Carol Channing, the delightful, talented, quick-witted singer-actress who will be forever associated with her most popular role as Dolly Levi in “Hello Dolly” (1964) celebrated her 90th birthday with her husband, Harry Kullijian, plus a few close friends and family on January 31.
The gathering took place at their homey, comfortable estate in Thunderbird Heights. “We moved here to be close to my only living relative” she said, “my cousin, Richard Long — who was like my big brother growing up — lives just up the street.”
HOW IS SHE?
She is healthy, sharp, funny, quick, pretty, and delightful. Other than a slight hearing loss and a slower pace when she walks, Channing still moves with the grace of a dancer — her original goal as a youngster — and she is still very much aware of her appearance. After praising her personal assistant, Mika Moulton, for many things, Channing added, with awe, “It takes me half an hour to put on my eyelashes, but Mika does it in two minutes!”
When this Harry met Carol, they were grammar school students in San Francisco and their shared love of poetry kept them close for many years, but they eventually lost track of each other. Then, in 2002, Channing published her autobiography, “Just Lucky I Guess,” in which she remembered him fondly. They were soon reunited and married in 2003.
Harry’s sense of humor is as quick as Carol’s and he breaks up visitors by doing his stand-up routine on how Carol’s fans dismiss him with an, “Oh, hi” before resuming their worshipful praise of her. When asked how he handles this, Harry gets the last laugh by saying with a grin, “I sulk a lot.”
Channing describes Harry as “a cagey, crafty, canny Armenian business man who knows how to get things done.” He also knows how to keep his wife laughing. When Carol confessed to dropping cake icing on her slacks during a photo session, he quickly quipped, “Honey, if you didn’t have cake icing on your pants, I wouldn’t know it was you.”
Both Harry and Carol are focused on a shared cause — bringing arts education back into our schools — nationwide. They speak of it so passionately, they finish each other’s sentences. “I talk about the need, but Harry tells them exactly how to do it,” says Channing proudly. “We testified before Congress last year and Harry laid it all out for them with a five-step plan. That’s how we got a resolution passed, promising national support for our Arts in Education Week!”
DOLLY’S FUTURE: ROSEY
Carol and Harry appeared last Saturday at a fundraising event for Christopher’s Clubhouse, founded by Moulton, and they are in the process of producing three Arts In Education Telethons this year. Dates have not been set but one location will be in the Coachella Valley, one in Texas, and the other will be broadcast nationally. They are currently soliciting donations to fund the telethons and contributions may be specified as being for the local one. For more information, go to www.channingarts.org.