Credo: Carol Channing 

Carol Channing has been a San Franciscan since she was 2 weeks old. The recipient of three Tony awards and a Golden Globe award and Oscar nominee will be performing at the 16th Annual Help is On the Way, an AIDS benefit concert, on Aug. 15 at Herbst Theatre in The City.

Is there one person who had a big influence on you?
Yes. My father had a tremendous influence on me.

Tell us about growing up in The City.
I went to Commodore Sloat Grammar School in St. Francis Woods in San Francisco. It was my first time on a stage: the school’s auditorium. Someone, Bobby Schmaltz, nominated me. [I had to make a speech.] You go up those five steps, and those steps are still there. I got up there; my knees were shaking. Being an only child, I would have “tea parties,” with the principal of the school, Miss Berard. I would sit in her chair and then pour her tea. So I turned into her. I found every excuse to go into her office because I was so fascinated by the way she talked. She laughed, and so did everyone in the auditorium. Because she knew there was no malice in it. That was my first comedy lesson: no malice. I did Mr. Schwartz, the chemistry teacher. I came home that night and asked my daddy, “Can I lay down my life and be center stage?” He said, “You can lay down your life anytime,” and said these are the happier people.

Do you have a golden rule by which you live?
No. Helen Hayes said to me once: “Stage fright is god-given.”

You reconnected with your junior high school sweetheart (Harry Kullijian) and married him after almost a 70-year separation?
He was 83. I was 82. I wrote in my book about my first love. Girls remember their first crush. I had no idea he was still alive. Mervin Morris of Mervyn’s read it [my book] and said, “Oh my gosh, that’s my business partner.” He called Harry and said, “I have her private number; I’ll give it to you.”

Where do you find inspiration?
We [my husband and I] found it in poetry and the arts of San Francisco when we were little kids. It was everywhere. San Francisco when we were growing up was a metropolitan art colony. I got to see Japan’s greatest entertainer, the greatest dancer in Chile. I got to take dance lessons from Jose Cansino, Rita [Hayworth] Cansino’s  brother. …

Is there something about you that people would find surprising?
I’m almost always working, and people keep asking me so they must like me.

About The Author

Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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