12 Larger-Than-Life Facts About Carol Channing

Carol Channing circa 1970.
Carol Channing circa 1970.
John Downing/Express/Getty Images

Legendary Broadway star Carol Channing died January 15, 2019, just two weeks shy of her 98th birthday. Her long, storied career includes her hit Broadway shows Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Hello, Dolly!, and her lovably wacky roles in Thoroughly Modern Millie and Alice in Wonderland. Her 70+ year entertainment presence has garnered a Tony (plus two honorary ones), a Golden Globe, and an Academy Award nomination.

1. AS A YOUNG GIRL IN SAN FRANCISCO, CHANNING FELL IN LOVE WITH THE THEATER.

Carol Channing in her 'Hello, Dolly!' costume in 1979.
Carol Channing in her 'Hello, Dolly!' costume in 1979.
Monti Spry/Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Born in Seattle on January 31, 1921, Channing moved with her family to San Francisco shortly after birth. Her father worked as editor-in-chief of several Christian Science newspapers, and as a young child, she accompanied her mother to the Curran Theatre to help distribute these newspapers backstage. Channing recalled a powerful feeling that overcame her as she felt the theater was a sacred place. "I stood there and realized—I'll never forget it because it came over me so strongly—that this is a temple," she told The Austin Chronicle in 2005. "This is a cathedral. … This is for people who have gotten a glimpse of creation and all they do is recreate it. I stood there and wanted to kiss the floorboards." She used her weekly allowance of 50 cents to buy tickets to see live theater in San Francisco.

2. HER FIRST BIG STARRING BROADWAY ROLE WAS IN GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES.

In 1949, Channing landed her first lead role in a Broadway musical, playing Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. "Bye Bye Baby" and "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" became the most well-known songs from the show, though Channing often performed another of her character's big numbers, "I'm Just a Little Girl from Little Rock," throughout the years. The part made her a star. In the 1953 film adaptation, Marilyn Monroe played Lorelei Lee, a role that also cemented her celebrity status.

3. SHE PERFORMED HELLO, DOLLY! MORE THAN 5000 TIMES.

In January 1964, Channing originated the role of matchmaker and general busybody Dolly Gallagher Levi in the Broadway musical Hello, Dolly! The show was a huge success, and Channing later starred in Broadway revivals and in touring productions, performing the musical more than 5000 times. Even if she was sick, she almost always chose to go on stage, feeling healed by the audience’s positive energy.

4. CHANNING WAS INCREDIBLY BITTER WHEN BARBRA STREISAND WAS CAST AS DOLLY IN THE FILM VERSION.

Streisand's performance on Broadway as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl is legendary, but one musical swept the 1964 Tony Awards, and that was Hello, Dolly! Channing's musical won 10 Tonys (out of 11 nominations), including a statuette for Channing's Dolly over Streisand's Fanny. A few years later, however, when casting for the movie version, the screenwriter felt Channing's outsized personality (as evidenced in her performance in 1967's Thoroughly Modern Millie) wouldn't play well for an entire movie. Streisand, who was only 25 at the time, was cast as the middle-aged matchmaker. "I felt suicidal; I felt like jumping out a window," Channing told a newspaper years later. "I felt like someone had kidnapped my part." In her 2002 autobiography Just Lucky I Guess, Channing admitted that even though she views Streisand as a great creative force and that she admires her, the bitterness remains. "Her movie of Dolly was the biggest financial flop Twentieth Century-Fox ever had," Channing wrote. "There! I said it."

5. HER SUCCESS IN HELLO, DOLLY! ALLOWED HER TO BEFRIEND PRESIDENTIAL FAMILIES.

A year after JFK's assassination, Jackie Kennedy and her two kids saw Hello, Dolly! and met Channing backstage. In the summer, Channing would visit the Kennedy family in Hyannis Port every other weekend on her days off. After Channing sang an adapted version of "Hello, Dolly" for Lyndon Johnson's 1964 election campaign, she became friends with Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson, later visiting the Johnsons' family ranch.

