Musician and Vocalist Artist Interviews
- Written by Jason Victor Serinus
- Published on 31 August 2010
This is not your average interview. In the exchange youâ€™re about to read, the great singing actress and comedienne Carol Channing shares many details of her personal life that she rarely if ever discusses in public.
Our talk almost didnâ€™t happen. No one sent me Carolâ€™s phone number, and the agent in charge of the whole affair was unreachable by phone. Finally, as the time allotted to discuss her performance in an August 15, 2010 benefit for the Bay Areaâ€™s Richmond-Ermet AIDS Foundation had almost passed, a set of emergency emails produced Carol, 89, and her husband Harry Kullijian, 90, on the other end of the line. They were calling from Modesto, where the couple lives.
Happily, Carol had not scheduled back-to-back interviews that day. We spoke for well over an hour.
Harry was the first to chime in. For the past few years, he and Carol have been passionately involved in a nationwide effort to return arts education to the public schools. Harry wanted to make sure that any discussion of Carol the entertainer also focused on her devotion to the youth of our country.
Then Carol took over. Our connection, abetted by a common history with the ravages of the AIDS epidemic and the teachings of Christian Science, was immediate and deep. Need I say that I soon fell in love with the woman? I only wish that I had been in town for the benefit, so that we could have actually connected in person.
Because the discussion with Harry included a lot of back and forth banter about politics, I have encapsulated his comments. The discussion with Carol, which comprises the bulk of this interview, is only minimally edited.
Harry Kullijian: Weâ€™re going to make this a national issue. We have just issued a challenge to the PTA and are going to meet with them on the 7th. We have a Congressional Bill that has been sponsored by Rep. Jackie Spier of California about arts and education. Iâ€™m trying to establish a telethon. Weâ€™re meeting in New York this month, and next month weâ€™ll meet with professionals in Hollywood who want to do the Telethon next year to coincide with this bill.
The Bill calls for Arts & Education week each year starting on the second Sunday in September. Iâ€™m writing the challenge and structure of the telethon broadcasts. We need to get all the states in the union to participate, with governors and mayors working together to bring out the talent of kids in public schools. Weâ€™re primarily talking public schools here.
Carol Channing in the meantime is getting together a whole flock of TV and motion picture celebrities and artists to bring them into the fold in the telethon to give scholarships to the kids who achieve national ranking.
The other part where Carol and her foundation are concerned is to highlight the fact that these kids have a lot of talent and creativity. We need to get to all the children in the public schools so that they are exposed to the arts so that they can be catalysts to education in subject such as math and science. President Obamaâ€™s administration just wants to go after math and science. Thatâ€™s very good, but it doesnâ€™t go quite far enough. You need the arts so you can make mathematicians and scientists.
Jason Victor Serinus: When you donâ€™t have culture and cultural education, you discover a real spiritual emptiness in people.
HK: Thatâ€™s right. You hit it right on the head. Thatâ€™s what we lack in this country.
I donâ€™t want to pre-empt Carol. Sheâ€™s the lady who is making all of this possible. Sheâ€™s given her talent, sheâ€™s given her time, sheâ€™s given her personal money. For the last four years, sheâ€™s given 15 scholarships throughout the state of California. Sheâ€™s been lecturing and teaching in schools and every place she can. She also does all these interviews.
We want to bring the major cities in the United States, including San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles into this. If we capture the imagination of people, we can do this. Itâ€™s a huge project, itâ€™s doable, and no one in the United States has stepped forward before to do it. Many people have tried. Carol has dedicated her live, and given everything she can to this project for the last 4 Â½ years.
Of all the million of dollars we spend, no one spends money telling people about the importance of the arts in the lives of kids.
On the 20th of July, weâ€™ll be in New York City. Carol will be on seven, eight, or nine TV and radio broadcasts. Sheâ€™ll do an interview with Barbara Walters, and also appear on The View. Then we return to Modesto. In early August, we speak to the National PTA board about forging a partnership. Their job would be to contact governors, mayors, and school districts, so we can bring kids who have talent to the forefront so we can put them on national television.
