Tag Archives: Carol Channing

Wassup with those fabulous femmes on Smash? Hey now, don’t get me started! (Oops!Too late)

BROADWAY BABIES: Currently wowing them on the Great White Way in Gore Vidal’s The Best Man, veteran song-and-dance man Eric McCormack says he’d love to do another musical on Broadway, and would have

MCCORMACK: he’s the Best

played Che in the current revival of Evita if they’d asked him.  Unfortunately Ricky Martin got there ahead of him. Meanwhile, McCormack is onstage doing drama, while his Will & Grace partner Debra Messing is starring in a lavish new weekly series about building a Broadway musical. Can McCormack see himself doing a guest stint on Messing’s new series Smash? “Sure! I could go on the show in character, as Will Truman, lawyer. She could meet with me to discuss getting a divorce from her husband, Brian D’Arcy James. And then just as she’s leaving my office she could get this puzzled look on her face, as if she knows she knows me from somewhere but can’t remember where.” What happens then? “She leaves, and I get to do a big song about divorce!”

MCCORMACK & MESSING: dynamic duo

Messing, in the meantime, has been going through her own life-imitating-art-imitating-life drama. On Smash she cheats on her schoolteacher husband (the aforementioned Brian D’Arcy James) by having an affair with a Broadway leading man played by Rent star Will Chase. In real life she’s split with her hubby, screenwriter Daniel Zelman, and is spending most of her time with, ta-DAH! — Will Chase, who has also split from his wife.

HILTY: as MM in Smash

Meanwhile, Smash scene-stealer Megan Hilty, the buxom Broadway belter who desperately wants to play Marilyn Monroe in the fictional musical in the series, is actually playing the Marilyn Monroe role in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes this week on Broadway (the real Broadway.) And yes, I know, Carol Channing was the first and remains the most famous Lorelei Lee. But just to cap it all, on tonight’s episode of Smash Anjelica Huston makes her much-anticipated debut as a singer – and not with just any old song. Ms Huston sings a classic ballad from a classic, 74-year-old Broadway musical, Knickerbocker Holiday.

HUSTON: … from May to December

The timeless tune she warbles is September Song, introduced to audiences in 1938 by her grandfather Walter Huston. Now that’s show business!

QUOTABLE QUOTES:Mike Nichols was the director and I had a great audition. Tommy Tune personally taught me to tap, and everyone was really happy, except Lee Gershwin, Ira Gershwin’s widow, who said, ‘Over my dead body will that whore be in the show.’ That was when it changed for me and I thought, ‘Oh, this is not going to be easy, it’s not just about talent.’ She had no idea of who I was, what I had accomplished up to that point, and all the shows I’d done. That was an ‘aha!’ moment for me.”

WILLIAMS: tale teller

The speaker? Vanessa Williams in conversation with Broadway.com, describing her failed audition for My One And Only, one of several juicy morsels in her new autobiography, YOU HAVE NO IDEA: A Famous Daughter, Her No-Nonsense Mother, and How They Survived Pageants, Hollywood, Love, Loss (and Each Other), co-authored with her mom Helen Williams.

PAIGE: on with the show

SHE’S STILL HERE: After she finished her stint in the revival of Follies on Broadway – not to mention her first New York concerts ever, at Lincoln Center no less — British SuperDiva Elaine Paige treated herself to a “heavenly” holiday in Barbados. “I just lazed around, swam, read my book and caught my breath,” she reports. “Barbados was such fun and I managed to catch up with a couple of pals, Cliff Richard and Cilla Black. Both of them have places there and we went for a drink.  The next day Cilla flew home to the UK and upon arrival realized she’d left her mobile phone in Barbados – guess who became the ‘phone courier’? I safely brought it home to the UK and ensured it was returned to her.” La Paige is currently in L.A. doing Follies at the Ahmanson with Broadway cast mates Jan Maxwell, Danny Burstein and Ron Raines. (Tony Award winner Victoria Clark has replaced Bernadette Peters.) Meanwhile, Follies leads Maxwell and Burstein are both nominated for Tony Awards. And guess who’s nominated for a New York Drama Desk award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical? Ms. Elaine Paige. Which certainly won’t hurt Hollywood box office sales for Follies.

