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HarryCarter

Carol Channing has passed away

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Neil    1,314

Carol Channing's name came up in conversation just YESTERDAY.  I mentioned that of all the Broadway Dollys, she's the only one who still survives.  I got to see her in Dolly twice (in her 90s tour).  The show was in town for a week and I loved it so much the first time, I went back.  In her 70s at the time, she had the audience in the palm of her hand.  I once had breakfast with her!  We were at the same LA hotel. At the restaurant, she invited me to join her and her husband.  Even though she had fallen and blackened one eye, she insisted we take a picture together  (I'll see if I can find it and post).  At 7:30 in the morning, she looked better than I did!  To look at her in her heyday, you wouldn't think she would be a star who would age well, but she did.   I attended her 95th birthday in Palm Springs.  A show was put on in her honor.  Then she sat directly in front of me at Kaye Ballard's Farewell Show and Kaye called upon her to do her Cecilia Sisselman act, which she did, letter-perfect.   Carol to Kaye: "Why didn't you tell me? I don't have my eyelashes on!"  I took video:

 

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Luvsbway    1,983

Love those memories Neil. I remember when she did Hello Dolly back in the 90s. Should have seen that. 

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Neil    1,314

Here's a performance of the title song in black and white.  This was done on a smaller stage than Broadway...in Washington DC.  Someone has dubbed the OBC track into the video.  As a child, "Hello Dolly" was the first Broadway cast album I ever bought:  the mono version.  Stereo was a dollar more!  One of those wonderful "gatefold" albums.  The backs of the mono and stereo were different.  On the mono, there was a picture of David Burns (Vandergelder) with the caption ""Come and Be My Butterfly" has David Burns fighting his way through a  web of wings".  I don't know who was asleep at the RCA switch, but "Butterfly" was cut from the show and of course does not appear on the album.  The song "Dolly" performed on stage has one split-second moment that never ever fails to inspire the audience to erupt in mid-song spontaneous applause.  It happens here at 4:45 (but since this audio is the OBC audio we don't hear it here): one of the most thrilling moments in Broadway musical history.   

You can't blame movie execs for casting Marilyn Monroe in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" but Carol should have done the "Dolly" movie.  After having gotten a supporting Oscar nomination for "Thoroughly Modern Millie", she had a legitimate shot.  I recognize Streisand's talent but have never been a huge fan.  I always thought she got the role on the strength of her Oscar win and huge success of  "Funny Girl', but I've learned recently that she was signed for Dolly before Funny Girl, her first film, was even released.  Some say Carol was "too big" for the movies, but I think she would have fit in perfectly into the cartoonish (and I don't mean that in a bad way) quality of the material.  An elephantine and over-blown production, the movie did well enough but not enough to cover the cost of the huge budget ($20million, I think...$137million in today's dollars).  Casting 20-something year old Streisand as the widow Levi was just plain ridiculous, especially her singing the line "Look at the old girl now, fellas" in the hideous GOLD dress.   Carol was crushed when she was passed over.  Also seriously considered for the role: one Lucille Ball!  In think 1969 Lucy would have done well in the movie but she wouldn't have been able to hold the last note of "Before the Parade Passes By" as long as Streisand!  But there is only one name synonymous with "Hello Dolly" and that is the wonderful Carol Channing.  I take that back.  Another Carole (Cook) was a huge success in the TWO-YEAR-LONG  Australian tour, commenced while Carol was still on Broadway.  Unfortunately no footage I know of exists of Carole's production. 

 

 

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Luvsbway    1,983

An all around excellent episode of What's My Line with Lucy, Ginger Rogers and Carol Channing.

Ginger was taking over Dolly from Carol and they both appeared as the mystery guest, and are just adorable. Lucy was the other mystery guest on the show that night and mentioned that it was nice to see Carol and Ginger. 

 

 

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Freddie2    813

There probably isn't a single Carol performance that isn't absolute gold, but here's a personal favorite of mine, from about a decade ago at the Hollywood Bowl:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RakE9t4jcbI

Even though it isn't the best quality video, she still has you in the palm of her hand (a phrase that's been thrown around a lot today) and truly exudes that special something that comes with one in a million performers.

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Neil    1,314

If there is another number in any musical that inspires the same audience reaction as the "Hello Dolly" number, I can't think of it.   It makes you glad to be there, glad to be alive and wanting to run onstage and join the waiters singing to her (or depending on your gender or leanings, want to get into her costume and descend those stairs to the opening bars of the song).   Many wonderful actresses played Dolly on Broadway, each bringing their own charm to the role, including Phyllis Diller!. Her run was short--3 months--by all accounts she gave a great performance.  But none captured the pure joy of the title song more than Carol Channing.  The term one-of-a-kind is thrown around a lot but Channing was certainly that. 

A theater historian whose accuracy I trust told me that David Merrick made a personal visit to Roxbury Drive to try to talk Lucy into doing a limited run on Broadway.  Said historian thinks this was about 1966.  Lucy's memories of the rigors of "Wildcat" were probably still too fresh in her mind--but what a thrill that would have been had I been old enough to hitchhike the 3000 miles to Broadway. 

Interesting that the Dollys in the revival were  so much older than the originals.   The equivalent today in relation to the ages of the 60s Dolly's would be Tina Fey, Amy Poeler or Julia-Louis Dreyfus and none of them seem old enough for Dolly.   Bette and Bernadette could be the mothers of all of 60s Dollys (except Merman: possible but a stretch).  The 60s equivalent of the ages of the revival's well-preserved Bette and the even more well-preserved Bernadette would be the 1960s versions of  Madge Blake, Lillian Gish, Isabel Randolph, Eleanor Audley,  Norma Varden or Kathryn Card! And I mean "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" Kathryn, not Mrs. McGillicuddy--Bern and Bette are over 10 years older than that one.  Chew on THAT!  

70 really is the "new 50".

Re: the wonderful What's My Line? "LuvsBway" posted.  Lucy, Ginger, Carol, Dorothy and Arlene were still at their peak of glamour.   Lucy's voice-disguise is the same one she used to impersonate Channing in "Countess/Undercover Agent" the next season!  1965 was one of those watershed years.  Sadly, 3 months (and a few days) later Dorothy would be dead, the main reason for my WML obsession.   Very few Broadway musical offerings from that point on would capture "Hello Dolly"'s exuberance .  A perfect musical and I have to say, my all-time favorite.  (I love Gypsy, but for different reasons).   I'll never forget taking my newly purchased "Dolly" LP home, not knowing anything about Channing, and hearing THAT VOICE for the very first time.  

 

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Luvsbway    1,983

What a great take on the title song to Hello Dolly. Last year at this time I saw Bernadette and it was the second best night I ever spent in a Bway theatre. When the title number started I thought, "here we go!". Smiles the whole time. Dolly was the first show I saw on stage at age 9 at my local summer stock theatre and don't remember anything about it. It took the Bway viewing to reintroduce it to me. I caught this CBS piece this morning and loved the show all over again. 

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