Weâ€™ve already worked in California. But I was a bit disappointed with the effort of the California PTA. Iâ€™m hoping the National PTA will sign on. This has to happen on a national basis, and Carol has all these celebrities already lined up. Big names, that we canâ€™t even name yet because the time is not yet right. But weâ€™re slowly approaching the time when we can illuminate the nation that the artists of America are ready to put their names on the line to say that art really changes and transforms a person. Itâ€™s the best thing in the world for bringing kids to have respect among their peers. Thatâ€™s what we lack now in education.
We have to all to get together. There are all these organizatons all over this country, many philanthropic, many run by volunteers that work with children and the arts. I pointed this out in a letter to Mrs. Obama. The President seemed to think we were talking about integrating children into American culture. Thatâ€™s fine, but weâ€™re talking about far more than that.
The President made a speech about the million two hundred thousand kids who drop out of public schools each year. He said we need to increase math and science and education. We were actually bumped from a convention last June â€“ Carol was to be the main speaker â€“ by the Department of Education. The Secretary of Education spoke, and he talked about math and science. Well, thatâ€™s fine. Iâ€™m all for math and science. But one of Albert Einsteinâ€™s famous quotes is that most scientists and mathematicians are artists. Just like Einstein himself. He could have been a professional violinist if he wanted to.
JVS: This is the political game. You present all the research about arts and education. Come election time, they ignore the research that counters the political line theyâ€™re pushing, and give the same speech again and again.
HK: I know it. Carol had a private reception with Schwarzenegger. He introduces us to a Senator whoâ€™s the head of the Arts Committee. I canâ€™t remember his name now, because it was a long time ago.
When I got home to Modesto after the reception, I called him up and asked what Carol and I could do to convince him of what we were trying to accomplish. When he asked, â€œWhat do you want?â€, I replied, â€œWe want to bring arts back into the public schools.â€
â€œWe know that already,â€ he said. I mean, he turned me off. The head of the Arts Committee in Sacramento was no more interested in the impact and effect of the arts than the man in the moon. I guess they were looking for assignments, and they gave this one to this Senator. They just donâ€™t care.
You know, Iâ€™m more of a spokesperson or liaison for Carol. Iâ€™d better turn this over to her, so I can get to my doctorâ€™s appointment.
JVS: I do not want to live the rest of my life with the karma that Carol Channingâ€™s fourth husband was killed in an auto accident rushing to the doctor because I talked to him too long on the phone. Get outta here and let me talk to Carol.
HK: [Both of them crack up]. You take care of my wife now.
Carol Channing: Iâ€™m sitting right here listening.
JVS: God, Carol. You have a fabulous partnership. This is wonderful.
CC: Yes. We met when I was 12 and he was 13. He was my first love. Isnâ€™t that wonderful. I donâ€™t know how many years later â€“I was 82 and Harry was 83.
Iâ€™m having trouble understanding all of your words. I get some and then this phone blasts. [Harry switches phones as he prepares to leave]. Oh, thatâ€™s worse.
JVS: Iâ€™m on a speaker phone, and I tend to raise my voice when I get excited.
CC: Oh, I see. Well, this phone also gets excited.
JVS: Then weâ€™ll have a very exciting conversation.
[Harry hands Carol another phone and the conversation is clearer].
CC: Okay, Jason. Itâ€™s not your fault at all that I canâ€™t hear you.
JVS: But Iâ€™m Jewish. It has to be my fault.
CC: Oh, youâ€™re Jewish. My first marriage was into a Glitziana Yiddish family, and I learned [recites some pseudo-Yiddish] to speak Yiddish. I loved it. To me, itâ€™s the most ancient religion.
JVS: And my mother was Christian Science healed.