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Carol has her night on screen, Jian takes his show on the road, and Evan proves he’s a Prince of dance

HELLO, CAROL:  Broadway devotee Dori Bernstein’s new documentary Carol Channing: Larger Than Life opened the 12th Floating Film Festival last night, and Channing is such an irresistible presence on screen that we couldn’t help wishing the 90-year-old musical comedy legend was with us on board the Seabourn Sojourn as we sail into Caribbean waters. Bernstein, with Channing’s blessing, gently reveals the forces and conflicts and inner turmoils that drove Channing to succeed in show business in a way few others before her have achieved. The star studded cast of characters who share Channing anecdotes includes Lily Tomlin, Tyne Daly, Bruce Vilanch, Barbara Walters, Loni Anderson, Tommy Tune, Chita Rivera, JoAnne Worley, Rich Little and Tippi Hedren. And Carol’s first roommate Betty Garrett (whose last interview appears in the film) points out that their first screen kisses were with Frank Sinatra and Clint Eastwood. The film is a delight, full of insight and

THE NEWLYWEDS: Harry & Carol

inspiration. At times almost hypnotically fascinating, it also captures a bonafide love story when Channing, who has no illusions about her failings as a wife and mother, is reunited with her fist love, old school beau Harry Kullijian, after 70 years. In her late ‘80s, Channing marries for the fourth time, and together they launch the Channing-Kullijian Foundation to support arts education in schools. What the film doesn’t share with us is the touching real-life epilogue to their December-December romance. On Boxing Day they were at their desert home in Rancho Mirage when Harry, by now 92, suffered an aneuryism and died.       Small comfort, perhaps, but at least Kullijan had the pleasure of seeing Carol Channing: Larger Than Life, not to mention marrying the original, before his untimely exit. For which Carol, I’m sure, is genuinely grateful.

GHOMESHI: Montreal-bound

GOES TO QUEBEC: Host with the Most Jian Ghomeshi is admittedly “stoked” by plans to broadecast his top-rated CBC Radio show Q from Montreal on March 1. His live sold-out gig at the historic Le National theatre features some of Quebec’s leading cultural figures from the worlds of music, dance, comedy and film, including electronic music maestro DJ Champion and his band the G-Strings, who will perform live throughout the show;

LECAVALIER: high Q

comedian Sugar Sammy, dance great Louise Lacavalier, singer-songwriter Ariane Moffatt, and web TV star Simon Olivier Fecteau. Ghomeshi, who has previously taken to enthusiastic audiences in New York, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Chicago and Salt Lake City, says he’s super-excited about going back to Montreal with the show – and we believe him.

DIAMOND: sparking OCAD

MARCH BREAKS: Select nominees for the 32nd annual Genie Awards will be grilled on stage at TIFF Bell Lightbox on March 7, the night before the awards telecast on CBC. The special  In Conversation event will take place from 6:30-8pm. Seating is limited, so contact the TIFF Box Office sooner than later for tickets …  OCAD University prez Sara Diamond will host renowned digital culture theorist, data visualization artist and educator Lev Manovich on Friday, March 23. Manovich will give a free practical workshop and lecture exploring the dynamic field of information and scientific visualization. Both events are open to everyone … Goodmans’ good guy David Zitzerman is once again co-chairing the 12th Annual International Film & TV Finance 

McKIE: home town high

Summit sponsored by Bloomberg BNA/CITE on March 22-23rd  at the Luxe Hotel in L.A. … National Ballet guest artist Evan McKie has danced the role of the Prince in Sleeping Beauty before, but never on his own turf.  The Toronto-born Stuttgart Ballet star will dance the role here on March 11, his first performance in his hometown since training at the National Ballet School.