6. SHE PARTNERED WITH DESI ARNAZ FOR HER OWN TV SHOW.

In 1966, Channing filmed a pilot episode for The Carol Channing Show with Desilu, Lucille Ball’s production company that she had originally founded with ex-husband Desi Arnaz. Directed and produced by Arnaz, the episode never turned into a series, which Channing attributes to the mismatch between her comedic style and the I Love Lucy writers who wrote the episode.

7. CHANNING APPEARED ON TV SHOWS RANGING FROM THE LOVE BOAT TO SESAME STREET TO THE ADDAMS FAMILY.

Channing guest-starred on TV shows like Sesame Street, singing a "Hello, Dolly" variation called "Hello, Sammy," as well as The Red Skelton Show, The Muppet Show, The Love Boat, Magnum, P.I., and The Drew Carey Show. She also appeared on classic TV game shows What's My Line? and Hollywood Squares, and voiced characters on The Addams Family and The Magic School Bus.

8. SHE THOUGHT SHE WAS PART AFRICAN-AMERICAN FOR MOST OF HER LIFE.

In Just Lucky I Guess, Channing revealed that before she went to college, her mother told her that her father was born in the south and that his mother was African-American. Channing hadn’t revealed that she was part black until 2002, but eight years later she backtracked on Wendy Williams's talk show. She explained that she doesn’t know for certain if she’s part black or not because when her mother claimed her father was half black, she was angry at him and may have wanted to get back at him for something. Plus, the census records from 1890, which should hold the key to her father's parentage, were destroyed in a fire, so that portion of Channing's heritage may always remain a mystery.

9. SHE RELEASED A GOSPEL ALBUM IN MEMORY OF HER FATHER.

Carol Channing with her memoir in 2003.
Carol Channing with her memoir in 2003.
Jessica Silverstein/Getty Images

In 2009, Channing released a gospel album, For Heaven's Sake, in memory of her father, who sang gospel songs to her when she was growing up. Channing included spirituals like "Joshua Fit' the Battle of Jericho" and classic Americana songs that her father had taught her. "I can hear my father's voice harmonizing with me every time I sing them although he's long gone," she said in 2010.

10. AT 82 YEARS OLD, CHANNING MARRIED HER CHILDHOOD SWEETHEART.

Carol Channing and her husband Harry Kullijan in May 2003.
Carol Channing and her husband Harry Kullijan in May 2003.
Jessica Silverstein/Getty Images

In 2003, at 82 years old, Channing married her fourth husband, Harry Kullijian. The couple had met in middle school but lost touch over the decades. In her autobiography, Channing devoted a passage to describing her "first love" experience with Kullijian, whom she "went steady" with for two years. "I was so in love with Harry I couldn’t stop hugging him," she wrote. He heard about the passage in the book and contacted her, and they got engaged two weeks after their reunion. They remained together until his death in 2011.

11. SHE FOUNDED A NON-PROFIT TO SUPPORT ARTS EDUCATION.

Carol Channing in 2004.
Carol Channing in 2004.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

In 2004, Channing received an honorary doctorate from California State University, Stanislaus. Inspired to support arts programs in schools, she founded the Dr. Carol Channing and Harry Kullijian Foundation for the Arts with her husband. Now called the American Foundation for Arts Education, the non-profit works to make arts part of schools' core curriculums. Channing herself visited schools and taught master classes.

12. JOHNNY DEPP’S DREAM ROLE IS TO PLAY CHANNING.

Carol Channing performs in 2003.
Carol Channing performs in 2003.
Giulio Marcocchi/Getty Images

Johnny Depp has mentioned a couple of times that he'd love to play Channing in a biopic; in 2009 he called it a "dream role," and in 2013 he reiterated that point. "I mean it. She's fantastic," he told reporters. Depp's appreciation runs deep: he also revealed that he used to dress up as her as a kid. Channing, for her part, loves the idea. "Men have been imitating me for as long as I can remember," she quipped. "In fact, most of the impersonations I have seen have had a five o'clock shadow."

This story first ran in 2016.

