Reports broke Tuesday morning of the legendary stars passing. According to her publicist, Harlan Boll, Channing passed away at home. Best known for her role as the one and only Dolly Levi Gallagher in Hello Dolly fellow stars took to twitter to express their grief for the loss.
Hello dolly is currently on tour across the United States, and the touring company dedicated Tuesday’s show in San Diego to her memory.
The renowned actress started life far away from New York. Channing was born in Seattle to Newspaper George Channing, and his wife Adelaide. Growing up south of her birthplace in San Francisco in a devout household, she was first exposed to the theatre and saw her first show at the Curran Theatre. “I was a very little girl. So little that a lady sitting next to me took pity and put me up on her lap. The show was Ethel Waters in ‘As Thousands Cheer.’ I was so thrilled I was gone from then on.”
Channing showed talent on the stage form an early age in multiple speeches and contests throughout her schooling years. She spoke to the Chronicle about her success at the age of 16 in a state-wide oratory contest on the subject “American Citizenship and What It Means to Me.” Channing attend college briefly before she moved to New York and made her stage debut. She later would go on to star in some of her most famous roles from shows such as “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”and of course her role as Dolly in “Hello Dolly.”
Channing earned her first Tony Award as Dolly, and the role seemed to be her own personal property. Many would step into the shoes of the meddlesome matchmaker, but she was always Dolly. With a talent for keeping the material fresh every night she gave it a life that has never been matched.
Channing is known today with only two major starring roles on Broadway, but they have earned her legendary status. The role of Dolly may be her most well kown and iconic, but she was also responsible for creating the role of Lorelei Lee, in the stage adaptation of “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.” Her iconic song “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” underscored her entrances until the title song of Dolly took its place. “It’s lucky when you have a character or a song that’s identified with you,’’ Channing said in a 1991 interview with the Phoenix Gazette. “People know who you are.”
Carol Channing continued to work late into her life, and strived to keep herself healthy in order to do what she loved. This included often carrying her own food to dinner and lunch engagements. A quirk that began early on in her life due to her food allergies. However the allergies eventually got better with age, but Channing continued to carry her little silver container, it had become a part of her image.
Channing also accredited her health to the beliefs her parents had raised her with including abstaining from alcohol and the skipping of birthdays. A practice that Channing warmed up to with age as she didn’t have to tell people her age later on in life.
Channing would sustain a career for year as she traveled around the country working on various shows and reviews. This included the follow up and less successful “Lorelli” which was a continuation of “Gentlemen PRefer Blondes.” Along with the stage Carol Channing did try her hand at Hollywood and was often turned away and overlooked. Her two most famous roles on Broadway were awarded to other actresses. The most success she found was in the movie of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” which she won a Golden Globe for her supporting role.
Channing was a true treasure of this industry and if you would like to kow even more about her life we highly recommend watching the documentary on her life “Carol Channing: Larger Than Life.” Broadway will honor Channing tonight with the lights going dark on the marquees at 7:45 the Great White Way will wish her goodbye.