When it came to Super Bowl halftimes, Carol Channing set the tone
On the phone, history-making NFL figure Carol Channing. You mean you didn’t know she was the first Super Bowl halftime star?
Before her 1970 appearance, Super Bowls had featured only marching bands. Then Channing came marching in, and the game’s halftimes would never be the same. In fact, Super Bowl halftime is now considered the most-watched entertainment event in the world.
She turns 93 on Friday and doesn’t hear well. Over the phone, my questions about her pioneering performance in New Orleans get bantered back and forth like fumbles on a frosty field, her assistant trying to help, her publicist graciously stepping in, me trying to make sense of it all in my usual ham-handed way.
Wish I had a recording. It was journalism’s version of Garo Yepremian’s pass. Here’s an excerpt:
Me: Carol, what do you remember of that first halftime show back in 1970?
Channing: We didn’t rehearse at all. Louie Armstrong was wonderful to work with.
Voice on other end: Carol, I think that was ’72.
Channing: It’s a way of living. I loved it.
Me: Are you a big sports fan?
Channing: I’m a theater fan.
Me: Anything else?
Channing: We were the first entertainers at halftime, and then it went so well that they’ve been doing it ever since.
Me: Hello, Carol?
So obviously, she’s still far more lucid than I’ll ever be. She’s also the answer to one of the best sports trivia questions of all time:
First-ever Super Bowl halftime star turn: “When the Saints Go Marching In,” with Carol Channing and the Southern University band (Super Bowl IV).
And the wide-eyed singer isn’t done.
Just after Christmas, Pepsi did a new spot with Channing that includes local musician Otis Hutchins and a dozen other local musicians at a legion hall in the San Fernando Valley. Called “Pepsi Old-Timers,” it’s part of a series on the importance of halftime.
As the song goes: Nice to have you back where you belong, Miss Channing.
My prediction is that the best-received commercial Sunday will be the Volkswagen spot with the wings. But Pepsi is nailing this series of commercials about halftime, including the clever one on how the mid-game break first came to be.
Speaking of predictions, in this beast of an East Coast winter, the first-ever outdoor game in snow country will be frost-free Sunday, according to forecasters.
Unless: “Worst-case scenario would be if the [computer] models here misread the disturbances, and if the models are off by five to six hours, you don’t have a snowstorm but you could have some snow,” the Weather Channel’s Sam Champion says from snowbound Atlanta.
Champion is talking about a small weather system moving through Saturday night, slightly to the south of the New Jersey game site.
The front has the potential to zig when it should zag. More likely, he says, skies will be dry with temperatures in the mid-30s at kickoff.
The weather is going to be a topic right up the game time, he says. “If it turns out to be a dry day, it’s a little hallelujah, because it’s an oasis in this otherwise bad winter.”
To me, it’s a hallelujah moment if serious snow tumbles from the sky, blankets the field and comes spilling out of the TV screen and directly into my beer cooler.
The Super Bowl almost defies parody. Take for instance Seahawks fans, also known as the 12th Man for their raucous presence at home games.
Suffering from a very high-grade Super Bowl fever, a Seattle couple this week legally named their newborn daughter Cyndee Leigh 12th Mann.
I know exactly what you’re thinking: Oh Mann ...
Those wiseguys at Bovada, the online sports book, offer these Super Bowl bets:
-- Over-and-under on the number of times Peyton Manning says “Omaha”: 27.5
-- What will be higher: the number of seconds it takes Renee Fleming to sing the anthem, or Manning’s passing yards in the first half?
-- Will the stadium power go out?
For six months, football has filled our living rooms, changed our downtime, our diets, our social lives. Then it is over, and it’s as if Lucy has pulled away the pigskin again.
When football ends, the only part of me that is happy is my liver.
Great season. Happy Super Bowl.
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