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Carol Channing remembered by Harlan Boll

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(Editor’s note: Gay Hollywood publicist B. Harlan Boll was close with his friend and client Carol Channing for forever, it seemed. When the Broadway icon died on Jan. 15, Harlan posted his own announcement on Facebook then distributed a lengthy obituary listing all her credits. Because there was so much news that day, most of us reported her death, then had to quickly moved on. But that’s not fair to a beloved ally who stood with the LGBT community long before it was socially acceptable. Therefore we are doing something unusual for us: we are posting Harlan’s press release as is, supplemented with photos he provided. Harlan gets the last word on his friend Carol Channing. – Karen Ocamb)

Carol Channing with Diamonds. Photo taken by Michael Davis, courtesy of the Carol Channing Archives

CAROL CHANNING – You had us at “HELLO, DOLLY!”.

It is with extreme heartache, that I have to announce the passing of an original Industry Pioneer, Legend and Icon – Miss Carol Channing.  I admired her before I met her, and have loved her since the day she stepped … or fell rather … into my life.  It is so very hard to see the final curtain lower on a woman who has been a daily part of my life for more than a third of it.  We supported each other, cried with each other, argued with each other, but always ended up laughing with each other.  Saying good-bye is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, but I know that when I feel those uncontrollable urges to laugh at everything and/or nothing at all, it will be because she is with me, tickling my funny bone.

Carol was born Jan 31, 1921 in Seattle, Washington, the daughter of a prominent newspaper editor, who was very active in the Christian Science movement. At just two weeks of age, her father’s work took the family to San Francisco, where Carol was raised, schooled and eventually found work as a model.  Through determination, hard work, and her family’s support (not to mention a mandatory IQ test for which she scored one of the highest recorded results), Carol was able to attend Bennington College in Vermont that had one of the few existing arts programs in the country, majoring in drama and dance.

Carol Channing in White on the stairs in the lobby of the Pantages Theater, LA, courtesy of the Carol Channning Archives

A recipient of the 1995 Lifetime Achievement Tony Award, Ms. Channing has been a star of international acclaim since a Time magazine cover story hailed her performance as Lorelei Lee in “Gentleman Prefer Blondes” writing; “Perhaps once in a decade a nova explodes above the Great White Way with enough brilliance to re-illumine the whole gaudy legend of show business.”

Since her 1948 Broadway debut in Blitzstein’s “No For An Answer,” her Broadway appearances have included “So Proudly We Hail,” “Let’s Face It,” “Lend An Ear,” “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” “Show Girl,” “Pygmalion,” “The Millionairess,” “The Vamp,” “Four On A Garden,” and “Wonderful Town.”  In addition to receiving a special Tony Award in 1968, she won the Tony Award in 1964 for her legendary portrayal of Dolly Levi in Jerry Herman’s “Hello, Dolly!”

Milo Boulton and Carol Channing in one of several national tours, 1966 (Photo via Wikipedia)

Jacqueline Kennedy and her two children made their first public appearance after JFK’s death by seeing her perform in “Hello, Dolly!” and later visited her backstage.  She has since played the role in over 5000 performances, without missing a single performance.  She then toured with her own revue, “Carol Channing and Her Ten Stout Hearted Men” and critically acclaimed tours of “Jerry’s Girls” and “Legends,” in which she co-starred with Mary Martin.

Ms. Channing’s happiest film project was in the role of Muzzy in “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” which earned her an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe Award.  Other films include “Paid In Full,” “The First Traveling Saleslady” (giving new comer Clint Eastwood his first on screen kiss), “Skidoo,” “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” “Archie and Mehitabel” and “Thumbelina.”

Carol Channing on stage at the New Amsterdam theatre for the Gypsy Awards, courtesy of the Carol Channning Archives

Ms. Channing TV specials, include “Broadway at the Hollywood Bowl,” “Carol Channing’s Los Angeles,” “Carol Channing and Pearl Bailey on Broadway,” “George Burns – His Wit and Wisdom” and to millions of children worldwide is best known as the White Queen in “Alice Through the Looking Glass.” Other television credits include popular game shows as “What’s My Line,” “I’ve Got a Secret,” “Password,” and “Hollywood Squares,” variety shows such as “The Dean Martin Show,” “The Red Skelton Show,” “The Milton Berle Show,” “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In,” “The Carol Burnett Show,” “The Muppet Show,” as well as many Tony and Grammy broadcasts.  A partial list of Carol’s Episodic work consist of Playhouse 90’s “Three Men on a Horse,” “The Love Boat,” “Magnum, P.I.,” “The Nanny,” “Touched by an Angel,” “The Drew Carey Show” and “Family Guy.”