NO PEOPLE LIKE SHOW PEOPLE:  .. Next big film for Viola Davis is Won’t Back Down, a new drama about laws in California and a handful of other states that allow parents to dump bad teachers and overrule administrators in bottom-ranked schools. Davis plays a teacher who risks career and friendships to join the revolt. Maggie Gyllenhaalplays the single mother who sells cars, tends bar and rouses parents to take charge of their grade school. And Holly Hunter plays the union rep who fights the takeover.  Sounds like a natural for next September’s TIFF …  Rick Mercer goes skate to skate with the Winnipeg Jets tonight on The Rick Mercer Report at 8 pm on CBC … nominees for the 2012 Rose d’Or

MERCER & WINNIPEG CHUMS: When you're a Jet / You're a Jet all the way ...

Awards will be announced at a gala tonight in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia — the first time in its 50-year history that the Rose d’Or has held an event in Asia … and author Lawrence Hill will be presented with the Writers’ Union 2012 Freedom to Read Award tonight at the Book and Periodical Council‘s Freedom to Read event at the Gladstone Hotel. Union chair Greg Hollingshead said the Union chose Hill for “his reasoned and eloquent response to the threat to burn his novel The Book of Negroes.” Roy Groenburgof The Netherlands, taking offense to the use of the word “Negro” in the title of Hill’s novel, burned the cover and publicly threatened to burn the book. Hill responded that burning books “is designed to intimidate people. It underestimates the intelligence of readers, stifles dialogue and insults those who cherish the freedom to read and write. The leaders of the Spanish Inquisition burned books, Nazis burned books.” Too true.


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Billy rocks the Oscars — imagine our surprise — and Dusty Cohl’s floating filmfest sails again

CRYSTAL: Welcome home, Billy!

JUST A SIMPLE BOY WITH A DREAM: Yes, I watched last night’s Oscarcast. Just me and another billion people. And yes, it went on too long. It always does. But it was a splendid reminder of why we’ve missed Billy Crystal. Let’s hope Academy chief Tom Sherak can coax him to return next year.

BENJAMIN: filmfest honouree

ANCHORS AWEIGH: The one-and-only (as far as we know) Floating Film Festival sails from Fort Lauderdale today on a week-long movie cruise of Caribbean islands. Launched  by Toronto filmfest co-founder Dusty Cohl, and kept afloat after his death by filmmaker Barry Avrich, festival programmer Hannah Fisher and travel magician Rosemary Durham, this 12th (!!!) edition will visit San Juan, St. Barth’s, Antigua and the Virgin Islands while unspooling 15 new and classic films. Among this year’s gems is the hit 1969 drama Goodbye, Columbus, with stellar performances by Richard Benjamin and Ali MacGraw. Highlight of the voyage is expected to be an evening tribute to Benjamin, who will be accompanied on the cruise by his wife

REED: all at sea

Paula Prentiss. (More on the Benjamins as it happens.)  Also on hand to kibbitz and chide FFF 12 filmgoers are the film critics for the Chicago Tribune and New York Observer — respectively, Michael Phillips and Rex Reed (yes, that Rex Reed.) Tonight’s opening film is Dori Bernstein’s stunning biography of Broadway legend Carol Channing.  (More on that tomorrow.)

LINEHAN ON LINE:  Legendary interviewer Brian Linehan was one of the original Floating Film Festival crew members, interviewing stars on stage and usually making the voyage more exciting for all concerned. Good news is that, at

LINEHAN: on line at last

long last, dozens of Linehan’s television interviews are now on line for the whole world to see. Go to www.brianlinehan.ca and you’ll find hours of memorable moments with Daniel Day-Lewis, Mark Harmon, Bette Midler, Leah Pinsent, Christopher Plummer, Isabella Rossellini, Elaine Stritch, Kiefer Sutherland, James Spader, Barbra Streisand, Steven Spielberg and many more.  The three major organizations behind the website — the Brian Linehan Charitable Foundation, the National Screen Institute (NSI) and the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) – have done a remarkable job of putting it together. Says TIFF CEO Piers Handling: “Brian was the celebrity journalist everyone wanted to talk with, and we’re proud to be able to preserve and digitize some of those incredible interviews to be enjoyed by the public via the new website.”  We couldn’t agree more.