CC: Oh, thatâ€™s what I was raised in. Both my parents were Christian Scientists. Tell me how she was healed.
JVS: [Long storyâ€¦And she went to work the next day perfectly fine.]
CC: What a beautiful story. And she was alright for the rest of her life? Now Iâ€™ll tell you my experience. It doesnâ€™t have to be Christian Science, because itâ€™s the truth about every religion, I think.
I had Ovarian Cancer. Mrs. Eddy often says, you canâ€™t always see clearly that the whole world is Godâ€™s world. Well, the show starts at 8 oâ€™clock every night. I canâ€™t wait for that. So I went to my doctor â€“ he was Jewish â€“ and he stood in the wings to help. Every time I reached to the heavens to get this show out â€“ he said, if you reach to the heavens to get the show out, the heavens answer you. And those were my best performances.
JVS: Did you end up being operated for ovarian cancer? What happened?
CC: Yes. They took out whatever it was that caused the cancer, and that was it. I never missed a show. But the world turns against you when you mention anything about that. So Iâ€™ve never mentioned this to anybody. I never missed a show, and Hello Dolly continued over a span of 30 years. After that, we toured, and I was flying in every other weekend for chemotherapy and all that. Boy, I came crashing through, and got the Tony Award that year. But they were there to help , when I reached to the heavens to get the show out at all.
JVS: That is so great.
CC: Yah, it is. But we canâ€™t talk about it to other people, so I just shut up and go on.
JVS: A lot of people have these stories. The media may treat it cynically, but more and more people are coming forth with these stories.
How long did your ordeal with cancer go on?
CC: That was the end of it. I first went to find out why I was still bleeding when I was beyond menopause. The doctor I saw said, â€œWhoâ€™s your doctor in New York?â€™ When I said Kahan [sp?], he called Kahan and said, â€œSheâ€™s got ovarian cancer.â€ Youâ€™ve got to take care of her right away.â€™ He did, and I went right on with the show. I just had a couple of weeks off because it was summertime and the show wasnâ€™t scheduled for those years.
JVS: What year was that?
CC: I never know the year from anything. The show would stop for a few months because that was the end of the booking, and then people demanded it back on tour. People demanded it back in New York, and Mr. Merrick said, â€˜I can book this back in New York.â€™ I wanted to say, â€˜Hello David and hello Carol and hello Dollyâ€ on the poster. So I actually had time off to heal.
JVS: So the operation happened when you were on tour before you returned to New York.
CC: Thatâ€™s right. Mr. Merrick wanted to handle it. But I had a husband who didnâ€™t want him to handle it.
JVS: Well, Iâ€™m looking at the internet while weâ€™re speaking, and it says that the Hello Dolly revival began March 15, 1978. So the operation most likely took place the summer of 1977.
Let me ask you. Youâ€™ve been doing this for a long time. How do you keep it fresh?
CC: Al Pacino asked me that. He said, â€œYouâ€™re the long run gal.â€ I saw him in a play, and he turned away about 20 people waiting at his dressing room door after his show so that we could talk. He closed the door and said, â€œYouâ€™re the long run girl of all time. How do you keep a show fresh? Iâ€™m used to movies; I canâ€™t keep it fresh.â€
And I thought, heâ€™s got a certain rhythm to the dialogue. They just repeat the rhythm instead of the thought behind it.
I told him what Noel Coward told me. â€œPut someone in your audience â€“ put me in your audience â€“ and it will work.â€ It was when I was in a little review, Lend an Ear. I skip around; you have to keep me on the track. Noel Coward came backstage when I was one of 20 unknowns in a little review. He came backstage and said [imitating his voice], â€˜You are a star and I believe in you. But I must tell you, to keep the show fresh, put someone in your audienceâ€¦.â€
I said, I know that. I put my father in the audience in my imagination. When my father died â€“ I had just moved into Las Vegas and I had to do the show â€“ everybody was coming, and got babysitters and all that â€“ I put my father in the audience in my imagination and did the best dog gone show on opening in Las Vegas.â€
JVS: So you still imagine your father in the audience?
