PALM SPRINGS, Calif.—A Palm Springs Emmy party with a New York theatrical Twist last week in the desert. Veterans of the Great White Way, such as Kaye Ballard, as well as new comers to the boards of Broadway like Alison Arngrim, joined legend Carol Channing for a Palm Springs Emmy night party with a New York theatrical twist, featuring performances by Tony nominated Jonelle Allen (“Two Gentlemen of Verona”) singing “Stormy Weather” and Kamilah Marshall’s (“Hairspray” and “Rent”) moving rendition of “Orange Colored Sky,” while Rex Smith (“The Scarlet Pimpernel,” “Grand Hotel” and “Pirates of Penzance”) offered “This Is The Moment” and Davis Gaines (“The Phantom of the Opera” and “Camelot”) revived his role of Cornelius Hackle opposite Ms. Channing by singing “It Only Takes A Moment,” as well as the still powerful voice of former Vegas and Playboy Club headliner, Barbara Van Orden, whose return to the stage gave patrons a bold and bawdy rendition of Chicago’s “When You’re Good To Mama.” And, of course, the evening biggest mother hen, Ms. Channing herself graced the audience with her latest battle hymn “The Show Must Go On.”
The Dr. Channing/Kullijian Foundation’s Executive Director, David Green, designed the evening to raise both funds and awareness of the need for Arts in education. “Children need the Arts in order to express their individual personalities, to discover their own voices and to alleviate their frustrations brought on by society in a safe atmosphere of the school system. What do you think graffiti is? Just children without an outlet to express themselves,” said Green. Among the highlights of the evening was a presentation of the first Arts Star Award to Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), who authored joint resolution HR 275, a concurrent resolution designating a week in September as “Arts in Education Week” and then successfully champion it through a unanimous vote in both the U.S. House and the Senate last year.
Carol Channing is arguably one of the most recognized and impersonated entertainers in entertainment today, or for the past four decades for that matter. At the age of 90, when many women would be happy to just accept accolades for past career achievements and bask in the well earned title of First Lady of the American Musical Theatre, Channing made the conscious decision to remove the diamonds, set aside the lashes and dispose of the wigs in order to dedicate the rest of her life, along with her husband Harry Kullijian, to restore the arts back where they belong, in our country’s public schools. Channing’s October appearances to advance the cause consist of a benefit Q&A at Disneyland on October 2, an autograph show (for which all items purchased will benefit the C/K Foundation) in Burbank on October 8 and 9, appearing on stage with Broadway notables such as Hugh Jackman and Catherine Zetta-Jones on Oct 15, in Los Angeles and then off to Houston Texas for a benefit luncheon at the Huffington Center, followed by a CD signing at Barnes & Noble (River Oaks Shopping Center) on Oct 26, and a lot more. May we just say, “Look at the Old Girl Now Fellas!”
She and her husband, Harry Kullijian, founded The Channing-Kullijian Foundation For The Arts, whose mission is to restore the arts to every public school in the nation and to ensure an arts education to every child in America. “We aren’t trying to save the arts,” says Channing. “We are using the arts to save our children.” With that thought firmly embedded in her message, Ms. Channing has been using her highly recognizable voice to engage the public and inspire legislators. The songs on her upcoming CD entitled “Carol Channing: True to the Red, White and Blue” such as “God Bless America,” “Battle Hymn of The Republic” and “America The Beautiful,” were written at a time when our nation needed to rally together in support of a common ideal. The CD, with portions of the proceeds benefiting the foundation, represent Ms. Channing’s fervent hope that these same songs, will now ignite a sense of pride in the American public and serve again as a call to action for our children.
The statement found on the inside of the CD cover states “Research shows that students involved in the arts learn to read more easily, have higher achievement levels and are less prone to dropping out. Early arts participation also dramatically enhances our children's abstract reasoning and higher brain functions required for math, science and engineering careers. If you've benefited from exposure to the arts in school like I did, you know it builds self-confidence, self-discipline and teamwork. And, ultimately this creates better, safer schools for our kids. The long-term enrichment of exposure to the arts is priceless both to each individual and to our country. This is about our children, our grandchildren and our country's future,” wrote Carol Channing.
Photographs are Courtesy: J.L. Maurer Photography