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).
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).
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.
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.