Tony Award winning actress Carol Channing died In the early hours of January in Rancho Mirage, California only two weeks shy of her 98th birthday. The cause of death is being listed as natural causes.
Channing is best known for originating the role of Dolly Levi in the Broadway production of Hello, Dolly”, a role she performed over 5,000 times. Channing was in her 70’s when she last reprised the role in a national tour of the musical.
Channing also originated the role of Lorelei Lee in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”, a show that contained what became her signature song “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend”.
She made her Broadway debut in 1941 in “Let’s Face It”, “Proof Thro’ the Night”, “Lend an Ear”, “Gentle Prefer Blondes”, “Wonderful Town”, “The Vamp”, “Show Girl”, “The Swingers”, and “Four on a Garden”,
Along with her Broadway appearances, Channing performed in the touring productions of “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”., “Wonderful Town”, and “Hello, Dolly”.
She made her screen debut in 1950 in an uncredited role as Mrs Peters in “Paid in Full”. Her first credited role came in 1953 in the television series “Omnibus”. From there she went on to appear in a little over two dozen productions including “The First Traveling Saleslady”, “The Red Skelton Hour”, “Thoroughly Modern Millie”, “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In”, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band”, as the White Queen in the made for television film “Alice in Wonderland”, “The Love Boat”, “Where’s Waldo?”, the voice of Grandma Addams in 15 episodes of “The Addams Family”, “Touched by an Angel”, and “Family Guy”.
As herself Channing was a staple on the morning game shows and afternoon talk shows for decades. She also appeared on numerous comedy and variety shows, award shows, late night talk shows, the halftime entertainment for Super Bowl IV in 1970 and Super Bowl VI in 1972, the children’s programs “Captain Kangaroo” and “Sesame Street”, “The Muppet Show”, “RuPaul’s Drag Race”, her own specials, and the daytime drama “The Bold and the Beautiful”.
During her career she has shared the stage or screen with George Burns, Ginger Rogers, and Julie Andrews.
She was born Carol Elaine Channing on January 31, 1921 in Seattle, Washington; the only child of a newspaper editor – a man she later learned was half German and half African-American. The family moved to San Francisco when Carol was only three months old. A young Carol was only seven years old when she decided that she wanted to entertain people and it was while studying drama and dance at ton College in Vermont that she got her first taste of the stage in New York City.
But it was not on the stage in New York where Carol got her first break, but in Los Angeles as a part of the revue “Lend an Ear”. And after captivating audiences, when the show headed east to New York, Carol went with it.
A three time Tony Award winner, Theater World Award winner and a member of the American Theater Hall of Fame; Channing considers being placed on President Richard Nixon’s “enemies list” as one of her greatest accomplishments.
Married four times and divorced twice, Channing is predeceased by husbands Charles Lowe and high school sweetheart Harry Kullijan; she is survived by her only child, cartoonist Channing (Carson) Lowe.
feature photo credit: By Allan Warren – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10973223