl Bailey on Broadway,” “George Burns – His Wit and Wisdom” and to millions of children worldwide is best known as the White Queen in “Alice Through the Looking Glass.” Other television credits include popular game shows as “What’s My Line,” “I’ve Got a Secret,” “Password,” and “Hollywood Squares,” variety shows such as “The Dean Martin Show,” “The Red Skelton Show,” “The Milton Berle Show,” “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In,” “The Carol Burnett Show,” “The Muppet Show,” as well as many Tony and Grammy broadcasts. A partial list of Carol’s Episodic work consist of Playhouse 90’s “Three Men on a Horse,” “The Love Boat,” “Magnum, P.I.,” “The Nanny,” “Touched by an Angel,” “The Drew Carey Show” and “Family Guy.”
As one of the most easily recognized and highly imitated voices in the world, Carol’s unique sound has been established as characters and narrative in both TV series and documentaries like “JFK: The Day the Nation Cried,” “The Adam’s Family” (voice of Granny), “Thumbelina,” “Free To Be You and Me,” “Space Ghost,” “Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers” and “The Brave Little Toaster Goes To Mars.” Miss Channing also cut twenty children’s albums of classic stories including “Winnie The Pooh” and “Madeline.”
Ms. Channing has recorded ten gold Albums and including the original cast album of “Hello, Dolly!” released in 1964. Miss Channing has appeared in most every grand ballroom and concert hall in the country. Among her other acknowledgments is a Best Nightclub Act of the Year Award, Harvard University’s Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year Award, the Oscar Hammerstein Award for lifetime achievement and the Julie HarrisLifetime Achievement Award from The Actors’ Fund of America, but is most proud in the role of mother of Chan Lowe, who is a nationally syndicated editorial cartoonist, who has the distinction of being a Pulitzer Prize finalist.
In 1998, Carol moved to Palm Springs/Rancho Mirage to be close to her dear cousin Richard “Dicky” Long and loved the community so much, that she called it home for the remainder of her life.
In 2003, the octogenarian released her best selling memoirs, “Just Lucky I Guess” and started touring world wide with her one woman show entitled “The First Eighty Years are the Hardest,” after the very successful preview given to New York audiences that prompted the New York Times to say “Back Where She Belongs: Carol ChanningReminisces . . . The audience jumped to its feet more than once. We were watching a master performer” and Associated Press declared “The audience clearly was there to worship, and Channing did not disappoint.” In 2004, Broadway’s “first lady of musical comedy,” received an honorary doctoral degree becoming Doctor Carol Channing from the California State University, Stanislaus Commencement (only the third Honorary Doctoral Degree given in CSU Stanislaus 45-year history).
In 2009, items representing Miss Channing’s career were inducted into the Smithsonian Institute in D.C., along with eight other legendary ladies of stage and screen. Her original diamonds dress from the Broadway production of “Lorelei,” worn while singing “Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend” and her “Hello Dolly!” gown (from the 95′ tour), as well as her TONY Award for her portrayal of Dolly Gallagher Levy, are currently part of the permanent collection at the Smithsonian Institutions American History Museum. In addition, her 1995 Lifetime Achievement Tony Award can be seen on exhibit at The Hollywood Museum and her star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame is located in front of the Pantages Theater on Hollywood Blvd.
In 2010, Carol returned to the Great White Way, performing at the New Amsterdam theatre on 42nd Street, with many returning “Dolly boys” from previous “Hello Dolly!” tours and received the “Gypsy Award” from Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.” In January 2012, mutli-TONY winning director and producer, Dori Berinstein, released the critically acclaimed and award winning documentary entitled “Carol Channing: Larger Than Life,” highlighting Carol’s 70 plus year career. Her last public appearance was on her 95th birthday at the McCallum Theater to a record breaking crowd of fans from all around the world, that sold out in only a couple hours and featured an all star extravaganza to honor her. In late 2018, artist Khoi Nguyen, used his PHD in mathematics to create a prolific painting of the actress, comedienne and activist, that allowed more than 43,000 friends and fans (as well as herself) to participate by affixing their fingerprint onto the work, each linked to a personal video interview about Miss Channing and her efforts to raise awareness with regard to the need for arts in education.
Carol is survived by her son, Channing Lowe and close family member, Sylvia Long. Services have not yet been determined.
In lieu of flowers, a tribute gift/donation to the Carol Channing Theater at Lowell High School (1101 Eucalyptus Dr., San Francisco, California 94132 | (415) 759-3066) or the McCallum Theatre (73000 Fred Waring Dr, Palm Desert, CA 92260 https://www.mccallumtheatre.com/ ) in Carol’s honor would be very much appreciated.