Carol Channing

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Carol Channing
Carol Channing colour Allan Warren.jpg
Carol Channing in 1973
BornCarol Elaine Channing
(1921-01-31) January 31, 1921 (age 93)
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
EducationAptos Middle School
Lowell High School
Alma materBennington College
OccupationActress, singer, comedian
Years active1941–present
Spouse(s)Harry Kullijian (m. 2003; died 2011)
Charles Lowe (m. 1956; died 1999)
Alexander Carson (m. 1953; div. 1956)
Theodore Naidish (m. 1941; div. 1944)
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Carol Channing
Carol Channing colour Allan Warren.jpg
Carol Channing in 1973
BornCarol Elaine Channing
(1921-01-31) January 31, 1921 (age 93)
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
EducationAptos Middle School
Lowell High School
Alma materBennington College
OccupationActress, singer, comedian
Years active1941–present
Spouse(s)Harry Kullijian (m. 2003; died 2011)
Charles Lowe (m. 1956; died 1999)
Alexander Carson (m. 1953; div. 1956)
Theodore Naidish (m. 1941; div. 1944)

Carol Elaine Channing (born January 31, 1921)[1] is an American singer, actress, and comedienne. She is the recipient of three Tony Awards (including one for lifetime achievement), a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination. Channing is best remembered for originating on Broadway the musical-comedy roles of widowed matchmaker Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly! and bombshell Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

Childhood and education[edit]

Channing was born in Seattle, Washington, the only child of Adelaide (née Glaser; 1886–1984) and George Channing. George Channing was born George Christian Stucker but changed his surname before his daughter's birth.[2][3] A city editor at the Seattle Star, her father took a job in San Francisco and the family moved when Channing was two weeks old. Her father later became a Christian Science practitioner, editor, and teacher. She attended Aptos Middle School and Lowell High School, San Francisco, graduating in 1938. She won the Crusaders' Oratorical Contest and a free trip to Hawaii with her mother June 1937.[4]

According to Channing's 2002 memoir, when she left home to attend Bennington College in Vermont, her mother Adelaide informed Channing that her father George, who Channing had believed was born in Rhode Island, had actually been born in Augusta, Georgia. Adelaide claimed her husband's father was German-American and his mother was African-American. Channing's grandmother had moved with George to Providence, Rhode Island for his opportunities. According to Channing's account, her mother reportedly did not want [Channing] to be surprised "if she had a black baby".[5][6] Channing's mother's family was of German descent.[7]

As she was of majority European-American ancestry, Channing continued to identify as white as a performer on Broadway and in Hollywood. She made her claim to African-American ancestry in her autobiography, Just Lucky I Guess (2002), which contains a photograph of her mother, but has no photos of her father or son.[8] The book says her father's birth certificate was destroyed in a fire.[9]


Channing was introduced to the stage while helping her mother. In a 2005 interview with the Austin Chronicle, Channing recounted this experience:

My mother said, "Carol, would you like to help me distribute Christian Science Monitors backstage at the live theatres in San Francisco?" And I said, "All right, I'll help you." I don't know how old I was. I must have been little. We went through the stage door alley (for the Curran Theatre), and I couldn't get the stage door open. My mother came and opened it very well. Anyway, my mother went to put the Monitors where they were supposed to go for the actors and the crew and the musicians, and she left me alone. And I stood there and realized – I'll never forget it because it came over me so strongly – that this is a temple. This is a cathedral. It's a mosque. It's a mother church. This is for people who have gotten a glimpse of creation and all they do is recreate it. I stood there and wanted to kiss the floorboards.[10]

With David Burns in Hello Dolly (1964)

Channing's first job on stage in New York was in Marc Blitzstein's No for an Answer, starting January 5, 1941, at the Mecca Temple (later New York's City Center). She was 19 years old. Channing moved to Broadway for Let's Face It!, in which she was an understudy for Eve Arden. Decades later, Arden would play "Dolly" in a road company after Channing finally relinquished her signature role.

