Saturday, June 27, 2009

Adventures with Celebrities, Installment 1

Emily and I are in love with our lives, in part because we seem to have a knack for celebrity encounters. We both have met a good number of incredible people, and I thought that it would be fun to share the stories with you here. Here is my first installment. Key of B-flat. Here we go!!!

March 2009

Another thing that Emily and I have in common is that we ADORE celebrity impersonation, and one of our easiest targets has always been the great Carol Channing. I mean really:

We have long thought that she is the most accidentally hilarious thing EVER. So you can imagine my excitement when last September, the performance museum at which I volunteer decided to put together an exhibit devoted to the life and work of Carol Channing. Carol is a San Francisco native, partly why the museum decided to honor her with an exhibition, and she now lives in a smaller town in the Central Valley, about an hour and a half away. When informed about the exhibit, Carol was delighted and decided to come up to San Francisco for its opening, attend the opening gala of the exhibit, and give a concert at Herbst Theatre.

Everyone was abuzz about Carol coming. She made the front page of the Datebook, the entertainment section of the San Francisco Chronicle, and tickets for her concert at the Herbst Theatre sold out completely. It was definitely a special thing for such a huge star to make a return to honor her hometown, as it was honoring her.

I was scheduled to volunteer at the opening gala on September 26, 2008. I had my outfit all picked out, and was going over what the HELL I was going to say to Ms. Channing when, the day before the gala, I got an email from Tony, the fabulous volunteer coordinator at the museum (with whom I also went to high school). The email read something along the lines of this:

Dear Volunteers,
Tomorrow's gala has been cancelled. Carol has fallen at her Modesto home and has broken her hip. We are trying to figure out what to do with the concert tickets. Thank you so much for your volunteerism for this event.

Well, of course I was shocked. No one thought this was going to happen--Carol had never missed a concert in 70-odd years!! But of course, if she has broken her hip, it was more important for her to get better. So I contented myself with writing her a get-well note, and sent it to her fan mail address.

Fast forward to March, the day before the closing of the exhibit. I volunteered at a museum event, after which Tony called me over. I asked him what was up, and he whispered, "It's possible that SHE might be here tomorrow, for the exhibit's closing." Being the smart thing that I am, I asked "WHO??" He pointed to the Carol poster prominently displayed on the wall. I felt stupid. "Oh..REALLY???" I said. He nodded, and replied, "She's expected to be here around 1, so get here just a little bit after that, because there will be traffic." So I, excited as all hell, went home to prepare for my Carol Channing encounter.

The next day, I went out to do some errands in Oakland (it was the birthday party of the twins I babysit, so I had to go get them a present before I went to the museum). I got a call from Tony around 1, saying "Rumor has it that she's on her way. You should start leaving now." So I put the twins' present under my arm and got right on BART to the museum.

I arrived about 20 minutes later in a pant, and asked Tony "Is she here??" Tony said "Yes, she's here, but be discreet." He noticed the present under my arm and asked incredulously "Did you get her a PRESENT?????" I said "NO, NO, this is for something else." "Oh, ok," he replied. "Because that's definitely not discreet."

I put my bag and the twins' present in the back room, and wandered into the main gallery. There she was, in her signature red jacket and black pants. She was smaller than I imagined her, but she's also 87 years old. One could never, ever tell that she had broken her hip just a few months before. She was walking unassisted, without any real noticeable limp. The museum curator was showing her around the exhibit, and she was saying in her distinct voice things like "Ohhh yes, I remember that..."

I managed to work my way up to them discreetly, and began asking Carol questions about various things in the exhibit. She was SOOOOO nice (I said this to Tony afterward, and Tony, still bitter about the September incident, said "She's probably on painkillers"), and really does have a lovely smile. What really got me though was her EYES. It sounds hilarious to say, but she has some really, really intense eyes. She looks RIGHT AT YOU. I walked with her and the curator for a while, and then she started signing autographs. I told her my name (I had to tell her about 10 times, she's hard of hearing now), and told her how wonderful it was to be part of this exhibition on her life. I don't think she heard the last part, but gave me a wonderful smile and signed my museum booklet. I told her "thank you," in kind of a sheepish little voice (what happens when I get nervous or starstruck) and she looked right at me again with those eyes of hers and, I think unconsciously, imitated MY EXACT TONE when she said "You're welcome!" Now I can say I have been imitated by Carol Channing. Fun.

We make so much fun of her, because she is a completely nuts performer, and you will probably see some of our Carol Channing antics here. But as a person, she is really, really wonderful.


  1. how positively wonderful! god bless crazy carol, not to be confused with crazy carrie fisher (who is also awesome).

  2. Yes, it was a marvelous experience that I will treasure!

    If the rumors that Crazy Carrie Fisher is indeed coming back to the area with Wishful Drinking are true, I am there in a heartbeat. I missed it the first round.

  3. you would LOVE her show. i saw it when it came to dc and was practically on the floor from laughing so hard.

  4. I cannot WAIT for her to hit Broadway with Wishful Drinking this fall! I'm definitely going, since I couldn't go during her DC engagement :(