Harry Kullijian!

                           "We are not trying to save the arts. We are trying to save our children."
                                                                           -Harry Kullijian

My dear friend, Harry Kullijian died yesterday. He would have been 92 today. God, did I love that man. He was/is the role model upon which I wish to base my life. At an age where most people want to settle back and just let life run its course, he was relentless and unstoppable in his determination to see that every kid in America was exposed to an education in the arts. Most people know him as Carol's husband...and was he ever!...He LOVED Carol so much. You could feel that love every time you spoke with him or saw them together. My most precious memories are those private moments when it was just the three of us together. The way they looked at each other is truly indescribable. You will get a glimpse of that love in Dori Berenstein's documentary opening next month.

[Image via Joseph Marzullo/WENN.]
When I got the call from Harry's daughter, Missie, yesterday that Harry had passed on, I was in disbelief and shock. I still am.
I felt that nothing could bring that man down It would take an aneurism to do that. If I write everything I feel about Harry, this blog would never end.
I'm reminded, especially at this time of year, of the film It's A Wonderful Life. Yes, for most of MY life, I did not know Harry. However, at this point, I can't imagine my life without Harry. I remember when Mary Martin passed on and someone spoke of these circles of light that surround each other and how these circles intertwine in our lives with each other and that, of course, in MOST instances, makes it a wonderful life.
Imagine if Carol and Harry had never met?

They truly did have a fairy tale story. To see it in most of it's technicolor glory, go see Dori Berenstein's incredible documentary, Carol Channing: Larger Than Life next month. Yes, it is Carol's story but Harry deserves equal star billing on so many levels. Of course, in case you don't know the story, they were junior high school sweethearts. After going through the adolescent trials and tribulations of a "puppy love" relationship, they drifted apart.
But in the decades between that first romance and 2003 when they were married, Kullijian would lead an active, busy life. 
He married Gerry Amos in 1942, and they would have two children.

He served in World War II as an artillery officer and would be recalled to duty for the Korean War, serving in Europe, before moving back to Turlock in 1952.

AP Photo/Richard Drew, File
In this Oct. 18, 2005 file photo, Broadway legend Carol Channing introduces her husband, businessman Harry Kullijian, during a performance of her one-woman show in New York.
Carol, of course, would go on to have an incredible entertaining career. Carol had three marriages prior to Harry. 
Her last marriage, to Charles Lowe, lasted 47 years. 
Her first husband, Theodore Naidish, was a writer. Her second husband, Alexander Carson, played center for the Ottawa Rough Riders Canadian football team. They had one son, Channing Carson, who took his stepfather's surname and is now a Pulitzer-prize-nominated cartoonist publishing under the name Chan Lowe.
In 1956, she married her manager and publicist, Charles Lowe. They remained married for 42 years, but she abruptly filed for divorce in 1998.
He died before the divorce was finalized. After Lowe's death and until shortly before her fourth marriage, Carol's companion was Roger Denny, an interior decorator.After Charles' passing, like Dolly Levi, Carol pulled up her bootstraps and had to get in step with the human race again. 

It was even announced that Carol and Roger were going to get married. 
On February 25th of 2002, I appeared with Carol and the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus. I met Roger at that time. 
Shortly afterward, she was on The View announcing her upcoming wedding. She even dedicated her memoir, Just Lucky I Guess to Roger. BUT there was mention in Carol's book on page 15 of her first love. She is writing her adolescent years at Aptos Junior High School (now called middle school). 
She writes about the leader of the school band, Harry Kullijian. Carol writes that she was so in love with Harry that she couldn't stop hugging him. 
Carol's father, George said, "I like that boy." "Harry", Carol writes, " was the most exotic, beautiful thing I had seen since Uday Shan Kar, India's great concert dancer, who appeared at the Curran Theatre."

"His profile had the graceful line of that on an Egyptian coin. His father looked like a throwback to the Ottoman Turk Army...the one that fought the Crusaders in the medieval days, at least according to the drawings in our school history texts." She was very much in love with him. They both shared a love of the arts, both performing and visual. But like most adolescent relationships, they drifted apart. 

