Carol Channing, Broadway Legend, Dead at 97

Broadway legend Carol Channing passes away

Broadway legend Carol Channing dies at age 97

Tributes have been paid to Carol Channing, the Broadway legend who has died in the United States at the age of 97.

Publicist B. Harlan Boll said Channing died of natural causes at 12:31 a.m. Tuesday in Rancho Mirage, California. I was kidding with the girls before she had those big banjo eyes, and that's what they called them in my day.

Channing, a Seattle native born on January 31, 1921, got her start in the 1949 Broadway play "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" alongside Yvonne Adair and Rex Evans. She would reprise the role on Broadway in 1974's "Lorelei", a reimagining of the "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" story. Her mother explained to her that she felt the need to tell her the news in her adulthood because she didn't want her to be surprised if "she had a Black baby".

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American actress and singer Carol Channing starred in the musical Hello, Dolly! in New York City in 1964. "We are deeply saddened by the passing of the one and only Carol Channing", it read. She had a storied career, originating the titular role in Hello, Dolly on Broadway (for which she won a Tony) and playing Muzzy in Thoroughly Modern Millie (for which she won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Oscar).

Like anyone with a lengthy show business career, Channing had her foibles.

"Performing is the only excuse for my existence", she said during her last Broadway appearance, in the 1995 revival of "Hello, Dolly!". And we're talking about a woman who racked up 5,000-plus live performances in Hello, Dolly! and some 3,500 in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

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Others who have played the role include Pearl Bailey, Phyllis Diller, Betty Grable, Ethel Merman, Martha Raye, Ginger Rogers and Barbra Streisand, who played Dolly in a 1969 film version directed by Gene Kelly.

Propelled to fame on the strength of her dazzling smile and great comedic timing, Channing enjoyed success after success both on and off Broadway. Channing and the Johnson family then became close friends. His idea was that Channing could play the maid, Sabina (who is also a vamp), while doubling as the everywoman housewife Mrs Antrobus.

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In the early days, Channing married and divorced twice: once to novelist Theodore Naidish and once to pro footballer Alexander Carson, who was the father of her only child, Channing, who became a successful political cartoonist. He died of an aneurism in 2011.

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