(Gray News) - Actress Carol Channing, a star on Broadway in musicals like “Hello, Dolly!” and in Hollywood, died Tuesday at her Rancho Mirage, CA, home, her publicist said. She was 97 years old.
Her longtime publicist, B. Harlan Boll, posted a statement on Channing to Facebook, saying she died of natural causes. He called her an “original industry pioneer, legend and icon.”
“I admired her before I met her, and have loved her since the day she stepped... or fell rather... into my life,” Boll said in the statement. “It is so very hard to see the final curtain lower on a woman who has been a daily part of my life for more than a third of it.”
An actress, comedian, dancer and singer, she won a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her role of Dolly Gallagher Levi in the blockbuster “Hello, Dolly!” (1964) and played Lorelei in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” (1949), two plays she performed thousands of times. The film roles for Lorelei went to Marilyn Monroe and for Dolly to Barbara Streisand.
Channing said she read in a newspaper about the casting for the film “Hello, Dolly!” while doing Dolly in Montreal: “Well, of course I felt suicidal; I felt like jumping out a window. I felt like someone had kidnapped my part."
She felt better after the movie flopped. "In hindsight, I was better off not doing it," she said.
She won a Tony Special Award (1968) and the Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement (1995). She won a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” (1967) and a Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 2002 for “Hello, Dolly!"
Channing, known for her smile and raspy voice, was the first featured solo artist at a Super Bowl halftime show, performing at Super Bowl IV (1970) and Super Bowl VI (1972).
She was born Jan. 31, 1921, to Adelaide Channing and newspaper editor George Channing and was their only child. She said she discovered her talent for comedy in the fourth grade when she gave a speech in the auditorium.
After attending high school in San Francisco, Channing worked as a model in Los Angeles. While at Bennington College in Vermont, majoring in drama and dance, she gained a small role as an actress in New York.
Channing described herself as black in her autobiography, “Just Lucky I Guess: A Memoir of Sorts” (2002), published when she was 81. She said when she was 16 years old and heading to college, her mother told her that her father was the son of a German-American father and a black mother. But perhaps she was not, she said in 2010 on “The Wendy Williams Show,” explaining that her mother was angry at her father and may have wanted to get back at him.
She spent most of her career on the stage. But she appeared in a few movies, including “Thoroughly Modern Millie” (1967) and the animated film “Thumbelina” (1994), and on television, including “The Love Boat,” “Sesame Street,” “Magnum, P.I.” and “The Drew Carey Show.”
She appeared in five television specials produced by the third of her four husbands, Charles Lowe, in which she co-starred with such guests as Pearl Bailey, George Burns, Carol Burnett, Danny Thomas and Walter Matthau.
Channing received a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1977 for her work on game shows in daytime TV, including “What’s My Line?” and “Hollywood Squares.”
She voiced characters on “The Magic School Bus” and “The Addams Family.”
She had one son, Chan Lowe.