Five years later, Channing had a featured role in a revue, Lend an Ear. She was spotted by author Anita Loos and cast in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes as Lorelei Lee, the role that gained her recognition. (Her signature song from the production was "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend".) In 1961, Channing became one of the few performers nominated for a Tony Award for work in a revue (rather than a traditional book musical); she was nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for the short-lived revue Show Girl.[11]

Channing came to national prominence as the star of Jerry Herman's Hello, Dolly! (1964). Her performance as Dolly won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical, in a year when her chief competition was Barbra Streisand for Funny Girl and Bea Lillie for High Spirits. Carol Channing reprised her role of Lorelei Lee when the musical Lorelei, directed by Robert Moore and choreographed by Ernest O. Flatt, premiered in 1973 at the Oklahoma City (6000 seat) Civic Center Music Hall and broke all box office records after six days worth of performances sold out within 24 hours. To commemorate this record event the street running in front of the Music Hall was renamed Channing Square Drive in honor of Miss Channing. Also in the cast were Tamara Long as Dorothy and Peter Palmer as Gus, with Brandon Maggart, Dody Goodman, and Lee Roy Reams in supporting roles. For nearly a year the stage musical then toured eleven cities across the country. Lorelei had already earned a hefty profit by the time it opened on Broadway at the Palace Theatre on January 27, 1974, and ran for a total of 320 performances. She also appeared in two New York revivals of Hello, Dolly!, and toured with it extensively throughout the United States.

She also appeared in a number of movies, The First Traveling Sales Lady (1956) with Ginger Rogers, the cult film Skidoo and Thoroughly Modern Millie, opposite Julie Andrews and Mary Tyler Moore. For Millie she received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, and was awarded a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture.[12][13][14]

Channing performing with Pearl Bailey, 1973

In 1966, she won the Sarah Siddons Award for her work in Chicago theatre. During her film career, Channing also made some guest appearances on television sitcoms and talk shows, including CBS's What's My Line?, on which she appeared in eleven episodes from 1962 to 1966. Channing did voice-over work in cartoons, most notably as Grandmama in an animated version of The Addams Family that ran from 1992 to 1995.

In 1986, Channing appeared on Sesame Street and sang a parody of the song "Hello, Dolly!" called "Hello, Sammy!" She performed it as a love song to a character known as Sammy the Snake (as voiced by Jim Henson). Also, while Channing sings Sammy coils himself around Channing's arms. This song includes lyrics such as "So..turn on your charm, Sammy/Coil yourself around my arm, Sammy/Sammy the Snake, I'll stake a claim on you." [15] In 1993, she poked a little fun at herself in an episode of The Nanny, the CBS sitcom in which an unorthodox nanny works for a Broadway producer. The episode "Smoke Gets in Your Lies" shows the producer auditioning for a new musical and Channing, playing herself, is trying out. Just after the producer announces that he wants a stage presence that is instantly recognizable to the entire country, Channing begins with her signature "Hello, Dolly!" but he stops her with a resounding "next!".

In January 2003 Channing recorded the audiobook of her best-selling autobiography, Just Lucky, I Guess: A Memoir of Sorts, produced and directed by Steve Garrin at VideoActive Productions in New York City. It was during the recording sessions that she received a phone call from her childhood sweetheart Harry Kullijian that rekindled their romance and led to their marriage a few months later. In January 2011, the documentary Carol Channing: Larger Than Life, which chronicles Channing's life and career, was released.[16]

Family and personal life[edit]

Channing in October 2009

Channing has been married four times. Her first husband, Theodore Naidish, was a writer. Her second husband, Alexander Carson, played center for the Ottawa Rough Riders Canadian football team. They had one son, Channing Carson.

In 1956, Channing married her manager and publicist, Charles Lowe. They remained married for 42 years. During this time, Channing Carson took his stepfather's surname; he publishes his cartoons as Chan Lowe and has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for his work.[17] Channing filed for divorce from Lowe in 1998, but her estranged husband died before the divorce was finalized.

After Lowe's death and until shortly before her fourth marriage, the actress's companion was Roger Denny, an interior decorator.[18]

On May 10, 2003, she married Harry Kullijian (December 27, 1919 – December 26, 2011), her junior high-school sweetheart, who reunited with her after she mentioned him fondly in her memoir. The two performed at their old junior high school, which had become Aptos Middle School, in a benefit for the school. She and Kullijian were active in promoting arts education in California schools through their Dr. Carol Channing and Harry Kullijian Foundation. The couple resided in Modesto,[19] California. Kullijian died on December 26, 2011, the eve of his 92nd birthday.

Channing is an ovarian cancer survivor.[20][21]

Legacy and honors[edit]


With Peter Palmer in Lorelei (1973)



The handprints of Carol Channing in front of The Great Movie Ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios at the Walt Disney World Resort.



