Carol Channing, whose incandescent performances as the gold-digging Lorelei Lee in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” and the matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levi in “Hello, Dolly!” made her a Broadway legend, died Tuesday morning at her home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. She was 97.
Her death was confirmed by her publicist, B. Harlan Boll, in a telephone interview. She had suffered two strokes during the past year, he said.
Channing was bringing audiences to their feet night after night in a revival of “Hello, Dolly!” when she was 74 — appearing at the top of the staircase singing, “Wow, wow, wow, fellas,/Look at the old girl now, fellas,” resplendent in her scarlet gown and jewels, her platinum hair crowned with red plumage. Ten years later she was still getting applause, this time for a cabaret act. Nine years after that, just a few days before her 93rd birthday, she appeared at Town Hall in Manhattan as part of a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the night “Dolly” opened.
“Performing is the only excuse for my existence,” she said during her last Broadway appearance, in the 1995 revival of “Hello, Dolly!” “What can be better than this?"