Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Happy 92nd Birthday, Carol Channing!

Happy 92nd Birthday to my dear friend, Carol Channing. Had I known as a child, as I watched Carol Channing, on the Muppets, every sitcom/variety/talk/game show in existence, and movies, that one day I would know and/or would have worked with her, I would have blown a gasket. Carol Channing, is not only one of the most talented human beings that ever stepped foot on a stage, she is also one of the smartest, most disciplined human beings the world has known.

Carol Elaine Channing, was born January 31, in Seattle, Washington, but grew up in San Francisco. At two weeks of age, her father, took a job in San Francisco and was a minister in the Christian Science movement. Her father had a deep love for Gospel music, stemming from his Georgia heritage, he taught those songs to Carol, as a toddler. While passing out Christian Science monitors in the theater district, as a young child she fell in love with the stage. In an interview with blogger, Alan Mercer, she revealed that she didn't identify herself as a Christian Scientist anymore, only as a Christian.

I worked with Carol on two projects, her first gospel album, For Heaven Sake and her first patriotic CD, True To The Red, White, and Blue. Both are available in stores or at or itunes. These were projects that were very dear to Carol's heart. I was so happy that she chose me to allow her facilitate these projects, she held so dear. Surely there isn't much left on Carol's "to do" list because she's done most everything an actress can dream. Her first movie, Thoroughly Modern Millie, earned her a Gold Globe Award, and even an Oscar Nomination, for Best Supporting Actress. She originated two of the most iconic roles on Broadway, Lorelei, in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and Dolly Levi, in Hello Dolly.

Channing's success in Hello Dolly was so strong that her Broadway Soundtrack of the musical, took away the number one spot from the Beatles, on the Popular Music Charts. No actress has ever been able to truly take the role of Dolly Levi, without the Carol Channing comparison.

When 20th Century Fox decided to use Barbara Streisand, in the film version, Carol was crushed. The film was a huge financial failure and nearly bankrupt the studio. The movie, like most Hollywood films, went astray from the Broadway Musical's success and core, and Streisand was felt to be young for the role. At the time Streisand, heavily lobbied for the film, but was still new to the movie world. Many times you will notice that she is doing a Mae West vocal impersonation when she speaks. Stresiand ran into West, at a party an told her of the imitation, she wasn't flattered. Mae told Barbara, that she needed to come up with her own gig and not try to impersonate others, and during the film, when she was impersonating her, she felt a caption should run across the screen, saying "Barbara Streisand as Mae West playing Dolly Levi".

The Tony's have honored Carol with 3 Tony Awards. Carol is truly to Broadway what Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, and Patsy Cline are to Country Music. If you haven't seen the documentary film, "Larger Than Life", about Carol, you must add it to your to do list, it's a beautiful inside look into one of the greatest theatrical personalities in the history of theater.

To limit Carol Channing, only to Broadway would be to limit Dolly Parton, only to the Opry, Carol is Hollywood royalty, a comedy legend, and a successful musical recording artist with 10 Gold albums.

Happy Birthday My Friend!


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