Carol Channing died today, something that I didn’t think could possibly happen in my lifetime. Of course, that’s hyperbole, but it seems justified because Channing was famous for playing those larger than life characters like Dolly Levi and Lorelei Lee.
I feel a special affinity to Ms. Channing because in 1966 during my Junior year in high school, I along with a gaggle of my classmates (we called ourselves the Irregulars), set about to call her for an interview. I still have those tapes that we made, and I hope to release them to the world Real Soon Now (I’ve been saying that for years), but in the meantime, here is a little tidbit, a soupçon if you will, to tide you over.
We wanted to interview her because she was touring the country (she was currently in Chicago) in her most famous role in Hello, Dolly!, and we were in the process of putting together a program to be presented to the entire student body (“hey gang, let’s put on a show!”). The climax of that show was going to involve the title song from Hello, Dolly! and we thought it would be terrific to have Ms. Channing herself introduce the number.
The local radio station came to our rescue (as I recall Maryann Shelhamer’s dad had a connection there), and we obtained a recording that Ms. Channing had made to distribute to radio stations across the land. It consisted of Ms. Channing answering questions which the local radio personalities could feed to her as if they were interviewing her directly.
I don’t have the entire recording of all the answers that she provided, only the one bit that we used, but here, for the first time in 53 years, is that recording.
“Tell us, Ms. Channing, how does the song ‘Hello, Dolly!’ fit into the show?”