CC: I always put my father in the audience. Somebody once told me that stage fright is God-given. Stage frightâ€™s the most uncomfortable thing in the world. But the people who donâ€™t have it arenâ€™t very good.â€
JVS: Tenor Franco Corelli used to throw up backstage. They had to push him on.
CC: Thatâ€™s it. And Noel Coward throws up. Way back, when he was doing Design for Living with Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontaine, he would throw up and they would have to hold the curtain until he got finished being sick. Itâ€™s that bad.
JVS: Do you go through it to that level?
CC: I pray like crazy, but that doesnâ€™t help. The minute I go out, Daddyâ€™s in the first row mezzanine. Then I put him down below. Then I put him in the third balcony. And I tell him to easily understand this character Iâ€™m playing. Easily. And before I know it, the audience understands my character as easily as my father would.
Noel Coward told me, â€œPut me in your audience, love, and youâ€™ll see that it will work.â€ And then, thereâ€™s a woman named Denise Minelli Hale, who is the doyenne of society in San Francisco â€“ society in San Francisco is really a bunch of old-time gold miners and a bunch of drunks, really. Iâ€™m entranced with Denise. She is entrancing; sheâ€™s a fabulous personality.
I went to lunch with her before the matinee. I donâ€™t usually do that, but it was her last time in New York. So I thought, â€œIâ€™ll put her in the audience. Iâ€™m so crazy about her, Iâ€™m in love with her. It didnâ€™t work. I realized suddenly that I was crazy about her, but she wasnâ€™t crazy about me. That was the difference. She was fascinated by her own story, and I was too.
JVS: So you were in love with your father, and he was in love with you?
CC: Oh, not in love. He was my guide, and he was strict with me. He wouldnâ€™t put up with any nonsense. I had rheumatic fever when I was seven years old, and I was delirious for two months. But every time I woke up, my father was sitting on the end of the bed. Boy. It was when the gas Zeppelin exploded. I woke up to the headlines, â€œThe Gas Zeppelin Explodes.â€
JVS: Was that the Hindenberg?
JVS: Youâ€™re going to be part of the Richmond-Ermet Foundation AIDS benefit, Help is On the Way. What will you do?
CC: My dear Jerry Herman has it, you know. He wrote the music for Hello Dolly. He was diagnosed when we were still in New York. I canâ€™t remember the dates, but heâ€™s still with us. But anyway, I found the spine of Hello Dolly and we discussed it. It has to be a very. Constantine Stanislavski saidâ€¦ Iâ€™m jumping around a lot.
JVS: Do you have a specific shtick in mind for the benefit?
CC: Iâ€™m simply going to do the part in Hello Dolly that Jerry and I worked out. Itâ€™s the part where Dolly says, almost as a prayer, â€œEphram, Iâ€™m going to get married again. Iâ€™m going to rejoin the human race.â€ I found it buried, and it has to be a verb. To Rejoin the human race. And it has to be every character in the show.
And then we go into, â€œAnd before the parade passes by, Iâ€™m going to GET IN STEP while thereâ€™s still time left, before the parade. Before the parade passes by, before it all moves on, and only I am left. Iâ€™m ready to move out in front. Iâ€™ve had enough of just passing by life, with the rest of them. With the best of them. I can hold my head up high. For Iâ€™ve got a goal again, Iâ€™ve got a drive again, Iâ€™m gonna feel my heart coming alive again, before the parade passes by.â€ [singing] And thatâ€™s when she makes up her mind to go back to the Harmonia Gardens, come down that Golden Stairway, and sing â€˜Hello Dollyâ€™ with the waiters.
JVS: I canâ€™t believe it. I am sitting here in Oakland, and Carol Channing is singing to me over the telephone.
