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Carol Channing (1921–2019), Broadway legend

AP Photo / G. Paul Burnett

Tony Award-winning star of "Hello, Dolly!"

Carol Channing, the actress and singer known best for her Tony Award-winning performance in "Hello, Dolly!", died Tuesday, Jan. 15. She was 97. 

Propelled to fame on the strength of her dazzling smile and great comedic timing, Channing enjoyed success after success both on and off Broadway. Her first major role on the Broadway stage came with "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," in which she played Lorelei Lee and sang "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend." She would reprise the role on Broadway in 1974's "Lorelei," a reimagining of the "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" story.  

With 1964's "Hello, Dolly!", Channing rose to national prominence as she defeated Barbra Streisand, Bea Lillie and Inga Swenson to win the Tony Award for best actress in a musical. The show brought her to the attention of prominent admirers including Thornton Wilder, Lady Bird Johnson, and Jacqueline Kennedy, who reportedly brought her children to see "Hello, Dolly!" in their first public outing after President John F. Kennedy's death. 


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Later onstage roles for Channing included "Sugar Babies," "Jerry's Girls" and a number of "Hello, Dolly!" revivals and tours. Her Broadway stardom led to movie roles as well, most notably 1967's "Thoroughly Modern Millie," for which she won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Academy Award. Channing's bubbly entrance into the film became one of her signature moments – flying in a biplane, her hair tousled in the wind, she lifted a glass of champagne and effused, "Raspberries!" 

Other silver screen roles included "The First Traveling Saleslady" and "Skidoo." On television, Channing appeared many times on "What's My Line?" and took guest-starring roles on a wide variety of shows, such as "The Muppet Show," "The Nanny" and "Magnum, P.I." 

Among Channing's honors were a lifetime achievement Tony Award, an Oscar Hammerstein Award for lifetime achievement in musical theatre and membership in the American Theatre Hall of Fame. She was the first celebrity to perform at a Super Bowl halftime show, in 1970, and in 2002, the city of San Francisco named Feb. 25 "Carol Channing Day." Channing herself claimed that her most cherished honor was being included on President Richard Nixon's famed "enemies list." 

Asked in 2013 by the Wall Street Journal if there was anything she hadn't gotten around to doing yet, Channing replied, "No, I did everything that I ever thought was marvelous." 

Channing was married four times and is survived by her only son, cartoonist Channing Carson.

Many in Hollywood paid tribute to the Broadway legend on social media.

"The great, the legendary  #CarolChanning has died at age 97. She was a complete original, and there will never be another. Blonde, 6 ft tall and utterly hilarious, she was a legend.  My condolences to the world; to those who knew her or saw her and those who never got the chance.any paid tribute to the Broadway legend on social media." - Bette Midler on Twitter

"I am so sad just lost my incredible original inspiration #carolchanning  I saw her in Hello Dolly when I was 8 and she changed my DNA love you lady forever one of the greatest entertainers of all times." - Sandra Bernhard on Twitter

"One of Broadway's greatest lights, Carol Channing, has passed on. She rejoins the heavens as a new diamond in the night sky, and as she famously sang, they are a girl's best friend. Goodbye and farewell, forever our Dolly." - George Takei

"Dazzling. Priceless. Durable. Flawless. A diamond. Carol Channing, 1921-2019. Rest in peace." - The Tony Awards official twitter page

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