Saturday, March 07, 2009

You're still goin' strong ...




This past Tuesday night I had one of the most unusual and memorable evenings. I had been invited to see Carol Channing inaugurate a new cabaret series at L.A.'s Magic Castle, a huge old mansion sitting on a hill off Franklin Avenue in Hollywood that is a kind of private club for magicians. Historically, entry is granted only to members and invited guests. For this new cabaret series, however, a limited number of tickets are available to nonmembers.

I was looking forward to the event mostly because I've never seen Carol Channing live -- not even in one of her 5,000+ nights spent playing Dolly Levi in the many iterations of Hello, Dolly! over my lifetime. So there was a certain camp factor. Also, I had never been inside the Magic Castle, so it seemed like it would be a great combination.

I was not prepared for effect she would have.

First of all, our seats were amazing. A stage-side table on the stage-left side in what was already an incredibly intimate room. When the 88-year-old Miss Channing finally took the stage, she was never more than about 10 feet from us -- most of the time considerably closer. She's had a couple of hip operations in the past year, so she moves very carefully and is wafer thin. There is a certain fragility in her physical presence. But mentally? Emotionally? Intellectually? This woman is so sharp. I was blown away by her intelligence. I think she might be off-the-charts MENSA smart.



She mostly told stories, sprinkled with snippets of songs here and there. But among her first bits was a recalling of her initial audition for the president of William Morris all those years ago. Coming from a small, intellectually rigorous women's college in New England (Bennington), she thought for sure he would appreciate a serious song in old French telling the story of Orestes. And suddenly she's singing it, in this low, gutteral voice. And it just keeps going! It was at turns hilarious and mind-bogglingly impressive. For an encore with the big wig at the agency, she sang a song in some ancient language that was written in 9/5 time ("Oh, you know about that?" she says with flawless timing when audience members laugh at the obscure time signature). She borrows a drum from her drummer and proceeds to bang out 9/5 time and begin this bizarre chant-like number. I don't know if it translates here, but I just couldn't believe my eyes and ears! It was like some strange celebrity fringe festival act. The cognitive dissonance of watching the daffy Dolly Levi acting out such a moment was delightfully disorienting.

She has incredible recall of events and conversations, or certainly a finely-honed aptitude for making it appear so. And to watch that razor-sharp comic timing as up close as you can be was a dream.

Among those sharing the room with me and Miss Channing were Lily Tomlin and her longtime partner, Jane Wagner. Lily has an old bit about RSVP'ing for events as "Lily and, maybe, Jane," because Jane is a famous last-minute canceller. Well, Jane was there, so Carol must rate. And watching those two incredible talents watching Carol Channing was a treat in and of itself. Lily was like a good student, soaking up every bit of business and watching with appreciation and wonder.

The event was meant to benefit a new initiative Miss Channing is launching to get the arts back in California public schools. Most people at 88 wouldn't take on such an ambitious mission, but that says something about her restless spirit and mind I suppose.



This photo shows her greeting Tippi Hedron on her way out. I like it because you can fully appreciate the incredible condition she is in. There aren't many 88-year-olds who can take off their white jacket part-way through a show and continue to perform in a tight, shiny turtle-neck number, but there she was.

Again, I went thinking it would be a hoot and came away inspired by this woman's incredible mind, unstoppable energy and brilliant gifts of timing and presence. An unforgettable night.

52 Comments:

At 3:23 PM, Blogger Anne-Marie said...

Chris,
How amazing for you! She certainly sounds like a trouper. I think those old Hollywood types from the bygone era have an incredible spirit and work ethic that is not always evident with today's set.

I'm so glad you shared this with us. It sounds like you had a lovely evening.

I hope all is well in your little corner of the world. I'm heading to NoCal for my usual spring break on Saturday- can't wait to be snow-free.

xx
AM

 
At 10:24 AM, Blogger Paul said...

Love your story about the evening. I was there having flown in from NH with my partner to attend. Carol has come to NH twice in the past 18 months to help raise money for AIDS and has raised more than $ 50,000. She is indeed a dynamo and you brilliantly captured the evening. Thanks for sharing that.

 
At 10:35 PM, Blogger Chris Capp said...

A-M: Always nice to see you here. Glad you enjoyed this post. I agree about the work ethic. Carol Channing played Hello, Dolly! for more than 5,000 performances and never missed a show. The other night she commented that when she might be feeling under the weather, she'd just think about the people who had saved their money, traveled a distance and looked forward to that performance and then she'd "call upon the heavens" and somehow get through the show. Now we have Jeremy Piven quitting a Broadway run because his mercury count was high. Enjoy the Bay Area and the [comparatively!] warm weather.

Paul: How nice that you found me and my little post! I love that you traveled all that way to see the show. I was NH for Christmas this past year at my sister's home and it was a wonderfully white Christmas. I even enjoyed the novelty of shoveling snow! Thanks for the kind words and please do come back.

 
At 5:50 AM, Blogger VallyP said...

What a great post Chris. so incredibly inspiring! I only hope I can live to be half as on the ball and on the edge as the incredible Miss Channing. She looks amazing for her age as well.

A great privilege to have seen her show, and one I'm sure you won't forget in a hurry.

Hope you are well, and sorry to have been so absent. Life, you know ;-)

 
At 7:17 AM, Blogger ahva-rahn said...

You are getting out and about. Sounds intriguing. I'm not getting to do the things I want these days, but I expect it's my fault.

The world is too much with us, late and soon, getting and spending we lay waste our powers. Wordsworth said that over two hundred years ago. And nothing has changed, Chris. And to all intents, most folk are still at it, more intensely too. On reflection, I'm guilty, and have drifted to spending time on less important things. I need to take your heed and do things that inspire. I now have a piano. It's therapy.

