Goodbye, Dolly: With Their Bids, Followers Maintain Onto Carol Channing

LOS ANGELES — For males of a sure age — and it’s largely males — Carol Channing was one thing of an obsession. They waited by stage doorways from Broadway to Tampa for her to emerge. They devoured the “Hi there, Dolly!” solid album as youngsters, watched her on tv and within the motion pictures and, at instances, dressed up in drag to impersonate her — the exaggerated pink lipstick, the drone of a nasal voice, the wide-eyed comedic supply and the burst of puffy hair.

So there was an viewers prepared and ready when a lot of the Channing property went to public sale final month, greater than two years after she died at the age of 97 in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

All 400 objects offered out in eight hours, in fact, and the public sale, approved by Channing’s heirs, raised near $406,000 from 6,000 registered bidders, with a few of the proceedings going to charity. Followers snatched up the Tony and Golden Globe Awards, the robes, shawls and footwear, the tattered scripts, the needlepoint pillows and the wigs. A few of this Channingabilia was fairly expensive: A 1964 Tony for “Distinguished Achievement in Theater” went for $28,125, whereas a glamorous pink costume she wore parading down a staircase within the title function of “Hi there, Dolly!” drew $23,750.

“We’ve got held movie star gross sales previously, however this was totally different,” mentioned Joe Baratta, the vp of improvement on the Abell Auction Company, which is dealing with the property. “There have been objects that had been worn, had been used, had been touched by her, and presents that got to honor her profession.” (One other 300 Channing objects shall be auctioned in September).

Given the pandemic, there was no in-person thrill — paddles within the air, an auctioneer with a gavel on a podium. It was all finished on-line and by phone, with bidders, and lurkers, at their screens. Individuals who needed to examine the merchandise may head to the Abell warehouse in Commerce, a metropolis simply east of downtown Los Angeles. However many of the objects had been purchased sight unseen.

By whom? Right here’s a have a look at three superfans who introduced their checkbooks (or no less than Venmo accounts) and walked away with a bit of Carol Channing’s six a long time in public life.

David Turner is an actor (most up-to-date Broadway present: “The Boys within the Band” revival) and a business pilot who flies for Angel Flight East. As a university scholar, he waited hours for Channing by the door of a Hartford, Conn., theater after a “Hi there, Dolly!” efficiency. He was a trouper; by the point she emerged, Turner and his boyfriend had been the one two followers left.

“I didn’t say a phrase,” Turner, 46, recalled the opposite day. No autograph request, both. “I felt it will be predatory. I simply watched her transfer.”

By that evening in Hartford, his Channing bona fides had been past dispute. Again in 1977, he was already enjoying — and enjoying and enjoying — a music off the “Free to Be You and Me” kids’s compilation on which Channing carried out (extra speaking than singing) “Housework.” As a 15-year-old in New Jersey, he started doing an impersonation on the suggestion of an 18-year-old boyfriend who instructed him that when he had a chilly, he gave the impression of Carol Channing.

He nonetheless does it to this present day, and is hoping that one of many Channing robes he now calls his personal will be pressed into service for a drag efficiency, assuming he can squeeze into it.

“I do ‘Diamonds are a Lady’s Finest Buddy,’” he mentioned of the music from her breakout function as Lorelei Lee within the 1949 musical “Gents Favor Blondes.”

It was Turner’s first public sale, and he discovered it somewhat intimidating. However by the tip, he had purchased 25 objects: an Al Hirschfeld sketch of Channing, eyes large and with an exaggerated grimace; a number of attire and costumes; a shirt monogrammed along with her initials; a pair of faucet footwear; and that 1964 Tony.

Fact be instructed, it made him somewhat queasy — was this ghoulish? he questioned — earlier than deciding that this was a effective strategy to protect the reminiscence of somebody who had been such an enormous a part of his life.

“She had a method of getting a room to zing,” he mentioned. “For me, being a part of the public sale was wanting to hold on to that feeling.”

“I liked her,” he added. “And Carol is in some ways a really bizarre individual. She was the primary one that actually took no matter it was that was bizarre and hitched her wagon to it.”

Nicky Ciampoli lived with Carol Channing for the final years of her life. Don’t learn an excessive amount of into that. He was her private assistant, a job he started when she was nonetheless touring, and he stayed on as age caught up along with her and she or he stepped out of the highlight.

Channing divided her time between Modesto and Palm Springs, and Ciampoli remained along with her in each locations.

For $25,000 he snagged 18 items to carry on to the reminiscences: the marriage outfit from her 2003 marriage to Harry Kullijian (she later repurposed it for ebook signings); two flapper attire by Bob Mackie; a pink tuxedo Ciampoli helped her placed on for performances.

“I’d have purchased extra if I may,” he mentioned. “I didn’t purchase the stuff as a result of it was Carol Channing, the Broadway actress. I purchased it as a result of it was very sentimental on lots of ranges for me.”

Ciampoli met Channing in January 2006, when he was 21 and dealing for a theater producer who had booked her in Tampa for 3 performances of her solo present “The First Eighty Years are the Hardest.” He was assigned to take care of Channing and Kullijian throughout their keep. A bit later, again in California, she referred to as to ask if he may turn out to be her full-time private assistant.

As a part of his job, he would undergo a big storage in Modesto filled with artifacts of her life — costumes, wigs, letters from folks like Joan Crawford and Barbara Walters. A lot of that materials was destroyed by water, bugs and rats, and at one level, he employed a 1-800-GOT-JUNK dump truck.

“You wouldn’t imagine what we threw away,” he mentioned. “Outdated cellphone books. Photos and scripts. Scrapbooks.” However some was saved — “scrapbooks that didn’t have rat poop” — and made it to the public sale.

Ciampoli by no means acquired to see Channing in “Hi there, Dolly!,” which, over a number of stints on Broadway and on tour, she carried out some 5,000 instances. And now? You guessed it. “I’ve began impersonating Carol,” he mentioned. “I’m not only a fan. I had a lot private involvement with them.”

“My bed room was proper subsequent to them in Palm Springs,” he added of Channing and Kullijian, who died in 2011. “They had been like grandparents to me. I used to sit down in her bed room watching previous TV reveals — Andy Griffith.”

Brig Berney logged on to his laptop on public sale morning together with his eyes on one large merchandise: the 1995 Lifetime Achievement Tony that Channing received for bringing “Dolly” again on tour. Berney had been firm supervisor for that revival, overseeing the day-to-day enterprise affairs of operating the present, from payroll to journey.

However that was method down on the record of trophies on the block, and Berney, now the corporate supervisor for “Hamilton,” determined that ready it out in such a aggressive public sale was too dangerous.

As a substitute, he snapped up her particular 1968 Tony in a successful bid of $14,000.

It’s now could be perched on “a stunning previous music stand” in the lounge of his Manhattan condo. “In case you have a Tony Award, you may as effectively show it in a spot of honor,” he mentioned. “No cause to place it in a drawer.”

Additionally in his take: needlepoints that followers despatched to Channing and a Theater World Award naming her a promising character of the 1948-49 season.

Berney had really met Channing years earlier than he began engaged on her reveals. “Hello, Dolly!” got here to to the Morris A. Mechanic Theater in Baltimore in 1978 and Berney, a wide-eyed teenager, wrangled his method backstage to get his program signed.

She little doubt forgot that encounter some 20 years later once they related once more. However she was, he mentioned, charming and affected person as he peppered her with the questions of a theater fanboy: “What was David Merrick like? What was it prefer to open ‘Dolly’ in New York?”

“I liked asking questions,” he added. “She liked to speak, and I liked to hear.”

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