Carol Channing, who won over audiences with a giddy, guileless charm in trademark roles in “Hello Dolly” and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” died on Tuesday at the age of 97, her publicist Harlan Boll said.
Channing died of natural causes at her home in Rancho Mirage, California, after having suffered multiple strokes last year, Boll said.
In a career that spanned seven decades, the saucer-eyed, raspy-voiced musical-comedy star never shook her associations with matchmaker Dolly Levi from the 1964 Broadway musical “Hello Dolly!” or gold digger Lorelei Lee in Anita Loos’s “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.”
Still, unlike many stars who are linked strongly to the characters they have played, Channing was pleased to be identified with Lorelei, as well as Dolly, a role that won her a Tony Award.
“Audiences expect and demand I sing these songs,” she once told a reporter of her signature tunes, “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” and “Hello Dolly.”
“I’m lucky to be so closely associated with both ‘Diamonds’ and ‘Dolly.’… I’m luckier than most — I have two identity songs.”