Tag Archives: Carol Channing

Happy 92nd Birthday, Carol Channing!

31 Jan

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Happy 92nd Birthday, Carol Channing!

It’s no secret that I am a  great admirer of the legendary Carol Channing.  I’ve been blessed and lucky enough to have had the fortune to interview Carol Channing on numerous occasions (generally connected to my annual “That’s Kentertainment!: A Christmas Carol” specials or when I’m helping to promote the “Dr. Carol Channing & Harry Kullijian Foundation for the Arts” started by both Carol and her sorely-missed late husband Harry).

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Harry and Carol: Childhood Sweethearts

Here is an excerpt from the “3rd Annual Christmas Carol”.  This interview was filmed November 27, 2004, the day after Thanksgiving.  My great friend Jason Olsen and I got up extra-early (like 4am-early) and extra-stuffed (from Thanksgiving dinner) to schlep via train to Holyoke, Massachusetts to interview Carol, who was in the area performing her show, “The First 80 Years Are The Hardest” (or at least that’s what she liked to call it!).  After some crazy mishaps (including getting on the wrong train yet somehow making a connection to the right train…don’t ask…) Jason and I arrived at the quaint “Log Cabin Inn” for the interview.  Carol and Harry were the most wonderful, generous couple imaginable and still beaming with the sparks of rekindled-love (these childhood sweethearts had reunited after 70 years and married May 10, 2003).

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Carol and Harry: July 23, 2010. Photo by Ken Kleiber

At the start of a previous one-on-one interview, Carol had clued-me-in to the fact that aiming a camera from sightly-above the subject would create a more flattering image.  When I arrived and set the camera to film from this-flattering, thinning high angle, Carol remarked, “Oh Ken…you remember how I like the camera!”.  True, but in all honesty, I was also doing this to mask my bloatage…you might notice that this angle is practically from the  ceiling.  Poor Jason on camera.

In any case, this day has gone down in my memory banks as not only one of the most-fulfilling achievements of my interviewing career, but also as one of the happiest.  For long stretches of time, I literally forgot that we were on camera and we just chatted away (which doesn’t always make me look so great on camera, but then again, the focus wasn’t on me).  At the end of the interview, Harry had remarked that Carol had told me things that even he hadn’t know about her, so it was a learning experience for him as well.  After the nearly-hour interview (the time raced on and none of us had been aware), Jason and I said our “Thank You’s” and packed-up our equipment, still sort of amazed that the previous hour had happened.  And I’m so glad that my friend was there to share this with me which made it all the more magical.

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Ken and Jason, circa 2004.

So here’s an excerpt where Carol discusses when she performed “Hello, Dolly!” for the last time with legendary producer David Merrick present and also, after reuniting with Harry, how her own life had mirrored that of Dolly Levi.  Make sure you watch to the end for an adorable clip of Harry and Carol dancing plus a stunning clip of Carol performing her “Before The Parade Passes By” monologue in 2004.  And she sums it up best in the very last line of the clip…and I take it as a blessing.

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Click here for video of “Carol Channing Reminisces”

Is Carol Channing alive? YEEESSSSHHHH!

25 Aug

Carol and Ken: The Magic Castle 2009

OK, that’s a lousy post title, especially since many-a-Carol Channing impersonator over-exaggerates that aspect of Carol’s wonderfully unique voice and speech pattern (except Richard Skipper, who is not so much an “impersonator” but wholly (and respectfully) embodies the true Carol Channing experience).  But, back to the cliche but eye-catching title.  Earlier today the Associated Press, for some reason, put out the very erroneous story that Carol Channing had passed away.  Concerned, I called a few contacts and was overjoyed to find that the reports of Carol Channing’s death had been greatly exaggerated (thank you Mark Twain.  By the way, did you know Mark Twain was kind of a stud?).

Carol's still kickin'!

Carol & Ken share a holiday laugh.

In any case, among the folks I spoke with today was my pal Larry Ferguson who is in the finishing stages of production of Carol Channing’s new patriotic CD, “True to the Red, White & Blue” (isn’t that a great title! I love it.).  Carol’s new CD (tentatively due in stores around Veteran’s Day 2011) features some old American chestnuts like “Over There”, “God Bless America” & “Battle Hymn of the Republic”, a couple sacred songs like, “Amazing Grace”, “His Eye is on the Sparrow” (a personal favorite) and even “St. Louis Blues” (for which Carol has quite the accompanying story as to why she includes this track).  Also featured is a new version of Carol’s signature tune from HELLO, DOLLY!: “Before the Parade Passes By”.  Carol has sung this song so many times over the years and it will be great to hear a new take on this classic.  Below, you can even hear a live version from one of my annual “Christmas Carol” episodes of “That’s Kentertainment!” (you just have to get through the surreal pseudo-Peanuts Christmas-Ken-Id-Ego opening bit…another personal favorite).  🙂

Speaking of surreal, here’s a quick clip of Carol Channing “Gettin’ Jiggy With It” – an except of a longer opening number from my “8th Annual Christmas Carol” from 2009.  I adore Carol and her terrific sense of humor.

Click here to see Carol "Gettin' Jiggy With It"!

So there ya have it.  Carol Channing is alive & well and ready to roll out her new CD.  At 90 years of age, this is not only impressive but also makes one ponder:  “What did I do today?”  Well, besides write this post.  🙂

p.s.  Richard Skipper started a petition to get Carol Channing a well-deserved Kennedy Center Honor.  Carol Channing is an American original.  As someone once said, “If Carol Channing didn’t exist, you couldn’t make her up.”  Her legendary stage, screen and television performances plus her tireless crusade & numerous benefit appearances to bring Arts Education back to schools are inspiring to all.  Click here to sign the petition.

Carol & Ken film the 2010 That's Kentertainment! "Christmas Carol"