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Remembering Carol Channing and My Parents

January 17, 2019


Remembering Carol Channing and My Parents


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



Yesterday (January 15, 2019), when I heard of the passing of Ms. Carol Channing at age 97, I knew I wanted to dedicate this WORDWALK blog post to her.  What a Broadway legacy she leaves in the spotlights!


Throughout the television run of The Merv Griffin Show (October, 1962-July, 1981), Ms. Channing was a relatively frequent guest of Merv Griffin; and I enjoyed hearing her unique and extraordinarily expressive voice.  Watching her on television, I never realized that she was six-feet tall.  Additionally, in those earlier decades, I never imagined that I would someday see Ms. Channing perform Hello, Dolly! in a theatre.


In 1964, shortly before Hello, Dolly! began its run on Broadway, Louis Armstrong recorded the title song which quickly became a hit.  At that time, in our dining room’s southeast corner and to the right of the east window was our “record player.”  I recall that one of the rare 33-1/3 RPM albums which my mother purchased was the Hello, Dolly! album by Louis Armstrong.  In an album case, this record is one of the ones which I have saved.


1964 was a shining year for Broadway.  Along with the debut of Hello, Dolly! were Funny Girl, Fiddler on the Roof, and Sweet Charity.  During this amazing year of musicals, Ms. Channing won the Tony Award for best actress in a musical–not Barbra Streisand, in Funny Girl.


At age 74, besides receiving a Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement, Ms. Channing embarked on a worldwide tour in Hello, Dolly!  One of the stops on her world tour was Uihlein Hall in the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, which, in Milwaukee, is a short walk down the hill from where I live.  So, during one of Ms. Channing’s performances from June 20-25, 1995, my first Leader Dog Keller, the beautiful Golden Retriever, and I took my dad and mother to the spectacular production of Hello, Dolly!  For each of us in the audience, watching and listening to Ms. Channing and the entire company on stage was a truly special and memorable treat.  This gift to my parents is memorable to me also because unbeknownst to us at the time, Hello, Dolly! with Carol Channing was the last major theatrical performance we would attend together before the passing of my dad.  Both of my parents always enjoyed musical theatre, and I followed in their footsteps–since March of 1990, with one of my four Leader Dogs lying at my feet in the audience.


At the end of the show and after all of the bows, applause, and standing ovation–Ms. Channing most graciously spoke directly to her audience in Uihlein Hall.  Endearing herself to all who sat before her, Ms. Channing told us that she had always heard how wonderful audiences were in Milwaukee, that she had to come and see for herself, and that indeed Milwaukee audiences were wonderful.  In a most personable manner, as if she were talking to just a few of us, instead of a soldout crowd, Ms. Channing continued expressively talking for five minutes or more–interrupted by some laughter and more applause.  Of all the live theatrical productions which I have attended in my 68 years, I have never witnessed any other performer speak to an audience as Carol Channing did.  She left an indelible final impression.  Most certainly, this matinee performance of Hello, Dolly! with Carol Channing is the highest rated of all my theatrical experiences.  I am especially grateful to have had this opportunity to be in such an audience with Keller and my parents.


BOOK NOTE:  Coincidentally, on the day of Carol Channing’s passing, I was reading the 1964 section of the book Showstoppers:  The Surprising Backstage Stories of Broadway’s Most Remarkable Songs.  If you also are a big fan of Broadway musicals, you will enjoy this 384-page book by Gerald Nachman, copyright 2017.  [For patrons of a Talking Book and Braille Library of the National Library Service (NLS), the order number for this book is DB 87898; the reading time of the audio book is nineteen hours and fifteen minutes.]


With applause and gratitude for Ms. Channing,

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


January 16, 2019, Wednesday



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  1. Reblogged this on My Corner and commented:
    Having been raised by parents who originally wanted to be professional actors, I gained an appreciation for the theater. I acted in a variety of plays in high school and college including a local production of Hello Dolly. No, I wasn’t Dolly, being too young. I was in the chorus, but it was a memorable experience all the same. It was my last time on stage before my parents passed away. In the wake of the death of Carol Channing, who portrayed Dolly on Broadway, Alice’s memories reminded me of this.

  2. Dear Alice,
    I was touched by the passing of Carol Channing–truly an icon among Broadway performers. How fondly I remember hearing Dad talk about Carol Channing’s informal visit with the Milwaukee audience, which certainly endeared her to him. Carol Channing was a “class act” in every way, and I’m so happy that you, Keller, and our parents had this memorable experience together!
    Love, Mary

    • Mary–In this post, I intended to mention that Dad was 82 years of age when he drove from our hometown in West-central Indiana to Milwaukee to visit with Keller and me and to attend the performance of HELLO, DOLLY!  While the 4.5 to five-hour drive was not that long, going through the Chicago area always made the drive more challenging; nevertheless, Dad continued driving this route until shortly before his passing (December 1, 1997).

          Secondly, in this post about Ms. Channing, I intended to mention that Carol Channing performed the role of Dolly Gallagher Levi approximately five thousand times.

          Thanks for adding your comment to this blog post!

      Hoping you are enjoying this weekend–Alice and Willow

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