Carol Channing, the Broadway legend that entertained and inspired many with her roles, has died at the age of 97.
The entertainer’s publicist, Harlan Boll, confirmed her passing to CNN on Tuesday. Channing, who would have been 98 at the end of the month, passed away from natural causes at her Rancho Mirage home in California.
In a touching statement, Boll announced Channing’s death and recalled the times they spent together:
“It is with extreme heartache, that I have to announce the passing of an original Industry Pioneer, Legend and Icon – Miss Carol Channing. I admired her before I met her, and have loved her since the day she stepped … or fell rather … into my life. It is so very hard to see the final curtain lower on a woman who has been a daily part of my life for more than a third of it. We supported each other, cried with each other, argued with each other, but always ended up laughing with each other. Saying good-bye is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, but I know that when I feel those uncontrollable urges to laugh at everything and/or nothing at all, it will be because she is with me, tickling my funny bone.”
Channing was born in Seattle and raised in San Francisco where she lived with her parents, devout members of the Christian Science religion.
Distributing copies of The Christian Science Monitor outside venues is what led her to the theater, and by age seven, she knew what she wanted to do with her life.
Channing credits her father for the encouragement that helped her reach for her dreams, DailyMail.com reports.
“He told me you can dedicate your life at seven or 97. And the people who do that are happier people.”
Channing dropped out of college to move to New York to pursue her dreams. After a couple of understudy and minor roles, the raspy-voiced performer struck gold with 1949’s Broadway musical "Gentleman Prefer Blondes."
Her role as the materialistic yet innocent gold-digger Lorelei Lee became one of her signature characters, and her breathtaking rendition of the song “Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend” became one for the books.
Channing wrote her name in gold again when she starred as Dolly Gallagher Levi in the 1964 production, "Hello Dolly!"
During her lifetime, Channing won three Tony Awards and an Emmy. She was also nominated for an Academy Award and inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Channing was married four times and had one child -- cartoonist, Channing Carson -- with her second husband, the late Canadian football player Alex Carson.