Carol Channing, the legendary Broadway actress who starred in musicals such as Hello, Dolly! and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, died on Tuesday, January 15, Us Weekly confirms. She was 97.
Channing’s publicist, B. Harlan Boll, confirmed the news, telling Us that the star died from natural causes at 12:31 a.m. at her home in Rancho Mirage, California, just two weeks before her 98th birthday.
“It is with extreme heartache, that I have to announce the passing of an original Industry Pioneer, Legend and Icon — Miss Carol Channing,” Boll said in a statement. “I admired her before I met her, and have loved her since the day she stepped … or fell rather … into my life. 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. We supported each other, cried with each other, argued with each other, but always ended up laughing with each other. Saying goodbye is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, but I know that when I feel those uncontrollable urges to laugh at everything and/or nothing at all, it will be because she is with me, tickling my funny bone.”
The Seattle native made her New York City stage debut in 1941 in the late composer Marc Blitzstein’s No for an Answer. Her first Broadway show came soon after when she was an understudy for Eve Arden in Let’s Face It. She became a household name in 1949 when she starred as Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and sang what ultimately became her signature song, “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.”
Channing scored her first Tony Award nomination in 1956 for The Vamp, followed by a second nod in 1961 for Show Girl. In 1964, she won the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical for Hello, Dolly! She revived her roles from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Hello, Dolly! several times throughout her career, making her final appearance as Dolly Levi in 1995. She also received a Tony nomination in 1974 for Lorelei.
The actress worked in the film industry too. She won a Golden Globe Award and received an Oscar nomination for her part in the 1967 musical Thoroughly Modern Millie. Her other big screen roles included The First Traveling Saleslady (1956) and Skidoo (1968), and she also made appearances on TV shows including Hollywood Squares and the 1985 adaptation of Alice in Wonderland.
Channing was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 1981. She was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Tony Award in 1995.
The singer was married four times throughout her life: to Theodore Naidish from 1941 to 1944, Alexander Carson from 1953 to 1956, Charles Lowe from 1956 until his death in 1999, and Harry Kullijian from 2003 until his death in 2011.
She is survived by her 66-year-old son, Channing Carson, and close family member Sylvia Long.
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