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Curious about Eppie? Just ask Ann Landers. And, the Who’s Who who cheered Barbra in the village

Ms LONELYHEARTS: After a memorable guest spot as a dying nurse on the first season of Edie Falco’s hit series Nurse Jackie, veteran stage and screen charmer Judith Ivey opens tonight at Manhattan’s Cherry Lane Theater in a one-woman play about legendary lovelorn advice columnist Ann Landers called The Lady With All the Answers.

IVEY: as Ann Landers

IVEY: as Ann Landers

The last time I remember seeing Chicago’s queen of hearts, as Eppie Lederer (her real name) was called, was at Chaz & Roger Ebert’s wedding. Eppie and Brian Linehan were hot-footing it on the dance floor when it started to get a tad too hot for Eppie. “Tame it down, tame it down!” she protested, and Linehan graciously acquiesced.

After dispensing sage advice to thousands of grateful readers, by the end of her career Eppie was most famous for failing to save her own marriage. Also, much to her chagrin, her daughter Margo Howard, who eventually took over her column, would marry four times. But then, when has a daughter ever really listened to her mother?

I was much better acquainted with Eppie’s twin sister Pauline, who was equally famous as the Abigail Van Buren of Dear Abby. In the days when newspapers ruled, the sisters’ columns competed with each other in rival journals. Ann Landers was in the Toronto Star, so Dear Abby ran in The Toronto Telegram (and later the Toronto Sun.)

ABBY & ANN in their heyday (AP)

ABBY & ANN in their heyday (AP)

Eppie was a permanent fixture in Chicago. ‘Abby’ lived in California and enjoyed it. Like her sister, she was bright, vivacious and always good company. One day I walked into Norman Jewison’s beach house in Malibu and Norman, ‘Abby’ and Washington columnist Art Buchwald were all sitting in the living room, busy debating a burning issue of the day. As I approached them Abby looked up at me and beamed.

“We met in Toronto two weeks ago!” she proclaimed, struggling to remember my name. “I know you!”

“I don’t!” said Buchwald with a shrug, and returned to debating with Jewison.

CHANNING: "Absolutely not!"

CHANNING: "Absolutely not!"

Identical twins born 17 minutes apart, the sisters also got a kick out of teasing people when they were mistaken for each other. One night I bumped into Eppie in the bar at the Four Season in Hollywood and started talking about mutual friends in Chicago until I saw the twinkle in her eye.

“Yep,” she said, grinning – “I’m the other one!”

Manhattan gossip girl Liz Smith says that years ago Eppie’s good friend Carol Channing wanted her Hello, Dolly! composer Jerry Herman to make a musical for her to star as Eppie. “To which Eppie said, ‘Absolutely not!’ But now there is a two-time Tony winner channeling Ann Landers,” adds Liz – “and everybody just hopes Eppie approves.”

VILLAGE PEOPLE: Yes, Barbra Streisand really did return to the tiny Village Vanguard club in Manhattan to perform songs from her new album, Love

STREISAND: stage fright?

STREISAND: stage fright?

Is The Answer, with only a jazz quartet behind her. (Chalk it up to the influence of her album producer Diana Krall. Not that there would have been room for an orchestra, let alone a band. “It’s hard to have stage fright,” Streisand remarked, “when, like, there’s no stage!”) Her audience, comprised mainly of contest winners from around the world, were thrilled to find themselves squeezed against such devoted Barbra boosters as Hillary, Bill and Chelsea Clinton, Nicole Kidman, Sarah Jessica Parker, Donna Karan, Barry Diller, David Geffen and composers Marilyn & Alan Bergman. Streisand was reportedly in glorious voice, and in addition to tunes from her new CD, she also reprised a few of her classics, including Evergreen (which she dedicated to a misty-eyed Bill Clinton) and The Way We Were.

Apparently you had to be there to believe it. And don’t you wish you had been?

TOMORROW:

What Julie Stewart and Dan Aykroyd are up to in Toronto.