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CAROL CHANNING was born January 31, 1921 in Seattle, Washington, the daughter of a prominent newspaper editor who was very active in the Christian Science movement. When she was just two weeks of age, her father's work took the family to San Francisco, where Carol was raised, schooled, and eventually found work as a model. Through determination, hard work, and her family's support (not to mention a mandatory IQ test for which she scored one of the highest recorded results), Carol was able to attend Bennington College in Vermont, which had one of the few existing arts programs in the country, to major in drama and dance.
A recipient of the 1995 Lifetime Achievement Tony Award, Channing has been a star of international acclaim since a Time magazine cover story hailed her performance as Lorelei Lee in Gentleman Prefer Blondes, writing, "Perhaps once in a decade a nova explodes above the Great White Way with enough brilliance to re-illumine the whole gaudy legend of show business." Since her 1948 Broadway debut in Blitzstein's No For An Answer, her Broadway appearances include So Proudly We Hail, Let's Face It, Lend An Ear, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Show Girl, Pygmalion, The Millionairess, The Vamp, Four On A Garden, and Wonderful Town. In addition to receiving a special Tony Award in 1968, she won the Tony Award in 1964, for her legendary portrayal of Dolly Levi in Jerry Herman's Hello, Dolly!
Jacqueline Kennedy and her two children made their first public appearance after JFK's death by seeing her perform in Hello, Dolly!, and later visited her backstage. She has since performed the role over 5000 times without missing a single performance. She then toured with her own revue, Carol Channing and Her Ten Stout-Hearted Men, and with critically acclaimed tours of Jerry's Girls and Legends, in which she co-starred with Mary Martin.
Channing's happiest film project was in the role of Muzzy in Thoroughly Modern Millie, which earned her an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe Award. Other films include Paid In Full, The First Traveling Saleslady (giving newcomer Clint Eastwood his first on-screen kiss), Skidoo, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Archie and Mehitabel, and Thumbelina.
Channing's TV special appearances include Broadway at the Hollywood Bowl, Carol Channing's Los Angeles, Carol Channing and Pearl Bailey on Broadway, George Burns - His Wit and Wisdom, and, to millions of children worldwide, she is best known as the White Queen in Alice Through the Looking Glass. Other television credits include popular game shows such as What's My Line, I've Got a Secret, Password, and Hollywood Squares, variety shows such as The Dean Martin Show, The Red Skelton Show, The Milton Berle Show, Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, The Carol Burnett Show, The Muppet Show, and many Tony and Grammy broadcasts. A partial list of her episodic work consists of Playhouse 90's Three Men on a Horse, The Love Boat, Magnum, P.I., The Nanny, Touched by an Angel, The Drew Carey Show, and Family Guy.
As one of the most easily-recognized and highly-imitated voices in the world, Channing's unique sound has been established as characters and narrative in both TV series and documentaries, such as JFK: The Day the Nation Cried, The Addams Family (voice of Granny), Thumbelina, Free To Be You and Me, Space Ghost, Chip 'n Dale - Rescue Rangers, and The Brave Little Toaster Goes To Mars. Channing also recorded 20 children's albums of classic stories, including Winnie The Pooh and Madeline.
Channing has recorded ten gold albums, including the original-cast album of Hello, Dolly!, released in 1964. She has appeared in nearly every grand ballroom and concert hall in the country. Among her other acknowledgments is a Best Nightclub Act of the Year Award, Harvard University's Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year Award, an Oscar Hammerstein Award for Lifetime Achievement, and the Julie Harris Lifetime Achievement Award from the Actors' Fund of America. She is most proud in the role of mother of Chan Lowe, who is a nationally syndicated editorial cartoonist and has the distinction of being a Pulitzer Prize finalist.
In 2003, the octogenarian released her best-selling memoir, Just Lucky I Guess, married her junior-high school sweetheart, businessman Harry Kullijian (after a 70-year separation), and started touring worldwide with her one-woman show, entitled The First Eighty Years are the Hardest, after the very successful preview given to New York audiences that prompted The New York Times to say "Back Where She Belongs: Carol Channing Reminisces…The audience jumped to its feet more than once. We were watching a master performer…." The Associated Press declared, "the audience clearly was there to worship, and Channing did not disappoint." In 2004, Broadway's "first lady of musical comedy" received an honorary doctoral degree from California State University, Stanislaus (only the third Honorary Doctoral Degree given in its 45-year history).
The career of Carol Channing is varied and continuing. She performs with the gusto of a young aspiring actress. Her heart will remain on stage, even though she has recently committed her life to bring a refocus to the fine arts in the public educational system of California. Scholarships, teaching and lecturing, and performing, she hopes to engage public support for education in the arts through the Channing/Kullijian Endowment for the Arts.