10 of the Most Popular Portable Bluetooth Speakers on Amazon

Altech/Bose/JBL/Amazon
Altech/Bose/JBL/Amazon

As convenient as smartphones and tablets are, they don’t necessarily offer the best sound quality. But a well-built portable speaker can fill that need. And whether you’re looking for a speaker to use in the shower or a device to take on a long camping trip, these bestselling models from Amazon have you covered.

1. OontZ Angle 3 Bluetooth Portable Speaker; $26-$30 (4.4 stars)

Oontz portable bluetooth speaker
Cambridge Soundworks/Amazon

Of the 57,000-plus reviews that users have left for this speaker on Amazon, 72 percent of them are five stars. So it should come as no surprise that this is currently the best-selling portable Bluetooth speaker on the site. It comes in eight different colors and can play for up to 14 hours straight after a full charge. Plus, it’s splash proof, making it a perfect speaker for the shower, beach, or pool.

Buy it: Amazon

2. JBL Charge 3 Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker; $110 (4.6 stars)

JBL portable bluetooth speaker
JBL/Amazon

This nifty speaker can connect with up to three devices at one time, so you and your friends can take turns sharing your favorite music. Its built-in battery can play music for up to 20 hours, and it can even charge smartphones and tablets via USB.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Anker Soundcore Bluetooth Speaker; $25-$28 (4.6 stars)

Anker portable bluetooth speaker
Anker/Amazon

This speaker boasts 24-hour battery life and a strong Bluetooth connection within a 66-foot radius. It also comes with a built-in microphone so you can easily take calls over speakerphone.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Bose SoundLink Color Bluetooth Speaker; $129 (4.4 stars)

Bose portable bluetooth speaker
Bose/Amazon

Bose is well-known for building user-friendly products that offer excellent sound quality. This portable speaker lets you connect to the Bose app, which makes it easier to switch between devices and personalize your settings. It’s also water-resistant, making it durable enough to handle a day at the pool or beach.

Buy it: Amazon

5. DOSS Soundbox Touch Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker; $28-$33 (4.4 stars)

DOSS portable bluetooth speaker
DOSS/Amazon

This portable speaker features an elegant system of touch controls that lets you easily switch between three methods of playing audio—Bluetooth, Micro SD, or auxiliary input. It can play for up to 20 hours after a full charge.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Altec Lansing Mini Wireless Bluetooth Speaker; $15-$20 (4.3 stars)

Altec Lansing portable bluetooth speaker
Altec Lansing/Amazon

This lightweight speaker is built for the outdoors. With its certified IP67 rating—meaning that it’s fully waterproof, shockproof, and dust proof—it’s durable enough to withstand harsh environments. Plus, it comes with a carabiner that can attach to a backpack or belt loop.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Tribit XSound Go Bluetooth Speaker; $33-$38 (4.6 stars)

Tribit portable bluetooth speaker
Tribit/Amazon

Tribit’s portable Bluetooth speaker weighs less than a pound and is fully waterproof and resistant to scratches and drops. It also comes with a tear-resistant strap for easy transportation, and the rechargeable battery can handle up to 24 hours of continuous use after a full charge. In 2020, it was Wirecutter's pick as the best budget portable Bluetooth speaker on the market.

Buy it: Amazon

8. VicTsing SoundHot C6 Portable Bluetooth Speaker; $18 (4.3 stars)

VicTsing portable bluetooth speaker
VicTsing/Amazon

The SoundHot portable Bluetooth speaker is designed for convenience wherever you go. It comes with a detachable suction cup and a carabiner so you can keep it secure while you’re showering, kayaking, or hiking, to name just a few.

Buy it: Amazon

9. AOMAIS Sport II Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker; $30 (4.4 stars)

AOMAIS portable bluetooth speaker
AOMAIS/Amazon

This portable speaker is certified to handle deep waters and harsh weather, making it perfect for your next big adventure. It can play for up to 15 hours on a full charge and offers a stable Bluetooth connection within a 100-foot radius.

Buy it: Amazon

10. XLEADER SoundAngel Touch Bluetooth Speaker; $19-$23 (4.4 stars)

XLeader portable bluetooth speaker
XLEADER/Amazon

This stylish device is available in black, silver, gold, and rose gold. Plus, it’s equipped with Bluetooth 5.0, a more powerful technology that can pair with devices up to 800 feet away. The SoundAngel speaker itself isn’t water-resistant, but it comes with a waterproof case for protection in less-than-ideal conditions.

