Goodbye, Dolly: With Their Bids, Fans Hold Onto Carol Channing

LOS ANGELES — For males of a sure age — and it’s largely males — Carol Channing was one thing of an obsession. They waited by stage doorways from Broadway to Tampa for her to emerge. They devoured the “Hello, Dolly!” solid album as youngsters, watched her on tv and within the films and, at instances, dressed up in drag to impersonate her — the exaggerated purple lipstick, the drone of a nasal voice, the wide-eyed comedic supply and the burst of puffy hair.

So there was an viewers prepared and ready when a lot of the Channing property went to public sale final month, greater than two years after she died on the age of 97 in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

All 400 gadgets bought out in eight hours, in fact, and the public sale, licensed by Channing’s heirs, raised near $406,000 from 6,000 registered bidders, with among the proceedings going to charity. Fans snatched up the Tony and Golden Globe Awards, the robes, shawls and footwear, the tattered scripts, the needlepoint pillows and the wigs. Some of this Channingabilia was fairly expensive: A 1964 Tony for “Distinguished Achievement in Theater” went for $28,125, whereas a glamorous purple costume she wore parading down a staircase within the title function of “Hello, Dolly!” drew $23,750.

Memorabilia from the property, together with a flag from the touring manufacturing of “Sugar Babies,” was on show at a warehouse, although all of the bidding was performed by telephone or on-line.Credit…Alex Welsh for The New York Times

“We have held celebrity sales in the past, but this was different,” mentioned Joe Baratta, the vp of improvement on the Abell Auction Company, which is dealing with the property. “There were items that were worn, were used, were touched by her, and gifts that were given to honor her career.” (Another 300 Channing gadgets can be auctioned in September).

Given the pandemic, there was no in-person thrill — paddles within the air, an auctioneer with a gavel on a podium. It was all performed on-line and by phone, with bidders, and lurkers, at their screens. People who needed to examine the merchandise may head to the Abell warehouse in Commerce, a metropolis simply east of downtown Los Angeles. But a lot of the gadgets have been purchased sight unseen.

By whom? Here’s a take a look at three superfans who introduced their checkbooks (or no less than Venmo accounts) and walked away with a bit of Carol Channing’s six a long time in public life.

David Turner: Hanging onto the ‘zing’

Turner in a coat that Channing wore within the London manufacturing of the musical “Lorelei.”Credit…Amy Lombard for The New York Times

David Turner is an actor (most up-to-date Broadway present: “The Boys in the Band” revival) and a industrial pilot who flies for Angel Flight East. As a university pupil, he waited hours for Channing by the door of a Hartford, Conn., theater after a “Hello, Dolly!” efficiency. He was a trouper; by the point she emerged, Turner and his boyfriend have been the one two followers left.

“I didn’t say a word,” Turner, 46, recalled the opposite day. No autograph request, both. “I felt it would be predatory. I just watched her move.”

By that evening in Hartford, his Channing bona fides have been past dispute. Back in 1977, he was already taking part in — and taking part in and taking part in — a music off the “Free to be You and Me” youngsters’s compilation on which Channing carried out (extra speaking than singing) “Housework.” As a 15-year-old in New Jersey, he started doing an impersonation on the suggestion of an 18-year-old boyfriend who instructed him that when he had a chilly, he appeared like Carol Channing.

He nonetheless does it to today, and is hoping that one of many Channing robes he now calls his personal might be pressed into service for a drag efficiency, assuming he can squeeze into it.

“I do ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,’” he mentioned of the music from her breakout function as Lorelei Lee within the 1949 musical “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.”

It was Turner’s first public sale, and he discovered it a bit intimidating. But by the top, he had purchased 25 gadgets: an Al Hirschfeld sketch of Channing, eyes broad and with an exaggerated grimace; a couple of attire and costumes; a shirt monogrammed along with her initials; a pair of faucet footwear; and that 1964 Tony.

Truth be instructed, it made him a bit queasy — was this ghoulish? he puzzled — earlier than deciding that this was a effective approach to protect the reminiscence of somebody who had been such an enormous a part of his life.

