Entertainment icon Carol Channing raised a few eyebrows back in 2002 when she revealed in her autobiography, Just Luck I Guess: A Memoir Of Sorts, that she was of mixed-race. Then she took it all back.
Below is the actual text, from Just Luck I Guess: A Memoir Of Sorts, of Channing explaining how her father, George Channing, was born to an African-American mother and Nordic German-American father.
By November of 2002, when she appeared on the Larry King Live, Channing was singing a different tune. Below is a transcript of that show:
KING: As you perceived it.
CHANNING: As I perceive it and as it happened to me and let the reader decide whether I’m lying.
KING: Lets start early in that truth. Your father was black.
CHANNING: No, he was not black. I wish I had his picture. He was — he was a — his skin was the color of mine. I don’t know maybe. Yes, it’s all right. Well any, no. My father — you read the tabloids, don’t you?
KING: No, it says in my notes your beloved father, George Channing, a newspaper editor, renowned Christian Science lecturer listed as colored on his birth certificate.
CHANNING: Yes, and the place burned down, but nobody ever knew that. But I know it. Every time I start to sing or dance, I know it, and I’m proud of it.
KING: So he was black?
CHANNING: No, He had in — there was a picture in our family album and my grandmother said — I never saw them. My grandfather was Nordic German and my grandmother was in the dark. And they said no that was — she was — and I’m so proud of it I can’t tell you. When our champion gave me that last third (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on “Hello Dolly!” Again. No white woman can do it like I did. KING: So you’re proud of your mixed heritage?
CHANNING: Very, when I found out. I was 16-years-old and my mother told me. And you know, only the reaction on me was, Gee, I got the greatest genes in show business.
KING: Some people years ago discovering that might have been disturbed by it?
CHANNING: Yes, years ago because when I found out about it, you don’t want to do that.
KING: You don’t say it.
CHANNING: You don’t say it. There’s a lot of it down South.
KING: People are ashamed of it.
CHANNING: I’d proud of it.
KING: I’m glad to hear it.
CHANNING: I really am. I mean look, what makes you, you? You don’t know. None of us knows our heritage. Not in the United States.
KING: We’re all immigrants.
CHANNING: Exactly, this is the changing face of America. I’m part of it. Isn’t it wonderful?
KING: You damn right.
CHANNING: I’m young again.
Confused? So am I. Seems like a whole lot of double-talk. Was he, or was he not?
Maybe Channing had already begun to feel the burden of being black in Hollywood, and decided she would pretend that she’d never revealed her secret. Because 8 years later, she appeared on the Wendy Williams Show, and Channing was singing the same old song.
The bottom line is that Channing wrote what she wrote in her book, and there’s no taking it back. Why she refuses to own that truth now is a mystery. Perhaps the documentary film Carol Channing: Larger Than Life, which was released on DVD two months ago, will shed some light. Who knows? *shrug*