As one of the most easily recognized and highly imitated voices in the world, Carol’s unique sound has been established as characters and narrative in both TV series and documentaries like “JFK: The Day the Nation Cried,” “The Adam’s Family” (voice of Granny), “Thumbelina,” “Free To Be You and Me,” “Space Ghost,” “Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers” and “The Brave Little Toaster Goes To Mars.”  Miss Channing also cut twenty children’s albums of classic stories including “Winnie The Pooh” and “Madeline.”

Ms. Channing has recorded ten gold Albums and including the original cast album of “Hello, Dolly!” released in 1964.  Miss Channing has appeared in most every grand ballroom and concert hall in the country.  Among her other acknowledgments is a Best Nightclub Act of the Year Award, Harvard University’s Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year Award, the Oscar Hammerstein Award for lifetime achievement and the Julie Harris Lifetime Achievement Award from the Actors’ Fund of America, but is most proud in the role of mother of Chan Lowe, who is a nationally syndicated editorial cartoonist, who has the distinction of being a Pulitzer Prize finalist.

In 1998, Carol moved to Palm Springs/Rancho Mirage to be close to her dear cousin Richard “Dicky” Long and loved the community so much, that she called it home for the remainder of her life.

Carol Channing on stage at Feinsteins in NY, taken by Harlan Boll, courtesy of the Carol Channing Archives

In 2003, the octogenarian released her best selling memoirs, “Just Lucky I Guess” and started touring world wide with her one woman show entitled “The First Eighty Years are the Hardest,” after the very successful preview given to New York audiences that prompted the New York Times to say “Back Where She Belongs: Carol Channing Reminisces . . . The audience jumped to its feet more than once. We were watching a master performer” and Associated Press declared “The audience clearly was there to worship, and Channing did not disappoint.”  In 2004, Broadway’s “first lady of musical comedy,” received an honorary doctoral degree becoming Doctor Carol Channing from the California State University, Stanislaus Commencement (only the third Honorary Doctoral Degree given in CSU Stanislaus 45-year history).

In 2009, items representing Miss Channing’s career were inducted into the Smithsonian Institute in D.C., along with eight other legendary ladies of stage and screen.  Her original diamonds dress from the Broadway production of “Lorelei,” worn while singing “Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend” and her “Hello Dolly!” gown (from the 95′ tour), as well as her TONY Award for her portrayal of Dolly Gallagher Levy, are currently part of the permanent collection at the Smithsonian Institutions American History Museum. In addition, her 1995 Lifetime Achievement Tony Award can be seen on exhibit at The Hollywood Museum and her star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame is located in front of the Pantages Theater on Hollywood Blvd.

Carol Channing with Bette Midler taken by Harlan Boll, during recent visit at home in Rancho Mirage, courtesy of the Carol Channning Archives

In 2010, Carol returned to the Great White Way, performing at the New Amsterdam theatre on 42nd Street, with many returning “Dolly boys” from previous “Hello Dolly!” tours and received the “Gypsy Award” from Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.” In January 2012, mutli-TONY winning director and producer, Dori Berinstein, released the critically acclaimed and award winning documentary entitled “Carol Channing: Larger Than Life,” highlighting Carol’s 70 plus year career.  Her last public appearance was on her 95th birthday at the McCallum Theater to a record breaking crowd of fans from all around the world, that sold out in only a couple hours and featured an all star extravaganza to honor her.  In late 2018, artist Khoi Nguyen, used his PHD in mathematics to create a prolific painting of the actress, comedienne and activist, that allowed more than 43,000 friends and fans (as well as herself) to participate by affixing their fingerprint onto the work, each linked to a personal video interview about Miss Channing and her efforts to raise awareness with regard to the need for arts in education.