“She had a way of getting a room to zing,” he mentioned. “For me, being part of the auction was wanting to hang on to that feeling.”

“I loved her,” he added. “And Carol is in many ways a very weird person. She was the first person who really took whatever it was that was weird and hitched her wagon to it.”

Nicky Ciampoli: Almost household

Nick Ciampoli with one of many two Bob Mackie attire he bought from the public sale.Credit…Alex Welsh for The New York Times

Nicky Ciampoli lived with Carol Channing for the final years of her life. Don’t learn an excessive amount of into that. He was her private assistant, a job he started when she was nonetheless touring, and he stayed on as age caught up along with her and he or she stepped out of the highlight.

Channing divided her time between Modesto and Palm Springs, and Ciampoli remained along with her in each locations.

For $25,000 he snagged 18 items to carry on to the recollections: the marriage outfit from her 2003 marriage to Harry Kullijian (she later repurposed it for guide signings); two flapper attire by Bob Mackie; a purple tuxedo Ciampoli helped her placed on for performances.

“I would have bought more if I could,” he mentioned. “I didn’t buy the stuff because it was Carol Channing, the Broadway actress. I bought it because it was very sentimental on a lot of levels for me.”

Ciampoli met Channing in January 2006, when he was 21 and dealing for a theater producer who had booked her in Tampa for 3 performances of her solo present “The First Eighty Years are the Hardest.” He was assigned to take care of Channing and Kullijian throughout their keep. A bit later, again in California, she referred to as to ask if he may turn out to be her full-time private assistant.

As a part of his job, he would undergo a big storage in Modesto filled with artifacts of her life — costumes, wigs, letters from individuals like Joan Crawford and Barbara Walters. Much of that materials was destroyed by water, bugs and rats, and at one level, he employed a 1-800-GOT-JUNK dump truck.

“You wouldn’t believe what we threw away,” he mentioned. “Old phone books. Pictures and scripts. Scrapbooks.” But some was saved — “scrapbooks that didn’t have rat poop” — and made it to the public sale.

Ciampoli by no means bought to see Channing in “Hello, Dolly!,” which, over a number of stints on Broadway and on tour, she carried out some 5,000 instances. And now? You guessed it. “I have started impersonating Carol,” he mentioned. “I’m not just a fan. I had so much personal involvement with them.”

“My bedroom was right next to them in Palm Springs,” he added of Channing and Kullijian, who died in 2011. “They were like grandparents to me. I used to sit in her bedroom watching old TV shows — Andy Griffith.”

A wig and headpiece have been additionally a part of Turner’s winnings.Credit…Amy Lombard for The New York Times

Brig Berney: Pouncing on a Tony

Brig Berney logged on to his laptop on public sale morning together with his eyes on one large merchandise: the 1995 Lifetime Achievement Tony that Channing gained for bringing “Dolly” again on tour. Berney had been firm supervisor for that revival, overseeing the day-to-day enterprise affairs of operating the present, from payroll to journey.

But that was manner down on the listing of trophies on the block, and Berney, now the corporate supervisor for “Hamilton,” determined that ready it out in such a aggressive public sale was too dangerous.

Instead, he snapped up her particular 1968 Tony in a profitable bid of $14,000.

It is now could be perched on “a lovely old music stand” in the lounge of his Manhattan residence. “If you have a Tony Award, you might as well display it in a place of honor,” he mentioned. “No reason to put it in a drawer.”

Also in his take: needlepoints that followers despatched to Channing and a Theater World Award naming her a promising character of the 1948-49 season.

Berney had really met Channing years earlier than he began engaged on her exhibits. “Hello, Dolly!” got here to to the Morris A. Mechanic Theater in Baltimore in 1978 and Berney, a wide-eyed teenager, wrangled his manner backstage to get his program signed.

She little doubt forgot that encounter some 20 years later once they linked once more. But she was, he mentioned, charming and affected person as he peppered her with the questions of a theater fanboy: “What was David Merrick like? What was it like to open ‘Dolly’ in New York?”

“I loved asking questions,” he added. “She loved to talk, and I loved to listen.”