Friday, July 23, 2010

Tommy, Carol, Carol, Tommy

Tonight I met my idol. From the first time I saw her on The Love Boat (alongside Ethel Merman, Della Reese and Ann Miller) back in the early 80s to the time when I was 10 and saw her as the White Queen in Alice in Wonderland I have adored Carol Channing.

As I grew up I came to love her as Muzzy Van Hossmere in Thoroughly Modern Millie and as a guest host on The Muppet Show singing "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend"as a duet with Miss Piggy.

I threw myself into her career, digesting cast recordings of Hello, Dolly and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. I couldn't get enough.

Ever since I've been cuckoo for Carol. Any of my friends will tell you so.

So when I was invited by my friend David to join him on a VIP trip to the Barnes & Nobles at Lincoln Center I about fell out of my own skin. She would be talking about her new CD, For Heaven's Sake, whose proceeds are going to support arts in education.

The adventure began when we arrived and were given blue wrist bands and then asked to stand at the back of the line. That's weird, I thought but in my joy of getting to meet Carol I didn't really mind. As long as we got in I was happy. After about 30 minutes of waiting in line David did a double check with the head of the event (who we hadn't seen earlier) and, of course, there had been a small glitch when the underling mistakenly gave us blue wrist bands. Red wrist bands were the answer and we were quickly whisked inside and seated just three rows back from the dais.

Carol entered from the "wing" and was immediately gracious with her great big grin smiling at the crowd.

She took her seat on the stage, along with tribute artist and entertainer Richard Skipper and her husband Harry Kullijian. For almost an hour she talked about meeting Harry (who was her junior high school sweetheart and with whom she rekindled their old flame after she mentioned him in her book). Mr. Skipper acted as host, asking questions about Ms. Channing's new CD, how she and Harry met and how she has inspired legislation to return the arts to education.

She, of course, was hilarious. She turned the microphone around the right way when her husband started speaking, turning to the audience to apologize for him... "he's not one of us showbusiness types."

At the end of the hour she posed for some professional photos and the audience waited patiently until she was escorted to the signing table. The line for signings took about an hour but was well worth the wait. I nearly threw up on myself as I got closer to the table. What do I say?? The Barnes & Noble staff were quickly escorting people up to the table and then even more quickly escorting them away. No time to think! She took the CD booklet and in thick black marker signed it, "xxo, Carol Channing". "Hi," she was talking to me. Focus! Say something! "I just love you!" It was as though I'd vomited my emotions right onto the table. I couldn't help it. It just gushed out of me like some ridiculous rainbow of fandom. "Well I love you too!" You do!? I was ecstatic. Yes, I know she says that to everyone and yes, what she wrote on my booklet is the same thing she had written on everyone else's. But I didn't care. I said thank you, quickly turned to her record producer (who was kind enough to take my picture with her) and I was off.

I don't actually remember how I got home. I may have been in a post-Carol Channing coma. And now to listen to her new CD.

Raspberries everybody!

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