See archived clips from “The First Eighty Years Are The Hardest.

Carol Channing died at 12:31am on Tuesday, January 15th, 2019, at home in Rancho Mirage, CA of natural causes

Carol is survived by her son, Channing Lowe and close family member, Sylvia Long.  Services have not yet been determined.

In lieu of flowers, a tribute gift/donation to the Carol Channing Theater at Lowell High School (1101 Eucalyptus Dr., San Francisco, California 94132 | (415) 759-3066) or the McCallum Theatre (73000 Fred Waring Dr, Palm Desert, CA 92260) in Carol’s honor would be very much appreciated.

 

 

 

 

 

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Music & Concerts

Rapper DaBaby pulled by Lollapalooza over homophobic comments

“Lollapalooza was founded on diversity, inclusivity, respect, and love. With that in mind, DaBaby will no longer be performing.”

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Screenshot from Rolling Stone Magazine's YouTube Channel

CHICAGO – In an announcement Sunday morning, the organizers of Chicago’s Lollapalooza Music Festival said they had pulled artist DaBaby from tonight’s closing show after a series of public homophobic remarks by the rapper last weekend in Miami at the Rolling Loud music festival.

On Twitter Lollapalooza officials wrote; “Lollapalooza was founded on diversity, inclusivity, respect, and love. With that in mind, DaBaby will no longer be performing at Grant Park tonight.  Young Thug will now perform at 9:00pm on the Bud Light Seltzer Stage, and G Herbo will perform at 4:00pm on the T-Mobile Stage.”

The Grammy-nominated rapper’s comments onstage at the Miami festival last weekend brought swift condemnation from other artists in the music industry including British Rockstar Elton John and Madonna among many others.

In the middle of his set last weekend in Miami the rapper told the crowd, “If you didn’t show up today with HIV/AIDS, or any of them deadly sexually transmitted diseases, that’ll make you die in two to three weeks, then put your cellphone lighter up! Ladies, if your pussy smell like water, put your cellphone lighter up! Fellas, if you ain’t sucking dick in the parking lot, put your cellphone lighter up!”

DaBaby later issued an apology via Twitter that read, “Anybody who done ever been effected by AIDS/HIV y’all got the right to be upset, what I said was insensitive even though I have no intentions on offending anybody. So my apologies” However, the addendum in the same tweet of; “But the LGBT community… I ain’t trippin on y’all, do you. y’all business is y’all business.” was immediately decried as further proof of the rapper’s intolerance of the LGBTQ community.

Michael J. Stern, a Los Angeles attorney and a former federal prosecutor who is now a noted featured columnist for USA Today blasted DaBaby’s ‘apology;’

In his response to Dababy’s remarks Elton John, who founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation in 1992, a nonprofit organization which funds frontline partners to prevent infections, fight stigma and provide care for the most vulnerable groups affected by HIV, responded in a lengthy series of tweets:

Madonna took to her Instagram telling the rapper to “know your facts,” before spreading misinformation. 

“AIDs is not transmitted by standing next to someone in a crowd,” she wrote on Instagram. “I want to put my cellphone lighter up and pray for your ignorance, No one dies of AIDS in 2 or 3 weeks anymore. Thank God.”

This year’s Lollapalooza festival, which is one of the first major festivals to return in full force since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, concludes Sunday with headlining performances by musical acts Brockhampton, the Foo Fighters, and Modest Mouse.

Dua Lipa ‘Horrified’ at DaBaby’s Homophobic Remarks at Rolling Loud | RS News 7/28/21

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Sports

Olympic Silver Medalist Erica Sullivan Is ‘Still The Same Gay Girl’

Ever since young lesbians have been stanning Sullivan on social, the University of Texas student has opened-up to the world about who she is.

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Graphic courtesy of TEAM USA Swimming

TOKYO – Erica Sullivan is a Japanese-American from Las Vegas and, at age 20, an Olympian attending her first-ever Summer Games. But that barely scratches the surface: This week, she won a Silver Olympic Medal. Not just any medal, mind you; she’s the first-ever Silver medalist in the women’s 1500-meter freestyle. 