Buy it: Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

29 Movies That Almost Starred Harrison Ford

Stephane L'hostis/Getty Images
Stephane L'hostis/Getty Images

By 1976, Harrison Ford had been acting for over a decade, most prominently as Bob Falfa in George Lucas’s American Graffiti (1973), and Martin Stett in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation (1974). Unfortunately for Ford, he was still as well known for his carpentry as he was his filmography, and Lucas was against using the same actor in more than one of his movies. Still, there was hope: Lucas hired Ford to read lines as Han Solo during auditions with prospective actors, and Lucas was eventually convinced that the Chicago-born actor was the man to play the incorrigible Millennium Falcon captain with the heart of gold. Now, let's look back at some films that almost featured Harrison Ford.

1. The Graduate (1967)

Director Mike Nichols rejected the then 25-year-old Ford for The Graduate's Benjamin Braddock, who ended up being played by Dustin Hoffman. Nichols and Ford finally worked together in Working Girl (1988) and Regarding Henry (1991), the latter of which was written by The Force Awakens' writer-director J.J. Abrams.

2. Midnight Cowboy (1969)

Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy (1969)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Ford flew 3000 miles to New York City—on his own dime—to audition for the role of Midnight Cowboy's Joe Buck. John Schlesinger went with Jon Voight.

3. Alien (1979)

Two years after Star Wars, Ford was turning down parts. He declined playing Captain Dallas in Alien, letting Tom Skerritt handle that.

4. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Ford was cut from E.T. He played Elliott’s school principal. His face was not visible, because other than Elliott’s mother, Steven Spielberg tried to not show the faces of the adults.

5. Making Love (1982)

The then-controversial film was about Zach (Michael Ontkean), a doctor who is married to Claire (Kate Jackson), but starts a relationship with Bart (Harry Hamlin), a novelist. Ford, Michael Douglas, and Richard Gere all turned down playing the male leads. Making Love ended up being a commercial and critical failure.

6. Terms of Endearment (1983)

Jack Nicholson won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as Garrett Breedlove in Terms of Endearment. Ford turned that role down.

7. Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

Ford admitted he was offered the lead after Sylvester Stallone dropped out, and before it was turned into a comedy starring Eddie Murphy. He said he saw the movie and had no regrets on declining. It helps that he starred in Witness (1985) instead, which landed him his first (and so far only) Oscar nomination.

8. Big (1988)

Off of Anne Spielberg (Steven’s sister) and Gary Ross’ script, producer/director James L. Brooks spent six months waiting for Ford to play Josh Baskin. But Ford wasn't pleased with the choice of director. Eventually, Tom Hanks ended up playing the lead, with Penny Marshall directing.

9. Die Hard (1988)

Alan Rickman and Bruce Willis in 'Die Hard' (1988).
Alan Rickman and Bruce Willis in Die Hard (1988).
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Burt Reynolds, Richard Gere, Don Johnson, and Ford all turned down the role of John McClane before Bruce Willis signed up for Die Hard.

10. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

There was “alleged idle talk” between Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis, and Ford to star as Eddie Valiant before they moved on to trying—and failing—to contact Bill Murray. Bob Hoskins got the part.

11. Ghost (1990)

Ford read the script to Ghost three times and didn’t understand it, so he turned the role of Sam Wheat down. Patrick Swayze apparently understood, and the rest was history.

12. The Hunt for Red October (1990)

Director John McTiernan tried to get Ford to play CIA analyst Jack Ryan, years before he would do so for the sequel Patriot Games (1992), replacing Alec Baldwin.

13. Misery (1990)

Kathy Bates and James Caan star in 'Misery' (1990)
Kathy Bates and James Caan star in Misery (1990).
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Michael Douglas, Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Richard Dreyfuss, Gene Hackman, Warren Beatty, and Ford said no to playing novelist Paul Sheldon in the adaptation of Stephen King's Misery. James Caan said yes.

