R.I.P. Carol Channing, the bubbly Broadway star turned TV darling
Image: The Everett Collection
In 2016, Carol Channing appeared on the season finale of RuPaul's Drag Race. Few people on the planet were better versed at rocking a boa than the nonagenarian actress. It turned out to be her final television appearance, at it came nearly seven decades after her first appearance on the small screen. Channing made her TV debut in 1949 on an episode of Tonight on Broadway, a CBS program that aired numbers from stage shows currently running on Broadway. Channing performed a bit from Lend an Ear, the role that truly launched her career. (She had made her Broadway debut in the same show in 1941, as an understudy to Eve Arden.)
In those intervening 70 years, Channing, in her gowns, feathers and blonde bowl cut, became an icon of both stage and screen. The Seattle native would earn three Tony Awards, a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination (both for 1967's Thoroughly Modern Millie). She was a constant presence on television in the Sixties and Seventies, frequently setting sail as a colorful guest star on The Love Boat, singing with Muppets, popping up as a panelist on game shows, delighting audiences on late night and variety shows.
Her Broadway talents caught the attention of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, who cast Channing in her own sitcom, The Carol Channing Show, in 1966. Arnaz himself directed and produced the pilot, which utilized some of the writers from I Love Lucy. Alas, the show was not picked up for a full series. Nevertheless, she took home an Emmy Award for the 1966 special An Evening With Carol Channing.
She went to make several appearances on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In and The Carol Burnett Show, playing up her image as a daffy blonde.
In the 1990s, Channing transitioned into animated work, voicing Grandmama Addams on The Addams Family cartoon, and working on Where's Waldo? and Two Stupid Dogs. Her final credited acting role would be a cartoon, as well, when Channing turned up in a 2006 episode of Family Guy.
In the early this morning, on Tuesday, January 15, Channing passed away at her home in Rancho Mirage, California, according to The Hollywood Reporter. She was 97.