Her big moment came on Tuesday in Tokyo, when Sullivan finished the 1500 in 15:41.41, 4.07 seconds behind Gold Medal winner and fellow American, Katie Ledecky. 

“The last 24 hours have been a dream,” Sullivan wrote on Instagram. “Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. Always for the people I represent,” and she added a heart.

Make no mistake about who she represents: “Yes, I’m the gay one,” says her Twitter bio

Whether it be a tweet, on Instagram or on TikTok, Sullivan proudly, frequently posts that she is the “only out gay swimmer” on Team USA. 

@erica.sully

When ur the only gay on the US Swim Olympic team #olympics #swim #lgbt🌈 #fyp

♬ the token straight – chloe

“Only gay USA swimmer. WHERE ARE THE GAYS” she tweeted in sharing an article about the record number of out LGBTQ Olympic athletes.

 

Ever since, young lesbians have been stanning Sullivan on social, as the University of Texas student has opened-up to the media and the world about who she is. 

“This is kind of self-centered and cocky to say, and I’m sorry for that” Sullivan told reporters after winning Silver, “but I feel like I am the epitome of the American person, whereas I’m multicultural, I’m queer, I’m a lot of minorities in that sense. That’s what America is. America is, to me, it’s not being a majority. It’s having your own start. The American dream is coming to a country to be able to establish what you want to do with your life.”

Sullivan described having to train amid “duck poop” in Lake Mead, given that pools were shut down because of Covid-19. She also mentioned to the media: “If the women’s soccer team, specifically Tobin Heath and Christen Press, would like to reach out, that would mean the world!”

What a change from just four years ago, according to Yahoo! News and Swimming World. Sullivan was dealing with the death of her father, coming out and mental-health issues. Her mother is a Japanese citizen living in the U.S., her late grandfather was an architect for some of the Olympic venues and her late father was a swimmer at the University of Wisconsin.

Sullivan is also a Swiftie, meaning she’s a huge fan of Taylor Swift, which fellow fans have embraced. 

Headlines like, “All Hail Erica Sullivan, Olympic Silver Medalist, Swiftie, and Queer Icon” and “Lesbians, We Have A New Supreme And She’s An Olympian Named Erica Sullivan” have only further enshrined Sullivan as a heartthrob for girls who like girls. 

Lauren Yapalater did a deep-dive into Sullivan’s socials for Buzzfeed, revealing the swimmer “tweets about lesbian yearning movies just like the rest of us poor souls.” 

And then there’s “The Question:”

“So many people have asked me if I’m single,” she told Jill Gutowitz of Vulture, who Sullivan calls “the queen of Twitter lesbians.” 

“I’m like, I am still the same gay girl I was before all this. I’ve had a crush on the same girl for three years now. The yearning gets you every time.”

Next up for Sullivan: back to school, and the pool, 

“I deferred college for three years to train for these games,” she told Gutowitz. “So, I’m going to Austin to continue my film career, my educational career, and my swim career. I’m gonna go another quad, I’m gonna try and go for 2024, that’s the plan. But hopefully after that I can focus on my film career.”

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Arts & Entertainment

Black gay dance icon gets luminous treatment in ‘Ailey’ doc

Nothing prepares you for the experience of Ailey,” she says. “The emotional, spiritual, aural, and visual overwhelm the sense

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AILEY courtesy of NEON

NEW YORK – When it comes to the history of dance in America, few names loom larger than that of Alvin Ailey.

A trailblazing pioneer of the art form who blended styles of modern dance, ballet, and jazz into breathtakingly theatrical presentations that explored and uplifted Black experience in American culture, his works earned him accolades and honors throughout a long career that gave him name recognition even among people with little or no interest in dance.

His choreographed masterpieces became touchstones within the medium, with many of them still among the most frequently remounted dance productions more than 30 years after his death, and the company he founded in 1969 – the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater – remains one of the most lauded and prestigious dance organizations in the world today.

Yet despite his status as one of the most famous American choreographers of the twentieth century, there are many today, even among the aficionados of dance, who would be hard-pressed to tell you much about his life.

That’s not entirely due to neglect or lack of interest, as a new documentary by filmmaker Jamila Wignot – simply titled “Ailey” – helps us to understand. Ailey was a genius who kept his private life as far out of the spotlight as possible.

