Carol Channing, Jewish Broadway Legend Known For 'Hello, Dolly!' Dies At 97

Broadway legend Carol Channing passes away

Carol Channing, the legendary Broadway actress who portrayed Dolly Levi in 'Hello, Dolly!' has died, her publicist said in a statement Tuesday.

"It is with extreme heartache, that I have to announce the passing of an original Industry Pioneer, Legend and Icon - Miss Carol Channing". The actress passed away at her home in Rancho Mirage, California.

Her other stage credits included Lorelei, The Vamp and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, singing the classic Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend. She was 97 years old.

However, Channing told Wendy Williams back in 2010 that she didn't know if it was true - and that she thinks her mother was playing a joke on her. In her memoir Just Lucky, I Guess, Channing wrote in part that her mother wanted her to know about her heritage because she could potentially give birth to a black child. She had a storied career, originating the titular role in Hello, Dolly on Broadway (for which she won a Tony) and playing Muzzy in Thoroughly Modern Millie (for which she won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Oscar).

In 1964, Channing found a role equal to Lorelei Lee in Jerry Herman's "Hello Dolly", which became a Broadway classic.

"Performing is the only excuse for my existence", she said during her last Broadway appearance, in the 1995 revival of "Hello, Dolly!".

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Channing was world famous for her show-stopping voice and luminous stage presence. She played the title matchmaker on Broadway three times over a 30-year period, as well as myriad touring engagements in the musical.

Born on January 31, 1921 in Seattle, Channing's father, George Channing, was a newspaper editor. Instead, Streisand headlined the Gene Kelly-directed 1969 film - which turned out to be a massive flop. Channing herself claimed that her most cherished honor was being included on President Richard Nixon's famed "enemies list".

She married her third husband, producer-writer Charles Lowe, in 1956, and he guided her career for 40 years.

The critic Walter Kerr called her "maybe the only creature extant who can live up to a Hirschfeld", explaining that the theatrical cartoonist Al Hirschfeld "always lives up to the people he draws, but the people he draws don't always live up to him".

Lowe died of a stroke in 1999. He died of an aneurism in 2011.

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