CC: Oh, but thatâ€™s it. Thatâ€™s the story of Hello Dolly. But nobody knew it except Jerry Herman and me, and we talked it over and got it together, oh boy.
[Carol then discusses something that she requests remain off the record. I replyâ€¦]
JVS: Well, the reason I understand what youâ€™ve just said is that I have an ego.
CC: I donâ€™t have an ego. Thatâ€™s whatâ€™s the matter with me. People always tell me, â€˜Well, the reason you get in so much trouble, and people spend all your money and that stuff, is that you donâ€™t have an ego. You just go merrily on. You donâ€™t seem to stand there and say, No, you canâ€™t say that to me.â€™
JVS: But because youâ€™ve gone merrily on, youâ€™ve gone merrily on for 89 years.
CC: And itâ€™ll be 90 in only six months.
You mentioned Stern Grove in San Francisco. Harry and I used to go to Stern Grove when we were 12 and 13 and 14.
JVS: I saw producer Allen Sawyer last night at the opera. He told me to ask you about the time when you were young and youâ€™d go to the Curran Theater and see these stars and learn how to impersonate them.
CC: Yes. I got a ticket for everything. [Ed: Apologies for any misspellings]. I saw Yssie Namurra, Japanâ€™s greatest entertainer. Largentina from Spain, Trude Shube, she was a dance pantomimist from Germany. I went to school and did a whole dance pantomime like hers. She did a whole three-act play in dance pantomime with music. Wallingford Reiger wrote the music. The box office knew me, so I had a seat in the second row. I saw Ethel Waters doing As Thousands Cheer. I saw everything that came to San Francisco, because I thought it might be earth shattering.
Oh. There was a Russian revue by Nikita Balliaev. He came to the Curran or the Geary or the Tivoli Opera House. The box office man knew me, and said, â€œOkay, you want your usual seat?â€ I had a 50-cents a week allowance from my parents. I would save it up and get a $2.50 seat in the second row center for the Saturday matinee performance.
One day, I was sitting next to this one lady, and she said, you canâ€™t see. Youâ€™re sitting behind this big tall man in the first row. And I never looked at her. She said, do you want to sit on my lap, and I jumped right up on her lap and finished hearing Ethel Waters.
JVS: How old were you?
CC: Nine. I was nine years old when I went backstage to see Nikita Balliaev and said, would you please teach me that the Russian song, â€œKatsinka.â€ And he said which part do you want to do. It was about three people: Maminka, Papinka, and their little girl Katsinka. And I said, all three. And he said, oh really! So I learned it. He said, come back little girl. And I did. I used to dress like a Russian girl, I was so crazy about it. After that, I had 50-cent seats in the balcony, every Saturday matinee. But he taught me [sings in Russian, changes accents, lowers voice] â€“ thatâ€™s Papinka â€“ [raises voice] â€“ thatâ€™s Maminkaâ€¦
JVS: When did you first perform this?
CC: At school. They had to put up with it. You see, I was Secretary of the Student Body at Commodore Sloat Grammar School. In fifth grade, my first time on the stage, Bob Schmalz â€“you donâ€™t know him â€“ nominated me. We were competing for electing for next yearâ€™s officers. Stop me if I go off the subject.
JVS: How old were you when you became Secretary?
CC: Seven. I came down the center aisle, up the five steps â€“ and the last time I went to Commodore Sloat Grammar School, the steps were still there â€“ it was my first time onstage, and I remember telling my father that I was seven, and â€¦ well anyway, this is what happened. I remember walking up on the stage. My knees were shaking, I was frightened to death, and I thought, oh this is embarrassing, my knees are shaking so. But Bobby Schmalz said they couldnâ€™t see my knees shaking because I had a full skirt on.
Anyway, I stood there. Iâ€™m an only child, and I used to have favorite people I wanted to be with whom Iâ€™d bring home with me in my imagination. I was crazy about anyone who had a fascinating walk of talking or had a certain look or a way of walking.