Original Cast Albums:
Additional albums:

Awards and nominations[edit]

1956Tony AwardsBest Actress, Musical, The VampNominated
1961Tony AwardsBest Actress, Musical, Show GirlNominated
1964Tony AwardsBest Actress, Musical, Hello, Dolly!Won
1968Academy AwardsBest Supporting Actress, Thoroughly Modern MillieNominated
Golden GlobesBest Supporting Actress, Thoroughly Modern MillieWon
Tony AwardsSpecial AwardWon
1974Tony AwardsBest Actress, Musical, LoreleiNominated
1995Tony AwardsLifetime Achievement AwardWon
2002Grammy AwardsGrammy Hall of Fame, Hello, Dolly! original cast albumWon


  1. ^ "Carol Channing biography" Retrieved August 17, 2010.
  2. ^ Carol Channing, Just Lucky I Guess: A Memoir of Sorts, Waterville, Maine: 2003, p. 50
  3. ^ Carol Channing’s father was born George Christian Stucker on November 21, 1888, in Augusta, Georgia, the only son and second child born to George Stucker, the son of German immigrants and an African American woman, Clara, possibly born a slave in 1860, maiden name possibly Jones. Young George Stucker is found in the 1900 census living with mother Clara Page and sister Estelle Stucker in Augusta, Georgia and all three are listed as being black. By 1905, Clara Page and Alice (Estelle) Stucker can be found in the Rhode Island state census with Alice listed as white. George attended and graduated from Brown University in 1911 under the name of George Christian Stucker. At the time of World War I, he was living in Detroit and registered for the draft under the name of George Christian Stucker, born on November 21, 1888, in Augusta, Georgia, listing himself as white. His occupation was noted as being a reporter for the Detroit Free Press. Then on March 16, 1918, he married Adelaide Hagenbruch (née Glaser) in Detroit. In the marriage records he listed his parents as George and Clara. George's World War II draft registration card listed him as George Channing, white, born on November 21, 1888, in Providence, Rhode Island, living with his wife Adelaide, on Commonwealth Street, Boston.
  4. ^ Zinko, Carolyne (May 11, 2003). "Carol Channing marries long-time sweetheart". San Francisco Chronicle; reprinted at Lowell Alumni Association; retrieved June 10, 2013.
  5. ^ "Carol Channing reveals her father was Black". Jet. November 4, 2002. Retrieved April 21, 2008. 
  6. ^ "". CNN. 
  7. ^ Carol Channing biodata,, May 22, 2003; accessed May 10, 2014.
  8. ^
  9. ^ The November 4, 2002, issue of Jet magazine reported, based on her autobiography, that Channing's father was African-American. Note: Since he was accepted as white, it is likely his mother had both European and African ancestry, so he may have been of majority European ancestry and not "passing".
  10. ^ Faires, Robert (July 22, 2005). "The Carol You Don't Know". Austin Chronicle, Online Edition. Retrieved May 10, 2006. 
  11. ^ "1961 Tony Award Winners - Browse by Year". Wisdom Digital Media. Retrieved 18 July 2012. 
  12. ^ "Awards for Thoroughly Modern Millie". Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)., Inc. Retrieved 18 July 2012. 
  13. ^ "The 40th Academy Awards (1968) Nominees and Winners". The Awards. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 18 July 2012. 
  14. ^ "Thoroughly Modern Millie". Award Search. Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Retrieved 18 July 2012. 
  15. ^ Carol Channing sings to Sammy the Snake on YouTube
  16. ^ "Documentary film about Carol Channing premieres in January 2011"
  17. ^ "Meet Chan Lowe". Slate. Retrieved April 21, 2008. 
  18. ^ Winn, Steven (October 24, 2002). "Looking swell: Carol Channing's back in the spotlight with memoir and plans for new show". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved April 21, 2008. 
  19. ^ estate sale dim on star power | Modesto Bee
  20. ^ Carol Channing on her battle with ovarian cancer
  21. ^ Excerpt from Channing bio re her battle with ovarian cancer
  22. ^ "26 Elected to the Theater Hall of Fame", The New York Times, March 3, 1981.
  23. ^ Hodgins, Paul (February 4, 2006). "Carol Channing: A Lifetime of Experience". Orange County Register. Retrieved August 21, 2007. 
  24. ^ Moran, Frankie. "Carol Channing to Offer Highlights From Her Six Decade Career". North County Timesdate=November 8, 2006. Retrieved August 21, 2007. 
  25. ^ Gans, Andrew (May 13, 2004). "Carol Channing Honored By York Theatre Company". Retrieved September 21, 2008. 
  26. ^ Palm Springs Walk of Stars by date dedicated.
  27. ^
  28. ^ "Episode Detail: Carol Channing, David Steinberg - The Flip Wilson Show". The Flip Wilson Show Episodes on NBC. TV Guide. Retrieved 9 August 2012. 
  29. ^ "Episode Detail: Carol Channing, Ed Asner, Donny Hathaway - The Flip Wilson Show". The Flip Wilson Show Episodes on NBC. TV Guide. Retrieved 9 August 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]