My dear Carol Channing passed away this morning at the age of 97.
I celebrate this Broadway legend and my many years working with her.
What a gift.
Carol and Hello, Dolly! changed my life forever in 1994.
The experience gave me my first Broadway show; I met my husband of 24 years, Michael; supervising the national tour gave me the downpayment for my first home; and I have been lucky to stage almost a dozen major regional productions of the show passing on what I learned from Carol and our director, Lee Roy Reams.
Celebrate our fabulous Tony Award winning, Academy Award nominee (Thoroughly Modern Millie) Carol Channing today. She is, was, and always will be a national treasure.
I originally wrote some of this post years ago to celebrate her 90th birthday, but updated it with a couple more stories. Everyone always asks for the stories… 🙂
RIP wonderful, Carol. xoxo
Back in 2010, I performed with her again (picture below) in the opening number of the Gypsy of the Year competition, which is a major charity event for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. She brought the house down as only she can.
|The last time Carol and I danced together at the Gypsy of the Year event in 2010|
Thank you, Bruce Glikas, for the photo 🙂
For those that don’t know, I spent two and a half incredible years performing with Carol in the last Broadway revival of Hello, Dolly!. I eventually became the production supervisor, and she would ask me for notes – on how to perform the role of Dolly Levi!
As if I could tell her anything she didn’t already know.
|Me with Carol at the 2010 Gypsy of the Year event on Broadway|
A quick Carol story: when I was supervising Dolly on tour, one day we had a particularly long and dreadful travel day – two planes, a bus, a train and a donkey or two – to get to what Carol called “a soccer arena” where we would perform the show that night.
In the sound check Carol looked down and realized that the musician’s pit was 25 feet beneath us. This was the pit that I had to leap over every night in the middle of the Hello, Dolly! number. For the first time in 30 years of doing the show she decided this was dangerous.
After the sound check she came looking for me to ask if someone could put a net or something between the pit and the stage in case those of us who jumped over the pit happened to fall into it. At this point, I had 30 minutes before the performance and was taking a long shower to rid myself of the long travel day. This being a “soccer arena” the showers where open showers in a locker room.
Covered in soap and standing under the water I suddenly heard a very low baritone voice say “Randy”. I turned and there was Carol, in the open showers with me, smiling. She waited for me to turn and went into her concerns about the pit, a net and all sorts of other things as I stood there completely naked.
When she finished expressing her concerns I said, “Absolutely, Carol. But right now I’m soaking wet, taking a shower.”
She looked me up and down, smiled and said, “Oh! Yes, of course. (pause) Well, you know, we’re all just show folk,” and then turned and left me to finish my shower.
Nudity was nothing to this old pro who had changed costumes in the wings for decades.
For the Gypsy of the Year event in 2010, they asked many of the Dolly boys to come back and do the opening number with Carol as a tribute to her. As the number evolved, I ended up partnering with her much of the number.
While we were rehearsing for a few days, the producer of a documentary of Carol’s life asked us if we’d sit and talk about our time with her. About nine of us sat for about an hour and a half reminiscing and sharing.
I only had one particular story about Carol that I knew I wanted to share. As the Broadway revival of Hello, Dolly! was winding down, one of the male dancers in the show (who was very dear to me and to Carol) was dying of AIDS.
I was very grateful my brief story about Carol and Don Ives made it into the film, Larger Than Life.
RIP my dear, wonderful Carol. I am certain there is a standing ovation awaiting you as you enter immortality.
|Freezing in the cold but loving life on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade|
|Having lunch floating down the San Antonio Riverwalk|
|Reunited at the Gypsy of the Year in 2010|
|The cover of Theater Week Magazine just after we opened the 1995 Broadway revival|
of Hello, Dolly! A very young me on my knee on the left.