Carol Channing left her Los Angeles house last month to go back home - back to the stage.
Two performances in San Diego. Then on to Kansas City, to Detroit, to Minneapolis and then to New York and beyond. And some months from now, when it all ends, Channing will think of another start.Even at 65, Channing is still hard at work at working hard.
"I just did a show in Chicago, and I had two concerts in Dallas, another in San Francisco, and before that a benefit for the Lung Association with Beverly Sills in Baltimore," she said. "Oh, I never stop working for long, if I can help it. About three weeks off is all I can take, because it will take me three weeks more to get back into it."
Channing's unmistakable voice soars as she talks about her various stage lives. Slowing down is unthinkable, and besides, she said, she can always find something to do. Something old, such as "Hello, Dolly" in which she gave 1,272 performances before the revival; or something new, such as the current tour that will match her with local symphonies.
The symphonies will play first. Then Channing will perform eight numbers in a one-woman show that lets her sing and act out several characters.
At the end of the evenings she gets to conduct the symphonies in "Carol's Ode to Classical Music." Even after all these years, she said, that's something to get euphoric about.
"I'm just in a brand new world with this incredible music," Channing said. "I'm working with Tchaikovsky, and it's just thrilling. It's unbelievable music. It's like watching Rudolf Nureyev dance.
"And I get to work with people who have dedicated their lives to making sure this beautiful music stays with us. And they want me to conduct it? I'm scared, and they must be out of their minds!"
Channing was on the road in 1986 when she played opposite Mary Martin in "Legends." It was the first time the two had acted with each other and an experience Channing said she treasured.
"The play was a total departure for me, and that's why it was important that I do it," she said. "Mary just called me one day and said" - here she mimics Martin - "`Would you be interested in going out on the road with me to do this play?' I read it and just fell crazy in love with it."
No one could accuse the critics of such affection. The bad reviews piled up, and, although Channing has never been associated with many of those, she said they never got to her.
"But one thing about that play: Everywhere it went, the critics hated it, just hated it. But everywhere we went, we broke box-office records."
This time, Channing is back to singing, something she has done clearly and loudly since "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" was a hit in the 1940s.
"You're standing on stage, with maybe 3,000 people in front of you, and they've got to hear every note, or there's nothing funny about it," she said. "It's absolute animal survival for me to sing like I do. If they don't hear it, it will be terrible."