As a Black gay man, he was keenly aware of his doubly marginalized status, and rather than inviting controversies that might overshadow the creations he worked tirelessly to bring into the world, he preferred to let the work itself become his public identity. He even took measures to obscure himself after death, ensuring that his passing from AIDS (in 1989, at the age of 58) would be reported as the result of a terminal blood disease.

In Wignot’s dreamily eloquent film, she presents us with a portrait of a man who seemingly sublimated his entire being into the creation of his art, documenting Ailey’s magnificent career with a wealth of archival footage and interviews.

Along the way, she also offers exploratory deep dives into the creation and legacy of some of his most iconic ballets, illuminating some of the themes that wove themselves into his body of work throughout his life. Finally, she follows the creative process as dancers at today’s Ailey American Dance Theater work on a new production of “Lazarus,” one of the late master’s most renowned pieces.

In the process, she delivers the biographical facts of his life side by side with the artistic passions that drove him, and places it all in the context of the larger cultural history of late 20th Century America – as well as how Ailey’s legacy continues to resonate within the changing social dynamics of our own time.

Yet throughout this feast of information, illuminating the facts and counterpointing the remembrances of those who worked at his side, Wignot also gives us Ailey’s own commentary. Culled from recordings and interviews made during his lifetime, this posthumous self-narration of his own story lets us glean for ourselves what insight we may.

In retrospect and alongside the memories of his surviving companions, Ailey’s own words tell us more about the man himself than he perhaps meant to do when he said them, inserting a layer of intimacy within the vast scope of the biography as it unfolds, and the film is all the richer for it.

It should come as no surprise that Wignot has painted such a reverent, yet deeply personal portrait of her subject. She’s been inspired by Ailey’s work – and his vision – since attending a performance of the Ailey Dance Theater during her sophomore year at Wellesley College more than two decades ago. Her admiration is evident from the way she gushes about Ailey in her director’s statement about the film.

“Nothing prepares you for the experience of Ailey,” she says. “The emotional, spiritual, aural, and visual overwhelm the senses… Ailey’s dances—celebrations of African American beauty and history—did more than move bodies; they opened minds.

His dances were revolutionary social statements that staked a claim as powerful in his own time as in ours: Black life is central to the American story and deserves a central place in American art and on the world stage. A working-class, gay, Black man, he rose to prominence in a society that made every effort to exclude him. He transformed the world of dance and made space for those of us on the margins—space for black artists like Rennie Harris and me.”

The Rennie Harris to whom Wignot refers is the founder of Rennie Harris Puremovement, a hip-hop dance theater company based in Philadelphia, who as guest choreographer of the AADT production of “Lazarus” is featured prominently in the film. He is just one of many professional dance veterans whose voices, featured throughout, seem united in singing the praises of Ailey’s passion, creative power, and timeless aesthetic – and Wignot makes sure we don’t have to merely take their word for it.

Like most dance documentaries – or good ones, anyway – the greatest gift of “Ailey” is the chance to see the dancers in motion. It’s a film full to the brim with electrifying footage of some of Ailey’s masterworks, giving us a rare opportunity to revel in the sheer visual poetry of his style. In pursuit of his ideal to capture “truth in movement,” he built choreographed expressions of the Black American experience, executed with grace, strength, and unparalleled beauty.

His work celebrated that history while bearing witness to its injustice, with an emphasis on the dignity, humanity, and hope that makes it possible to look toward a transcendent future for all. It was, of course, social activism through art, though Ailey and his original dancers might not have exclusively intended it that way, and it is not an overstatement to say that it changed the world. Wignot cannily gives us the privilege of seeing just enough of it to stand as testament to its impact, and more than enough to make us want to grab the next opportunity to see the Ailey American Dance Theater perform in person.

In the meantime, you are encouraged to seek out “Ailey,” which premiered in NYC on July 23 and expands to theatres nationwide on August 6, to whet your appetite. It’s a documentary that succeeds far more than many others in telling a real-life story that feels authentic, and despite the carefully-guarded secrecy of its elusive subject, it presents as true and complete an impression of him as we are likely to get.

Outside of watching his work, that is.

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