Today marks the 8th anniversary of Carol Channing and Harry Kullijian's wedding after a 70 year separation!My blog today is their story.I am SO LUCKY to call them my friends.
The first time I met Harry was when Carol was appearing in THE FIRST 80 YEARS ARE THE HARDEST. A part of a series called SINGULAR SENSATIONS at The Village Gate with Glen Roven. Harry welcomed me with open arms and insisted I stay in touch. Every time they have been in NY since then, they always fit me into their ALWAYS busy schedule. Last year, I was lucky enough t interview them both at Barnes and Noble Lincoln Square in conjunction with her latest CD, FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE. I stayed at their condo in October when Carol received her star on the PALM SPRINGS WALK OF FAME. Two of the greatest people I know and an inspiration to us all. This is their story.
This is my anniversary gift to them. I hope they and YOU enjoy this!
I'm a sap for great love stories:GONE WITH THE WIND, WUTHERING HEIGHTS, LADY AND THE TRAMP. But if you want to see a truly amazing love story, don't miss CAROL CHANNING: LARGER THAN LIFE produced and directed by Dori Berenstein, edited by Alan Zuker, and co-produced by Harlan Boll. (all pictured here). Dori Berinstein is a Tony-winning Broadway producer of "Thoroughly Modern Millie," "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "Fool Moon." She's also an award-winning documentary filmmaker, chronicling a toy-making competition, "Some Assembly Required," and an entire Broadway season, "Show Business: The Road to Broadway."
It is the truly amazing story, not only of Carol Channing's amazing career, but of this truly amazing love story of Carol and Harry Kullijian.Carol and Harry were junior high school sweethearts at Aptos Junior High (now called Middle School) in San Francisco. She had an entire new battery of faculty members and students to take home in her imagination. They both had a love of the arts. Harry led the school band. Carol ran for vice-president of the student body and he wrote her campaign song, "When I'm vice president..." Carol gravitated to the school band because she needed them for her campaign song.
Her slogan was "If Carol is your vice, it's a virtue." The president and vice president functioned with, and were elected by , the entire school. Harry and Carol were both serious students. They developed a passionate love of the arts. He gave her a book of poetry by Edgar Allan Poe. Their favorite poem being Annabelle Lee. He says Carol was his Annabelle Lee. Harry and Carol were both serious students. On weekends, they would go for ice cream, and with the little bit of cash his band brought in, he could buy.
Harry confided to Carol's mother how affectionate she was to him. He had a serious talk with both Carol's parents (without her), assuring them, "I will never get your Carol into any kind of trouble".
Carol says "Being With Him was the happiest time in my Life"
Their love story is passionate, tender, and enduring. When Harry's family spent summers in Southern California, he wrote her love letters. He even had a conversation with Carol's parents, promising to take good care of her. Carol's father said, "I like that boy."They both remember a rare kiss at Carol's house.
They met in their early teens more than 70 years ago, in 1933.
"When I first saw him", she says, "he looked biblical, as if he should have been sitting on Mount Sinai eating a fig." According to Carol, Harry had silken, bronze skin; long, almond shaped eyes that stretched almost to his ears; and that "sweet contented smile with which camels in the holy land are born.Standing in the sun was a bronze god, so you can imagine why I never stopped hugging and kissing him.Gorgeous! The Turks are built with wide shoulders and great strength. I simply felt extremely girly-girly standing next to a boy-boy, and he treated me as suck".
Harry, too, was smitten.Harry said that at first he was intimidated by Carol's family. But they were so warm to him. Harry's father was a tailor, a Turkish immigrant who'd only gone through sixth grade.
Although Harry was proud of her accomplishments, he wanted all of her time on weekends.
Like most great love stories, they drifted apart. He went off to military school because it was the natural course of things. They agree that although they were not together, they always remained connected spiritually.
There were bleak years for Carol. Breaking into the New York theatre world was daunting, and whenever she was rejected, she thought of Harry.
She would think of Harry because being with him was the happiest time of her life.
Carol, of course went on to a smashing success in the 1950's Broadway musical GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES.
Then in 1964 she tore up the great white way as matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levi in HELLO, DOLLY!It's no surprise that Carol has won numerous Tony Awards and a Golden Globe.
On occasion over the years, Harry tried to contact Carol just to send his regards but he could never get through.
