Carol Channing maybe invented hip-hop fashion in a 1966 Corn Flakes commercial with Gomer Pyle
Picture a person wearing this look. A clock dangling from a thick gold chain around the neck. Beanie cap pulled down low. Designer sunglasses hiding the eyes. Gray jumpsuit.
Sounds like the wardrobe of Flavor Flav or perhaps a retro-minded New York rapper. But, no, we're talking about Broadway icon Carol Channing in a Sixties cereal commercial.
In the 1966 TV spot, Channing rolls into the fictional Camp Henderson in a Jeep. She hops out of the vehicle and enters a mess tent, singing, "Hello-o-o, Go-o-o-mer." Yep, television's favorite Marine goof Gomer Pyle, played by Jim Nabors, is pouring bowls of Post's Corn Flakes & Strawberries.
"Welcome to K.P., Gomer Pyle style," Gomer declares. He pours milk over the freeze-dried fruit and flakes. "Shazam! Them strawberries pop back like they was just picked!"
At the time, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. was firmly placed in the top ten of all television shows. The Post cereal company was no stranger to Gomer. The brand was one of the major sponsors of The Andy Griffith Show, and those episodes would often end with Sheriff Taylor and Opie enjoying a bowl of Post Toasties or Post Oat Flakes. The sponsorship carried over to the spin-off.
But back to Channing's style. We jest a little, but it truly does look like a precursor to the hip-hop fashion that would arrive decades later. Take a look.
Channing was seemingly a fan of hip-hop, too, as evidenced by the 2004 Tony Awards, in which she boogied to some Hello Dolly flow courtesy of LL Cool J.
With her blonde bob haircut and ability to break out into song and dance and any moment, Channing livened up any show on which she appeared. She was a gust of sheer joy, pure delight. As we mourn her death, we wanted to share a bit more of that — and give her some credit for her cutting-edge fashion. She will be missed.