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Carol Channing

by David Westheimer


When my wife, Dody, and I read about the sad, turbulent final years of Carol Channings marriage to Charles Lowe, it brought poignancy to our memories of the happier days when we knew them.

We met them in the Fifties. I was television editor of The Houston Post and she was playing the Emerald Room of Glen McCarthys Shamrock Hotel, the haunt of Houstons jet set, the site of which is now a parking lot. Id interviewed Carol and said nice things (richly deserved) in the paper. Charles Lowe, her manager and husband, called and thanked me. 

Dody and I met him, and Dody met Carol, when I reviewed her Shamrock show.  That was one of my perks as TV editor. I got to take Dody to all the shows. (That started long before we were married; one of our dates was to see Sonja Henie with Houston Post freebies).

We had one of the early color sets in Houston and Carol wanted to watch the Academy Awards before her performance as we were two hours earlier than West coast time. She asked Dody if it was okay to wear tights when she would later put on her costume. We picked her up in her tights at the hotel.  Ensconced in front of the set, she wanted to know if we would mind if she put on her eyelashes. Of course we didnt. Dody watched fascinated while she did it without a mirror. And she put on her contact lenses, too, without using a mirror, moistening  them with saliva. (Later, when I got contacts, I remembered her technique and used it in emergencies). Throughout the Oscars she entertained us with the inside juicy about all the stars.   Best Oscar Awards we ever watched.

 Our son, Eric (the veterinarian), was then six or seven. He had a glass replica of the Rock of Gibraltar that looked like a big polished but uncut diamond. He knew her big song was Diamonds Are a Girls Best Friend so he gave it to her. She noticed he had to go outside in the rain to sharpen his pencil in a sharpener we had fastened by the door. Later she gave him one of those sharpeners you can carry around in your pocket.

The Lowes invited us to an early dinner. They wanted to go to a deli. We didnt know what that was until they explained it meant delicatessen. We had one of those in Houston. Our teenage son, Fred, was invited, too, with a date.  Eric was too young to join us. Fred had a date with a pretty girl named Candy Goldfarb. She was impressed. She would have been even more impressed if she had known Fred was going to grow up to be a senior vice president at the William Morris Agency in Beverly Hills and Carol Channing would be among his clients.  

He was one day to have the Lowes and us to dinner in the home he shared with his wife, Susan, and their three children. She brought her own dinner. Something out of a pressure cooker that looked like boiled lamb. She was allergic to most of the spices commonly used in cookery. Made her throat close up, I think.  Anyway, despite the strictest instructions, chefs apparently could not resist adding something to give a dish flavor.

Carol helped Eric impress a date, too. He was fourteen and on his schools bus tour cross country from Los Angeles, where we'd moved to by then, to the East Coast.  She invited him to a Broadway production of Hello, Dolly.  I thought shed given him her house seats but when I mentioned that when I told him I was doing an article about her for, this is what he e-mailed:

Actually, we had to sit on the steps in the last row of the mezzanine because it was an SRO show.  But we went back stage and the girl that went with me (I was all of 14 but Etta was 15) was sooooo impressed when Carol said, Come give your Aunt Carol a kiss!  I did tell Etta that she wasnt really my aunt a couple of days later.

Carol gave Dody and me our own special thrill when she came to Los Angeles in a roadshow version of Hello, Dolly. She gave us her house seats, right up front and center. She was up near the footlights just before a big number and she shaded her eyes and looked out into the audience and counted the rows aloud, then the seats, One, two, three, four. Westheimers.

Peace, Carol Channing.


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