Here's my favorite photo of the two of them... after a recording session. They just adored one another.Photo credit: David Messick
I met Harry shortly after they married. From the moment we met, I felt like I had known this man ALL of my life. He welcomed me with open arms. He have me his card and told me to call anytime. 
Read my blog on their 8th anniversary that tells THEIR STORY: Here 
 That was September. I didn't call until Christmas. I called to wish them both a merry Christmas. He wanted to know what took me so long to call.
EVERY TIME they were in New York, they ALWAYS made time for me when their lives were being pulled in opposite directions. 
Photos Alan Mercer   Hair & Make-up: David Blackstock
I did the first benefit for the Dr. Carol Channing-Harry Kullijian Foundation for the arts, June 5th, 2007!
I am very proud of that night. From that point on, EVERY show I have done over the past 4 years have benefited the Foundation. Last month, we did a tribute to Jerry Herman. We were able to send almost $2,000 to The Foundation.
Earlier this year, I had many legal woes surrounding my tribute to Carol. Both Harry and Carol were incredibly supportive. Harry called weekly to see how I was faring through this difficult chapter in my life. He even wanted to set up a legal fund to take care of me. Of course, I turned him down.
I flew out to Palm Springs last year when Carol received her star on the Palm Springs walk of Fame. When I asked for hotel recommendations, Harry opened up their home to me. I cherish the time that Harry and I shared discussing the state of the world and especially the mission to restore an arts education in EVERY public school in America.
Photo credit: Chris Barnes

I will carry on this torch for Harry! What a legacy! 
I last saw Harry in May when they were in New York for the premier of Dori Berenstein's film. We continued to talk every couple of weeks.
Harlan Boll, Carol, Harry, me at Feinstein's Carol's opening night

Harry and Carol were scheduled to come to NY next month for promos for the film. 
Those plans, however, got sidelined. 

Because the film is being shown at The Palm Springs Film Festival next month, Danny and I are going out there to be there for that AND we are traveling to LA for the showing at the Paley Center on the 18th. Of course, seeing Carol and Harry was something we very much were looking forward to. I last spoke with Harry last week. He was his usual jovial self and we both were looking forward to next month. I called on Christmas Day. He was not available to speak, but I was told that he would call me yesterday. When I got a call at 5PM and saw Harry's name on the caller ID, I immediately started singing, "Hello, Harry! Well, Hello Harry"...as I did when he called. I did not expect to hear that this Life Force had passed on. I will not say Passed Away because he will ALWAYS be with me. I am surrounded by many pictures of Harry on my office walls. We are connected through Dori's film for ever. And ALL of my memories with Harry are positive memories. We NEVER had an argument or disagreed on anything! How many people can you say that about. Happy Birthday, Harry! You have made many people happy and this is just the next chapter! I just can't imagine not having our monthly catch-up calls!

Obituary for Harry Kullijian
Born:December 27th, 1919 in Turlock, CA
Died: December 26th, 2011 in Rancho Mirage, CA

Co-founder of the Dr. Carol Channing and Harry Kullijian Foundation for the arts and husband of the legendary Broadway legend and screen icon, Carol Channing, passed away today at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, CA due to internal bleeding caused by an aneurysm The Carol & Harry romance is the subject of the soon to be released and critically acclaimed film by Tony Winner Dori Berinstein on Jan 20, 2012 entitled "Larger Than Life."

Tirelessly dedicating his recent years to their dream of establishing support for Arts in education that ensured that youth will be exposed to the arts, that could then benefit them in other scholastic areas. The Channing/Kullijian Foundation established scholarships, produced a critically acclaimed PSA and inspired a resolution authored by Rep Jackie Speire, which passed the House and the Senate in Dec, 2010.
Harry went home to be with the Lord on December 26th 2012 in Rancho Mirage, CA. Son of James and Theresa Kullijian. Survived by two children, John Kullijian, of Richmond, TX., and Leslee “Missie” Fennell of Los Altos California; five grandchildren , Casey (Gary) Hill, Kelly (Chris) Confair and Tiffany (Sheldon) Epperly; and Jonathan and Thomas Fennell as well as 5 great-grandchildren. Family background including farming in Livingston CA., later Harry was raised and educated in San Francisco and entered the military in 1942 upon graduation from the University of San Francisco. Several members of his father's were included in the 1914 genocide of Armenians while other family members moved to the US from Marsavan Turkey. Harry’s mother was born in Fresno, California in 1892. 