Miss Berard, who was the Principal of the school, I just loved, because apparently she was the forerunner of Julia Child. I would find every excuse to go in her office. So I thought, I know what Iâ€™ll do. I just stood there and didnâ€™t know what to say. I was supposed to make a speech about why the student body should vote for me. So I stood there for quite awhile and finally I thought, I know what. Iâ€™ll do what I do best. Iâ€™ll turn into somebody else. Iâ€™ll turn into Miss Berard, the Principal, because they all know her. So I lowered my voice and said, â€œGo to the polls and vote for Carol.â€
You know, they all laughed. And she laughed too. And I said, how could you laugh at yourself. And she said, because I knew there was no malice to it. I knew you were crazy.. and itâ€™s true. I was crazy about Miss Berard, because she had this crazy way of talking.
JVS: Have you ever had times in your life when youâ€™ve been so busy being onstage and playing characters that you have lost track of yourself? How do you keep in touch with yourself â€“ Carol Channing â€“ the person inside â€“ in the middle of all these characters?
CC: What a penetrating question. What a penetrating question you just asked! Because Harry Kullijian, who was the most wonderful force when he was 13. He was center on the soccer team and he won the long jump for Aptos Junior High for the entire state of California and got the medal, and our grades went steadily up because we discovered poetry togetherâ€¦
Anyway, Harry and I were inseparable. He told my family, I know that you worry about me and about Carol. Up to 14 or 15 I knew Harry, and then he graduated, and a year later I graduated, and he said to my family, I know you worry about us. But no harm will come to your Carol as long as sheâ€™s with me. I want you to know that I will never take advantage of your daughter.
I remember even this morning, my father giving me advice about this and about that. Make it simple, then itâ€™s the truth. Donâ€™t make it a complicated sentence. And Harry said to me, You know, I talked to your father more than you know, Carol.
Harry came from an Armenian speaking family. I adored them. I just loved his house. I thought it was the most exotic house, and the most exotic family in San Francisco. But his father would sayâ€¦ But anyway, I was with him. We were inseparable. It was during the depression, and Harry got us booked on political rallies. It was the only thing that people went to. Theyâ€™d save their pennies to go to these political rallies, thinking it would get them out of the Depression.
Harry booked his little orchestra, the first one formed in Aptos Junior High, and his grades went steadily up, and my grades went up, and I was the vocalist, although he didnâ€™t let me sing as often as he had the musicians play. Then he graduated and went on to military school, and I stayed in Aptos and went on and got the same medal, Best Overall Scholar.
JVS: You both got the same medal?
CC: Yes. Harry got it for scholarship and athletics. And I got it for scholarship and for teaching ballet classes to my gym class.
JVS: This is fabulous. But you havenâ€™t answered my question.
CC: Oh, I get off the subjectâ€¦
JVS: So let me go back to my question.
CC: Itâ€™s a penetrating question and I forget it now.
JVS: How in the midst of playing all these characters for all these years â€“ for example, playing Dolly all these years, as you have â€“ how do you stay in touch with Carol Channing?
CC: There you have it. Harry keeps saying to me, Iâ€™ve never heard of a life of such agony. It was miserable, but I was fine onstage. I made more mistakes â€“ more stupid mistakes â€“ because I didnâ€™t watch carefully about my personal life.
I married all the wrong people. They didnâ€™t care about me. My first marriage â€“ well, that was different â€“ I got to learn the whole Jewish religion, and they didnâ€™t speak English, so I learned Yiddish. Grandpa Cohen â€“ Chaim â€¦
JVS: You had a Grandpa Cohen?
CC: Did you?
CC: Well, you know that the dumb Irish policemen, when they came through Ellis Island and they couldnâ€™t pronounce the name, they gave them either Cohen or Levy.