I’m thrilled to hear from you, and more so since you come bearing a mild kick to me arse. We need to use our time wisely. Thanks for the shout out and the encouragement.

Be lucky
Paul

 
At 5:00 PM, Blogger Cathy with a C said...

Hi, Chris

I haven't been using my time wisely and just now am getting around to visiting my favorite blogs. Spring is here this weekend, but I hear that Monday will be cold and rainy again.

Hope all is well with you and your loved ones.

Cathyxox

 
At 2:57 PM, Blogger VallyP said...

Hope you are well Chris!

 
At 6:23 PM, Blogger ahva-rahn said...

Hi there!

Hope you are well. 4 years later and internet streaming is cheaper and everyone seems to be at it. This one is interesting (from your back yard) live now: http://kevinpollakschatshow.com/

be well Chris
Paul

 
At 11:08 PM, Blogger Brya56615 said...

wonderful ..................................................

 
At 5:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

我從來不認為不同意我的看法就是冒犯..................................................

 
At 10:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

沒有友情,人生何樂?........................................

 
At 11:37 PM, Blogger 皇雯 said...

很喜歡你的blog哦...加油唷 ........................................

 
At 11:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

你的部落格很棒,我期待更新喔........................................

 
At 6:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

書籍是全世界的營養品,生活裡沒有書籍,就好像沒有陽光......................................................

 
At 12:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

may the blessing be with you.........................................

 
At 5:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

keep sharing with us, please....I will waiting your up date everyday!! Have a nice and relax day! ..................................................

 
At 7:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

非常感謝~3Q~....................................................

 
At 4:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

haha~ funny! thank you for your share~ ........................................

 
At 10:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks ~ ~ I will come back yo~................................................................

 
At 8:24 PM, Blogger ginab said...

update, mister CC. UPDATE!

 
At 9:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

欣賞是一種美德~回應是最大的支持^^.............................................

 
At 12:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

才華在逆境中展現,在順境中被掩藏。..................................................

 
At 6:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

裸照裸女愛愛無碼尋夢視訊聊天a漫a片a圖一夜情一葉情人妻激情情色寫真美女自拍辣妹自拍正妹自拍美女走光辣妹走光正妹走光脫衣秀脫衣走光色情自慰自拍成人全裸打炮打手槍打飛機巨乳巨奶女優大奶

 
At 7:41 PM, Blogger Dorath政儒yN_ said...

你不能改變容貌~~但你可以展現笑容..................................................

 
At 6:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

真正的友誼,有如健康失去時,始知其價值..................................................

 
At 6:17 PM, Blogger ginab said...

small

craft

warnings

(insert the date today)

I wrote a paper on this play. Maybe I'll find it one day, part of a dream of mine.

but, you're reading Isben?

holy cow!

 
At 12:36 AM, Blogger 友辰友辰 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 1:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

很期待新的內容,支持你.................................................................

 
At 7:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

在莫非定律中有項笨蛋定律:「一個組織中的笨蛋,恆大於等於三分之二。」......................................................................

 
At 1:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

河水永遠是相同的,可是每一剎那又都是新的。......................................................................

 
At 6:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

人不能像動物一樣活著,而應該追求知識和美德............................................................

 
At 7:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

人有兩眼一舌,是為了觀察倍於說話的緣故。............................................................

 
At 1:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

向著星球長驅直進的人,反比踟躕在峽路上的人,更容易達到目的。............................................................

 
At 12:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

教育的目的,不在應該思考什麼,而是教吾人怎樣思考............................................................

 
At 8:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

累了嗎?來杯咖啡休息一下吧!............................................................

 
At 8:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

好久沒有這樣輕鬆享受閱讀的樂趣了~~留個言邀您分享我的快樂~~............................................................

 
At 5:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

人生最重要的一件事,就是從生活中認識你自己。............................................................

 
At 8:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

感覺很用心經營呢!鼓勵鼓勵.................................................................

 
At 6:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

人生有如洶湧的波濤,如果沒有岩石的阻擋,怎能激起美麗的浪花?.......................................................

 
At 6:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

獨居時,要反省自己的過錯;在社會大眾之間,則要忘卻別人的過失。..................................................

 
At 8:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

不要去想沒拿到的東西,多想想自己手裡所擁有的..................................................

 
At 2:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

人生最重要的一件事,就是從生活中認識你自己。............................................................

 
At 7:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

良言一句三冬暖,惡語傷人六月寒。......................................................................

 
At 7:09 PM, Blogger 家唐銘 said...

一棵樹除非在春天開了花,否則難望在秋天結果。............................................................

 
At 6:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

友誼能增進快樂,減少痛苦............................................................

 
At 4:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

成熟,就是有能力適應生活中的模糊。............................................................

 
At 8:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

人類的聰明,並非以經驗為依歸,而是以接受經驗的行程為依歸。..................................................

 
At 3:48 AM, Blogger 王辛江淑萍康 said...

從人生中拿走友誼,猶如從生活中移走陽光......................................................................

 
At 4:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

財富並非永遠的朋友,但朋友卻是永遠的財富。......................................................................

 
At 3:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

時間可證明一切~你的BLOG是我覺得不賴的............................................................

 
At 8:42 PM, Blogger 王郭亮珠郭亮珠郭亮珠建人 said...

生命如夏花洵爛;死如秋葉之靜美。........................................ ........................

 
At 6:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

教育的目的,不在應該思考什麼,而是教吾人怎樣思考......................................................................

 

Post a Comment

<< Home