As most of you know, Carol had been married. Three times prior to Harry. The last being a lengthy one in which she was mistreated. She used to ask if God really loved her, and was "He" watching out for her? "Look," she told God, "I know that YOU exist. Help me, please!" She wanted a sign. You won't believe this, but around the same time, Harry also prayed, " Lord, I'm lonely (his wife had just died) and if you want it so, I'll be alone."
Their prayers were answered.Carol wrote her memoir, JUST LUCKY I GUESSCarol Channing, took on her most challenging role yet: as the author of this funny, ribald, and moving memoir. In her book, Carol described Harry as "exotic and beautiful," and recalled that she loved hugging him.
Mervyn Morris of the Mervyn Department stores was a neighbor of Carol's near Palm Springs. Merv read Carol's book AND found a matchmaking opportunity as irresistible as it would have been to Dolly herself. He just read how dearly Carol felt about Harry in the past, so he gave Harry Carol's number.
Carol recalled that even after 70 years she was not nervous while awaiting Harry's call, " I knew him too well," she said, " and I'd loved him."
Their reunion at the condo was explosive. No doubt in Harry's mind was that Carol was about to come his wife. Their romance took off from there.
He proposed to Carol at a breakfast for 35 people who were their neighbors. It just evolved. Once again, she could not stop hugging and kissing him. Harry began to help Carol with work challenges, such as planning Carol's performance schedule and making sure her management was honest.
The invitation to their wedding showed a picture of Carol and Harry from their junior high days.
Carol said that Harry made her feel so girlie and feminine even though she was wearing a silk PANTS suit and low heels. They now laugh at the memory of their quick Thoroughly modern-day courtship and admit that part of the rush is that they WAITED to be intimate until THEY were man and wife.
People were and are so intrigued by their romance that when they appeared on THE LARRY KING SHOW on CNN, all lights on the incoming phones lit up.
Carol has been performing her one-woman show to rave reviews across the county and overseas.
She and Harry treasure their homes in Modesto, California and Palm Springs.
Their story is all about hope. Society is at a place in history where LOVE and respect seem to be fading away, but they are helping to change that by respecting the institute of marriage. The love they have is invigorating, and they are younger than springtime.
And their LOVE for each other extends to a love of instituting the arts back in education. So today, I want to remind you of the DR. CAROL CHANNING & HARRY KULLIJIAN FOUNDATION FOR THE ARTS.
The Arts are among the most important things we learn about in school. They provide a well-rounded education not based on a test's requirements.
Every study of how to make cities more attractive to prospective citizens, new businesses, etc. says that a thriving arts scene is a key issue. So of course the local yokel politicos ignore that and invest in new stadiums.
The return to the teaching of the arts in the public schools requires that each state and its citizens reevaluate, reexamine and rethink the benefits to be derived from a complete and adequate education that includes exposure to the arts as a part of the regular curriculum. Education, not only in the arts but education as a whole in California and throughout the United States must be lifted to a considerably higher priority. If we do not act upon this soon and begin serious discussions about remedying this increasingly serious lack of the standards for which this country was known, we are at risk to lose the main ingredient of the world class goals of a true democracy. On May 2nd, 2009. The Children's Arts Advocate Award 2009 - the state PTA's first such award - was presented to the First Lady of Musical Theatre during an appearance at the organization's 110th annual convention. She and her husband, Harry Kullijian spoke to a crowd of thousands of PTA members and delegates, representing the organization's nearly 1 million volunteer members in the state of California.
Once again, Happy Anniversary, Carol and Harry! Wow! What you have accomplished these past eight years! I can't wait to see what the next eight years bring!
Everyone, if you love Carol and Harry as much as I do, please make a contribution to The Dr. Carol Channing-Harry Kullijian Foundation For The Arts!
(PLEASE NOTE: The sources for this blog were MY BOYFRIEND'S BACK
5o True Stories of Reconnecting With A Long-LOST Love by Donna Hanover
and JUST LUCKY I GUESS: A MEMOIR OF SORTS by Carol Channing
Happy Tuesday to you all!
All you have to do today is bask in the LOVE and talent that surrounds you!
(Buy JUST LUCKY I GUESS: A MEMOIR OF SORTS by Carol Channing)Available at Amazon
Tomorrow's blog will be YOU TELL ME...the first three suggestions I receive!
Please contribute to the DR. CAROL CHANNING & HARRY KULLIJIAN FOUNDATION FOR THE ARTS: http://www.carolchanning.org/foundation.htm
TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED WEEK!
Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com