(Enid Nemy’s article appeared in The New York Times, 1/15; via Pam Green.)
Her performances as the gold-digging Lorelei Lee in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” and the matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levi in “Hello, Dolly!” made her a Broadway legend.
Carol Channing, whose incandescent performances as the gold-digging Lorelei Lee in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” and the matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levi in “Hello, Dolly!” made her a Broadway legend, died early Tuesday at her home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. She was 97.
Her death was confirmed by her publicist, B. Harlan Boll, who said she had two strokes in the past year.
Ms. Channing was bringing audiences to their feet night after night in a revival of “Hello, Dolly!” when she was 74, singing, “Wow, wow, wow, fellas, / Look at the old girl now, fellas,” resplendent in her scarlet gown and jewels, her platinum hair crowned with red plumage.
Ten years later she was still getting applause, this time for a cabaret act. Nine years after that, just a few days before her 93rd birthday, she appeared at Town Hall in Manhattan as part of a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the night “Dolly” opened.
“Performing is the only excuse for my existence,” she said during her last Broadway appearance, in the 1995 revival of “Hello, Dolly!” “What can be better than this?”
Ms. Channing was one of the most recognizable presences in the theater world. Her tousled hairdo, headlight-size eyes and exaggerated mouth were the subject of countless caricatures. For many years her real hair, damaged by bleaching, was covered by a wig.
Her false eyelashes, worn at a fantastic length since she was a teenager, posed a more serious problem. The glue that was used to attach them gradually pulled out her natural lashes, and Ms. Channing began painting on the long spikes.
By then her vision had become impaired, but she was philosophical about her somewhat hazy view of her fellow actors. “I know what they look like,” she said.
Photo: ABC 7NY