Bette Midler remembers ‘one of the great afternoons of my life’ with Carol Channing

Bette Midler as Dolly Levi in the 2017 Broadway production of "Hello, Dolly!"
(Julieta Cervantes)

Bette Midler is among the numerous admirers who are paying homage to Carol Channing, the unsinkable Broadway legend who originated the role of matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levi in the musical “Hello, Dolly!”

For Midler, who revived the role of Dolly in the 2017 Broadway production and earned a Tony Award for the part, “there was only one Carol Channing, and there will never be another,” she said in a lengthy statement to The Times on Tuesday.

Channing died on Tuesday at the age of 97, and tributes from Hollywood to Broadway spoke highly of the beloved actress, just as Midler did.

“She was that rarest of stage creatures, an absolute original. From her instantly recognizable voice to her stature, which was close to 6 feet, with her wide-eyed take on the world she crept into theater-goers’ hearts and took up permanent residence there,” Midler said.


She also recalled a particularly memorable afternoon with Channing.

“When Scott Rudin invited me to play Dolly in 2016, I immediately thought of her and went to visit. How could I not? She had played the part over 7,000 times around the world, and to the world, she WAS Dolly. It was one of the great afternoons of my life.

“She was gracious and she was generous, sharing with me the legends, the lore and the mechanics of Dolly, much of which had been lost in time,” Midler added. “I will forever be grateful to her for lighting my way to one of the most magical experiences of my performing life, and for the hours I spent in her company. I flat-out adored her and send her fans, her friends and her son, Channing Lowe, my condolences, although as far as I am concerned, she will live forever.”

Midler stepped away from the show in 2018, and Broadway star Bernadette Peters took over the titular role. On Twitter, Peters honored Channing by saying that “she was show business and love personified.”

Another famous Dolly, Barbra Streisand, who portrayed the character in the popular 1969 film adaptation, also paid her respects on Twitter.

“Carol was a true life-force … a kind and effervescent woman who never allowed the parade to pass her by!” Streisand wrote.

The musical is still being staged across the U.S., and its touring cast, including new star Betty Buckley, said Tuesday’s performance in San Diego would be dedicated to Channing.

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