Carol Channing, Tony-winning star of 'Hello, Dolly!,' dies at 97: Publicist

Carol Channing, who among her many credits originated the role of Mrs. Dolly Gallagher Levi in Hello, Dolly! on Broadway, has died at age 97, her publicist told ABC.

Channing enamoured audiences in the break-out role she made iconic. She played Dolly more than 5,000 times without missing a single performance, according to her publicist.

Broadway's "first lady of musical comedy" appeared in other shows such as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Wonderful Town and Lorelei. She also had a film career with memorable roles in Thoroughly Modern Millie, Skidoo, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and more.

Among her accolades was a Tony Award for playing Dolly, as well as the 1995 Lifetime Achievement Tony Award. She was a Golden Globe winner and an Oscar nominee.

The versatile performer's career doesn't stop there. She showed off her comedy chops on television -- including game shows and comedy sketch shows -- and in night clubs, for a time partnering with George Burns in Las Vegas and a national tour.

A generation of children knew her from family-friendly programming. She played The White Queen in the 1985 Alice in Wonderland TV Movie, and she lent her voice to animated works, playing the grandmother in the early '90s series The Addams Family and Ms. Fieldmouse in the 1994 movie Thumbelina.

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Channing, who was born in Seattle and raised in San Francisco, spent her later years in Rancho Mirage, California, where she was when she passed away.

Publicist B. Harlan Boll says Channing died of natural causes at 12:31 a.m. Tuesday. Boll says she had twice suffered strokes in the last year.

"Saying good-bye is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do," Boll said in a statement, "but I know that when I feel those uncontrollable urges to laugh at everything and/or nothing at all, it will be because she is with me, tickling my funny bone."

Fellow Broadway icons took time out on Tuesday to remember Channing.

Channing would have celebrated her 98th birthday on Jan. 31. Her family has asked that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made in her honor to the Carol Channing Theater at Lowell High School in San Francisco or the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert, California.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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