Her family emigrated from Turkey and became prominent farmers in California. Father James moved the family to San Francisco in 1923 and opened a tailor shop. His education was directed towards a law degree but the outbreak of World War II interrupted his entry into law school. He went directly into military service as an artillery officer. Harry and Gerry Amos were married in 1942. Harry earned three battle stars including China, Burma and India. He returned home and became a real estate broker and building contractor. A friend invited Harry and Gerry to an international convention of the Christian Businessmen Association. They received an invitation to receive Jesus Christ in September of 1947 and by faith they made that decision. In 1950, he was recalled to the European theater of operations during the Korean conflict. He returned to his birthplace following his tour of duty and began farming after a move to Modesto with his family in 1955. Harry became involved in many programs for social causes and community affairs. He later was elected to the Modesto City Council and served two terms. Following his political career he entered an important phase of his life; the fight against pornography. Not a fight at all but a turning to morality, truth and decency. He was one of the founders of CLEAN (Citizens Leading Effective Action Now). Finding the will of God and carrying the will of God into the battle was the greatest revelation and truth in his life, giving him the opportunity to share with others that simple message of salvation. After the death of his wife, Gerry (June 2002), he was reunited with his junior high school sweetheart, Carol Channing. The two were married in May 2003 and in 2005 started the Dr. Carol Channing and Harry Kullijian Foundation for the Arts. This non-profit corporation was established to herald the return of arts in education to all public schools. As youngsters the two of them were influenced by poetry, music and dance and knew that the arts help children develop their self-worth and creativity as well as reduce drop-out rates. No services will be held. In lieu of flowers please consider contributions to The Channing-Kullijian Foundation 101 First Street #555, Los Altos, CA 94022 (channingarts.org).
Carol Channing is an American Treasure who sings, acts, and is a first rate comedienne. She is the recipient of three Tony Awards, including one for lifetime achievement, a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination. Carol is best known for originating, on Broadway, the musical-comedy roles of bombshell Lorelei Lee in 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,' and matchmaking widow Dolly Gallagher Levi in 'Hello, Dolly!' Read more here

Carol Channing with Louisa Castrodale at Cielo Vista Charter in Palm Springs. Courtesy photo
Recently, Louisa Castrodale was asked to assist with putting together a segment involving children for Carol Channing's Christmas show. That is very much in keeping with her job coordinating arts in their school district, andshe was happy to help. What she didn't know was that she would fall in love with Carol inside of 10 minutes! I  could have told her that!  READ MORE
Harry Kullijian was one of the kindest, most professional men I have ever had the pleasure of knowing or working with.  You could always depend on Harry for an encouraging word, intriguing conversation, or a good laugh.  His devotion to his wife, Carol, his family, and his charitable endeavors was immense.  I know Harry is looking down on us all from the great cloud of witnesses in Heaven.  He will certainly be missed by those who loved him and called him "friend."
                                                   -- Chris Barnes, Homesick Entertainment
Photo credit: Chris Barnes

Carol and Harry with Dori Berenstein Photo credit: Patty Gay
As a journalist, I have been fortunate to interview Carol Channing twice — once by phone about a high school production of "Hello, Dolly!"  and once in person at the Tribeca Film Festival at the screening of Carol Channing: Larger Than Life.

Both times I was also fortunate to speak with Harry as well. It was clear that he was passionate about bringing the arts to underprivileged children through the Dr. Carol Channing and Harry Kullijian Foundation for the Arts. His enthusiasm reminded me of a famous line from Dolly, "Money, pardon the expression, is like manure. It's not worth a thing unless it's spread around, encouraging young things to grow." Harry not only talked the talk, but he walked the walk and helped many young children grow.

When Richard Skipper introduced me to Carol and Harry at the film festival this spring, at most I expected to have just a moment for a quick hello. But no, Harry was very generous and invited me to sit next to him and Carol for a chat. Harry's love for Carol wasn't something he expressed overtly or loudly. It was just something you could feel. From the gentle way he joked with her, flattering and sometimes teasing, to the quiet way he held her hand and looked into her eyes, Carol's face would light up as he recounted stories about their past. He would whisper something into her ear and she would get a great big smile on her face.
Photo credit: Patricia Gay

I was so glad to see my childhood icon genuinely cared for and happy. It only takes a moment to be loved a whole life long. And she and Harry had that moment and that love.

Patty Gay


Harry Kullijian and Carol Channing had a love story that only could be written about in fairy tale books. He the prince charming and she the beautiful princess.

Larry Fergoson with Carol and Harry Photo credit: Larry Ferguson
Harry Kullijian, was my friend, business associate, and a role model for others. His professionalism mixed with his loyalty, and love for his wife Carol Channing, only made me strive for excellence within my own life. It seems so unreal, that I spoke with him last week, his last comments to me were, "Oh Larry, you, Carol, and I have great things ahead kiddo". 

Knowing, that I will be unable to pick up the phone to call him or to email back and forth with him will be an adjustment. However, knowing, I will see him again, in Heaven, that great place we both believed so strongly in, only make me more anxious to go there..

At this point I hope everyone will turn their thoughts, prayers, concerns, love, and good wishes to his devoted wife Carol Channing, and daughter, Missie Fennell. I love you both, and should you need me, I'm only a phone call away. Much love and admiration to your entire family. -Larry Ferguson
We first met Carol and Harry in 2007 when they came to NH to help me raise money and awareness about HIV/AIDS. It was love at first sight and Harry quickly came to represent the grandfather I never had. We talked for hours about every topic under the sun. He had na insatiable and genuine interest in everything.

