Broadway Star Carol Channing Dead at 97

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Legendary Broadway actress Carol Channing died early Tuesday morning, her publicist told Broadway World.

Channing, 97, died at her home in Rancho Mirage, Calif., of natural causes.

Channing's publicist, B. Harlan Boll, confirmed the news in a statement: "It is with extreme heartache that I have to announce the passing of an original Industry Pioneer, Legend and Icon - Miss Carol Channing".

The broadway show picked 10 Tony awards, including one for Channing as best actress in a musical.

In a career that spanned seven decades, the saucer-eyed, raspy-voiced musical-comedy star never shook her association with the role of matchmaker Dolly Levi in the 1964 musical "Hello Dolly!" or gold digger Lorelei Lee in Anita Loos' "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes".

On screen she was a Golden Globe victor and Oscar nominee for her performance in Thoroughly Modern Millie.

In 1968, she was given a Tony special award and in 1995, accepted a Tony for lifetime achievement.

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When Hello, Dolly! opened on Broadway it was dominated by Channing's exuberantly amusing performance.

Channing gives a performance of her one-woman show, The First 80 Years are the Hardest, at the cabaret Feinstein's at the Regency in NY in October 2005.

Actor George Burns and Channing perform a dance routine in September 1976 during a rehearsal for their roadshow. Listen to her stretch and rasp the "a" and the "zz" in "jazz", a vocalisation so wild that the film's scriptwriters gave her the word "raspberry" as a dialogue keynote - she drawls it across many frames. She sang her famous "Dolly!" numbers on Broadway, at cabarets, even at her own 90th birthday celebration. However, she is also known for claiming she was a Black woman. She died Tuesday at 97. She dispenses Los Angeles facts while playing up her ditzy persona.

She would have turned 98 on January 31. I was in a dressing room at my arts high school, and this gay was doing a spot-on Carol Channing impersonation: the huge, gaping smile; the alarmingly-lit eyes; the raspy voice with incomprehensible phrasing.

A Broadway veteran with stage roles in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Hello, Dolly! "Who are the diamonds in the rough that go upstream against everything?" said Channing. Her first marriage was to Theodore Naidish, they were married from 1941 to 1944.

Channing is survived by her son, Channing Carson.