Photo courtesy of REN, Richard Nunez
The photo above is of Carol Channing, and her husband Harry, reading the Fox marquee announcing Smogdance. After reading it Carol asked "What is Smogdance". Yours Truly was happy to explain Smogdance to her. After which Carol Channing smiled that grand smile of hers, and said "Oooh, that's so wonderful"
If you aren't aware, Carol & Harry's full-time job these days and their number one charity is the Arts, more specifically art in California schools. They travel the state meeting with elected officials, school districts, Boards of Education all over, and PTA groups handing out scholarships and raising awareness to the lack of art education in California's public schools. All forms of art, performing as well as traditional. They both feel strongly that if arts are not re-introduced to schools curriculum California will loose an entire generation of kids a mediocre education. Theirs is a wonderful cause.
Ms Channing's day began with her driver collecting her at her home at 1PM and delivering her to the dA gallery in downtown Pomona at 3PM. There she was greeted by a film producer and crew shooting a documentary on Lucile Ball and Desi Arnez and soliciting Carol's input into the many times she performed with Lucy & Desi. Ms Channing was delighted to see the dA, the art, and to learn of the many outreach programs performed at the dA. She was then delivered to the Fox at 6PM where she arrived on the red carpet and met with many well wishers and fans. She graciously participated in 5 separate ribbon cutting ceremonies involving celebrities, City and State officials,Fox supporters, and others.
Once inside the Fox a crowd of over 400 were served dinner in the newly renovated theatre and treated to a nostalgic look into the Fox's history. The program ran almost 2 hours over schedule, but no matter. Nobody left and very few complained. Towards the end of the evening Ms Channing took the stage and together with husband Harry spoke eloquently and forcefully on the need for arts in schools. Carol was so motivated by the Fox renovation, you see she met Harry in a Fox Theatre in San Francisco when she was 12 and Harry 13...Pomona's Fox brought back those sweet childhood memories for her, she decided to sing, unrehearsed and unscheduled. Carol sang two songs acapella (or Acapulco as she says). She sang a song written for her by a truck driver from Modesto describing the art crises in California schools, and of course she sang "Hello Dolly". We were all treated to about 30 minutes of Carol Channing talking and singing. Such an inspiring lady, full of vim and vigor at the age of 88. Husband Harry is 90.
As the ceremonies were winding down and guests were readying to climb the ornate staircase to the rooftop patio for dancing and dessert I called for Ms Channing's car and she quietly left through a side door and off into the night. What a grand evening!