We took him and Carol to a local music school where they delightfully participated in the class being held and then held forth on the subject so dear to their arts - arts funding in the schools and the importance of what they hoped to accomplish as their legacy.

Governor John Lynch, the only four-time Governor in NH's history, welcomed them to the State House and on that visit and on their return to NH in 2008, named a Day after them.

Harry talked to the Governor about arts in the school and on the day of their June, 2007 performance in Concord, the NH Legislature passed a bill that defined an "adequate education" as including the arts. Carol and Harry had tears in their eyes as they learned this news.

When we shared a box with Harry at the Hollywood Bowl in September, 2007 to watch Carol perform with Pink Martini, the look of pride, love and unabashed joy on Harry's face as he watched his wife perform before some 20,000 people who couldn't stop rising to their feet, was a look that few of us are ever the recipient of in our lives. It was so apparent that this man adored his wife and vice versa.

A phone call from Harry was never less than an education in itself. His knowledge and desire to constantly learn more was an inspiration and certainly made me want to always be a work in progress as he was.

Although we've talked on the phone frequently - right up until about a week and a half ago - the last time we saw Carol and Harry was in the spring of 2009 when she performed at the Magic Castle in Hollywood. It was a joyous reunion of friends and since learning the horrible news, have replayed the evening in my head over and over.

Carol is beloved the world over but Harry provided something even deeper and more meaningful that kept a girlish sparkle in her eyes that was beguiling. Carol, Harry's daughter Missy and the world have lost a champion. Gos bless him.
Paul Brogan

My friend, Bobbie Horowitz, wrote a special song for Carol and Harry:
Over The Top Is The Place To Be
Words & Music by Bobbie Horowitz


I knew I was born to make you smile ever since I was a little child.

But, Daddy said, “Carol go to Bennington first

It’s wise to get smart if you plan to be wild.”

So I did what Daddy said and I used my head as well as using my heart.

And my head said, “Carol, Ya gotta be big if you want to land a great big part!


Some people say that I’m over the top.  But I say, “That’s the place to be.”

‘Cause when you’re flyin’ high over the top there’s so much more you can see.

I see the goodness, the badness, the gladness and the sadness

Up here I can distinguish between sanity and madness

I can really feel real when I’m over the top.  So why not fly up here with me.

Help me send kids flyin’ over the top!  That’s where they’ll feel safe and free.

From up there they’ll see that the world’s got enough. Plenty for them, you and me!

When they’ve got theater and writing and painting - life’s exciting!

The arts will fill their hearts and they will feel their souls igniting!

Kids can really feel really real when they’re over the top. So help them fly up here with me!!!

                        (Final Tag)

Let’s all go flyin’!  Help them fly up here with me!!!!

(c ) 2011 Bobbie Horowitz, ASCAP

Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!

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Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com

he des between that first romance and 2003 when they were married, Kullijian would lead an active, busy life. He married Gerry Amos in 1942, and they would have two children.

Read more here: http://www.modbee.com/2011/12/26/2001829/harry-kullijian-former-modesto.html#storylink=cpy

We're not trying to save the arts, we're trying to use the arts to save our children.

Read more here: http://www.modbee.com/2011/12/26/2001829/harry-kullijian-former-modesto.html#storylink=cpy


  1. Richard - What a brilliant and heartfelt tribute to an unforgettable man. I can just hear Harry modestly thanking you for your sentiments. On behalf of everyone who loves Carol and Harry - thank you.
    Paul Brogan

  2. Richard ,

    What a lovely tribute to Harry , a wonderful friend to you . Wonderful remembrances as well , he certainly will be missed . Thank You for writing such a wonderful piece about an amazing man . My deepest sympathies are with Carol Channing and her family during this difficult time . I am sure she knows that she has so many people thinking of her during this sad time .
    John Bagley

  3. Harry became my neighbor when I moved back to Modesto in 1974. We found each other through our common interest, music. Once he found out we had a pipe organ in our garage, he was over playing it. Little did we know that years later he would be married to Carol Channing, and that we would be playing organ duets in their living room as Carol cheered us on!
    Harry has always been a great inspiration to me, and I have always had nothing but the deepest respect for the man. I will miss our heart to heart conversations and his council.I will always be grateful to him as being Carol's manager, for allowing me to be a creative partner in he and Carol's projects as songwriter,arranger,accompanist and producer.
    Last but not least, I am thankful to have met two wonderful ladies that were the apple of Harry's eye...Carol and Missie! If he could speak to you two at this moment his words would be: "The Show Must Go On!"

  4. What a beautiful tribute, Richard! Harry's spirit lives on in you, in Carol, and in the many other people he influenced and loved.

  5. Carol Channing and my father Harry Thompson worked together on Hello Dolly. That era represents such a large part of my childhood. What a way to grow up! Thank You!


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