14. Cape Fear (1991)

Martin Scorsese asked Robert De Niro to ask Ford to play the lawyer Sam Bowden in the remake of the 1962 thriller Cape Fear. Ford told De Niro he would only do it if he could play Max Cady and De Niro would play Bowden. De Niro did not want to do that, so Nick Nolte ended up in the role.

15. JFK (1991)

Ford was Oliver Stone’s first choice to play district attorney Jim Garrison in JFK, but he was unavailable, on a long vacation. Kevin Costner played the part instead.

16. Jurassic Park (1993)

Sam Neill in 'Jurassic Park' (1993)
Sam Neill in Jurassic Park (1993).
Universal Pictures

Ford could have been Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill). Spielberg claimed he offered the role to the actor at the 30th anniversary screening of Raiders of the Lost Ark after Ford said Spielberg only hired him for the Indiana Jones movies.

17. Outbreak (1995)

Producer Arnold Kopelson asked Ford to play Sam Daniels, but he said no. Dustin Hoffman, who became famous 10 years before Ford after he beat him out to play Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate, said yes.

18. Half Baked (1998)

Dave Chappelle asked Ford to make a cameo in Half Baked. Ford declined, without giving a reason.

19. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore, Paschal Friel, Rolf Saxon, and Adam Shaw in 'Saving Private Ryan' (1998)
Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore, Paschal Friel, Rolf Saxon, and Adam Shaw in Saving Private Ryan (1998).
Paramount Home Entertainment

Spielberg considered both Mel Gibson and Ford before tapping Tom Hanks to play Captain Miller, in an Oscar nominated performance.

20. The Thin Red Line (1998)

Sean Penn, on behalf of director Terrence Malick, called Ford and asked him to appear in the war epic alongside him, Adrien Brody, George Clooney, John Cusack, Woody Harrelson, John C. Reilly, and John Travolta.

21. Runaway Bride (1999)

Ford, Mel Gibson, Michael Douglas, and Ben Affleck were set to play Ike Graham during the 10-year development process. Richard Gere got the role as part of a Pretty Woman reunion with Julia Roberts and director Garry Marshall.

22. The Patriot (2000)

Ford believed the movie would be too violent. Mel Gibson was okay with that.

23. The Perfect Storm (2000)

George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, John C. Reilly, William Fichtner, Allen Payne, and John Hawkes in The Perfect Storm (2000)
William Fichtner, John C. Reilly, Mark Wahlberg, George Clooney, Allen Payne, and John Hawkes in The Perfect Storm (2000).
Warner Home Video

Air Force One director Wolfgang Petersen wanted to work with Ford again, but he turned the lead role of Captain BIlly Tyne down. After Mel Gibson wanted too much money, George Clooney got the role.

24. Proof of Life (2000)

Ford and, once again, Mel Gibson could have played Terry Thorne in the action movie. Instead, director Taylor Hackford told the studio he preferred Russell Crowe for the role, and won the argument.

25. Traffic (2000)

20th Century Fox decided they only wanted the Steven Soderbergh-directed project if Harrison Ford agreed to star. Ford became interested before backing out, and the major studio did, too. The movie ended up being produced by USA Films, and won four Oscars.

26. The Sum of All Fears (2002)

Ben Affleck became the third actor to play Jack Ryan when Ford and director Phillip Noyce couldn’t agree on how to fix the script.

27. Insomnia (2002)

Ford and director Jonathan Demme worked on getting an American remake of the Norwegian thriller made. Ford was to play police detective Will Dormer but Christopher Nolan ended up directing, and Al Pacino took over the lead.

28. Syriana (2005)

Ford had questions over the validity of some of the geopolitical story involving petroleum products and the oil industry, only later finding that the parts he found untruthful were taken out. He said he wished he took the role of Rob Barnes after seeing the movie. George Clooney ended up playing Barnes, and won a Best Supporting Actor for his work.

29. A History of Violence (2005)

Ford turned down playing small-town diner owner/mobster-in-hiding Tom Stall in David Cronenberg's crime thriller. Viggo Mortensen got the gig.

This story has been updated for 2020.