There is no stage entrance more appropriate for a gay icon than a grand descent from the top of a staircase while being greeted by thunderous applause and a line of (probably mostly gay) chorus boys to serve as backup support. It’s an entrance that was immortalized by Carol Channing in her seminal performance as Dolly Levi, one of the most beloved roles in American theatre. Often dubbed “The First Lady of Musical Comedy” (a title she, herself, disagrees with: “I’m not the First Lady of Musical Comedy. The others [just] all died.”), the three-time Tony Award winner remains a shining emblem of Broadway’s Golden Age. Her work has conquered the mediums of theatre, television, film, and, as the first solo artist to headline a Super Bowl halftime show, even sports!
Carol epitomizes unabashed self-expression and individuality — a quality that makes her so beloved to the LGBT community. It’s practically impossible to define her as a performer. Her performances have always walked the fine line between the norm and the bizarre. When you watch her, you see a perfect blend of leggy starlet and bumbling chorus girl. You see a perfect blend of glamorous socialite and lost bag lady. You see a perfect blend of innocent child and ax murderer. She combines everything messy and chaotic found within the human spirit and hurls it into the audience. Just watch her as the White Queen in the 1985 made for TV version of Alice in Wonderland. Her iconic physicality is blissfully self-unaware, like a child learning to dance before they grow old enough to have any inhibitions. The result is utterly hilarious and, most notably, utterly herself.
It’s her combination of both masculine and feminine qualities that is most notable. In a time when gender non-conformity was hidden in the shadows, she chose to live in the spotlight. As Carol says, “My mother said to me, ‘You’re revolting. And on top of that, you’re not very feminine.’ Well, that led me to the stage, which is an accepting and comfortable place. So in a way, I have my mother to thank.” She acknowledged her own natural queerness as something to be celebrated. As you watch her performance of “Calypso Pete” in her tour-de-force one woman revue Show Girl, you’ll see the masculinity of her animalistic aggression yet the femininity of her sheer sexiness. Queer performance art carries a sense of both the danger and silliness possessed by every bone of Carol’s body. It’s why she is a favorite character among drag queens. When asked how she felt about Johnny Depp wanting to portray her in a biopic, she loved the idea and didn’t think twice about Depp being a man: “Most of the impersonations of me I’ve seen have had a five o’clockshadow.”
The most common thread through every performance, however, is the love for her audiences that pours out of her. With a smile as wide as her outstretched arms (her signature pose), she pulls everyone in the audience into her and embraces them. In every interview, she’ll harken back to one of her famous roles. When someone applauds or acknowledges remembrance, her wide eyes light up as she exclaims with genuine delight, “Oh! You remember!” She adores her fans as much as they adore her, and she has always felt it her duty to show up for them. Throughout the course of over 5,000 performances in Hello, Dolly!, Carol had only one unscheduled absence when she missed half a show due to food poisoning. In Dolly's 1960s run, Carol maintained perfect attendance, even while undergoing chemotherapy for uterine cancer. It’s that resilience through hard times and loyalty to loved ones that queer audience members have always looked up to and try to emulate in their own lives.
So cheers to you, Carol! Whether you’re going gaga over diamonds, giving us absurd regulations on when and when not to eat jam, or being fired out of a cannon (and receiving Oscar nominations for it!), you’re still glowin’, you’re still crowin’, you’re still goin’ strong. And we promise we’ll never go away. RASPBERRIES!
- By Matt Steele, Carol Channing's #1 Biggest Fan
Razz Baby Tart!
Raspberry Lemon Tart with a Lavender Graham Cracker Crust and torched Meringue
1.5 cups crush Graham Crackers
2 tbsp Butter, melted
1.5 tsp Culinary Lavender
1 stick unsalted butter, room temp
1½ cups sugar
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
12 oz of fresh RASPBERRIES!
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp Water
4 egg whites, room temperature
3 tbsp Sugar
1/4 tsp of Cream of Tartar
Preheat oven to 350F.
Combine crushed graham crackers, butter and lavender, crushing the lavender between your fingers as it drops into the mixtures. Press into a tart pan with a removable bottom and bake for 10 minutes. Afterward, let it cool completely.
For the lemon curd, use a hand mixer or standing mixer to cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, followed with the lemon juice and salt. Put the mixture in a small pot over low heat and stir constantly for around 10 min. The mixture will thicken. Take off heat and let cool completely.
In a separate pot, add the raspberries, sugar and water. Simmer on low for around 10 min, until the mixture has completely cooked down and thickened. Pulse in a food blender a few times after it's done cooking to ensure a smooth consistency (though it's not always necessary).
Pour the lemon curd into the lavender crust and let it sit on the counter for a couple of minutes to set. Take a small spoon and make inch long dollops of the raspberry puree on top of the lemon curd. Create a spiral design with the dollops. Take a knife and start at the very center of the tart and pull toward the crust 8 to 10 times, cutting it almost like a pizza. The knife shouldn't touch the crust, it should just skim the top. Put in the refrigerator to set.
Meanwhile, make a swiss meringue by putting egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar in a metal bowl. Put the bowl tover a pot with two inches of water and double boil the mixture, constantly stirring, until it reaches 175F. Take off the heat and whip in a stand or hand mixer until stiff peaks form.
Put the meringue in a piping bag and create a spiral design starting from the center of the tart. Torch with a culinary torch and serve to Harry, Louis, Manny, Danny and Stanley!