The larger than life Broadway icon Carol Channing has died at her home in Rancho Mirage, California, at the age of 97. She was best known and cherished for originating the lead roles in the original Broadway productions of Gentlemen Prefer Blondesand Hello, Dolly!, as well as her Oscar-nominated performance in the movie musical Thoroughly Modern Millie.

Carol Channing. Photo © Allan Warren

Born in Seattle on January 31, 1933, Channing’s interest in theatre was sparked at the age of seven. Rather than give a speech explaining why she was fit for student council, she elected to do impressions of her teachers instead, earning laughs that made performance an appealing career choice. She moved to New York to pursue her dream after a brief stint at Bennington College, Vermont.

Channing’s career first took off when she starred as flapper Lorelei Lee in the 1949 musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. The production ran for two years on Broadway, followed by an extensive national tour. She would return to Broadway for musicals Wonderful Town, The Vampand Show Girl, spending much of this first decade of fame either performing in musicals or touring a nightclub...