Carol Channing revisits Bennington College

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(Host) Carol Channing returned to Vermont Monday, more than 60 years after she first arrived. Channing is best known for her leading roles in the hit Broadway productions of “Hello, Dolly” and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.” VPR’s Steve Zind reports:

(Music: “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.”)

(Zind) At 82, Carol Channing still looks just like… Carol Channing. Her wide eyes and expressive face have been the subject of countless caricatures. Her flamboyant personality and low, raspy voice have inspired plenty of drag queen impersonations, too.

(Channing) “They all have five-o’clock-shadow. George Burns, I went to one with him and I thought, ‘I don’t know who he’s doing. I can’t imagine who makes those crazy gestures.’ And George was laughing his head off. He said, ‘Carol, that’s you exactly.'”

(Zind) Channing says she finds introspection and analysis boring. She prefers to tell stories peppered with names of forgotten theatre people, quotes from her reviews, and tiny details from events a half-century ago. Her just published autobiography reads like Channing talks. It’s a fast paced, chatty account of a life in show business.

Channing spoke Monday night at Bennington College. She was sixteen when she took a train from her home in San Francisco and enrolled in the drama and dance programs at Bennington.

(Channing) “Bennington had some weird characters in those days. It was marvelous, they were eccentrics. They were all artists.”

(Zind) In the 1960’s, Channing’s opposition to Richard Nixon earned her a spot on Nixon’s enemies along with Jane Fonda and Dick Gregory. Her political days are behind her, but Channing says her show business days aren’t. Now that she’s finished her book, Channing says she’s working on a new act she’ll perform in casinos and night clubs.

(Channing) “Shirley Temple peaked at eight. Grandma Moses peaked at 70. You can see I haven’t got myself together yet at all, so I know the prime of life for me is just ahead, I’m sure it is.”

(Music: “Hello Dolly” “Wow wow wow, fellas, look at the old girl now fellas…”)

(Zind) For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind in Bennington.

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