JVS: Thatâ€™s what happened. They didnâ€™t come through Ellis Island, but they changed the nameâ€¦
CC: To something they could pronounceâ€¦ Oh my gosh. They could pronounce it, you can pronounce it. My grandpa was so proud of his name, Chaim Dubokoliev. Thatâ€™s such a terrible thing, to take the pride of his life away. But he said, No, no, I was proud. I got a good American name, he said in Yiddish. I donâ€™t know that upstairs, Rosie Cohen, downstairs, Yenta Cohen. I didnâ€™t know all this. Everybody is Cohen or Levy. His wife was Cherner Fretka Levy. And he married a rabbiâ€™s daughter.
JVS: I love it.
So you said to me that you married men who didnâ€™t really care about you as a person.
CC: No, they didnâ€™t. But I was so lonely, and so frightened alone, that I had to keep trying to get in the theater. I would talk to the Schuberts, and I would talk to everyone. Oh, and Marc Blitzstein. You know, he wrote The Cradle Will Rock. Well, I auditioned for Abe Lastvogel. He was the President of William Morrisâ€¦
Iâ€™m off the subject again. I married people that didnâ€™t love me. They wanted to write a book, or they wanted to use my little salary of $60/week that I got to play in the Village Vanguard and places downtown and uptown and all around and I played with the Almanacs and all these groups, and they wanted to live on my salaryâ€¦
JVS: Itâ€™s clear to me, as you tell me this story, that you and Harry are soul mates who have finally gotten together after this very long period of going through different relationships built your career. Besides Harry helping you, what keeps you in touch with yourself these days?
JVS: As opposed to Dolly or any other character youâ€™re playing?
CC: Oh, I was fine as long as I was creating something. And thatâ€™s why the arts as so important to everybody, to all school children. You see, I was in the San Francisco Opera Ballet when I was 12. The reason I was is that it was childrenâ€™s stories. Elisabeth Rethberg was the starâ€¦
JVS: Oh my goodnessâ€¦
CC: Oh yes.
What a penetrating question youâ€™ve asked me. I was high, wide, and handsome as long as I was doing creative work.
JVS: Have you found a way to be okay without doing creative work at this point?
CC: Well, itâ€™s the first time Iâ€™ve been totally loved. I mean, except by my parents. All the way. It was there with Harry the moment we reconnected.
Merv Morris, Mervin Morris of Mervinâ€™s Department Stores, was reading my book, and he said Harry Kullijian? I wrote about my first love. Girls write about and remember their first loves more often than boys. And I wrote about my first love that formed me.
Mervin was a friend of mine. He was a fan to begin with, and then he and his wife were friends and fans, and they saw everything I ever did. And Mervin called me and said, â€œHarry Kullijian is my business partner!â€
And I said, what do you mean? I named him in my book because I thought he was dead by then. I mean, I was 83 years old, and he was a year older. So I thought he was most likely not alive. I tried to get him through his sister, but she said heâ€™s in the San Joaquin Valley and all that. Anyway, Mervin said, can I give him your private number? He said, I donâ€™t want to do that without asking you. And I said, Oh please do.
He gave Harry the number, and we talked on the phone, and I said when can I see you, and Harry said, tomorrow morning. He was getting out of the hospital, he had a stent put in his heart. He was just one day out of the hospital, and he was right there, the next morning early, and we embraced, and we started to laugh about all the old times. I never laughed so much â€“ Harry says he never laughed so much in his life â€“ and we talked. And we couldnâ€™t separate. So we talked on the phone, because he had to go back to Modesto and take care of things.
Anyway, Mervin kept track. Harry said, if I were Mervinâ€™s business partner, Iâ€™d be the richest person in the San Joaquin Valley. Merv says heâ€™s his business partner, but he owns the land that Mervin built some of his stores on. Thatâ€™s all. He owned the land after two wars. He was 35 when he finished two wars, but he couldnâ€™t get started, and his family wouldnâ€™t help him, and all that.
Boy, Mervin and his wife Roz are our dearest friends. And two weeks later, we got married in Mervinâ€™s house.
JVS: Oh Carol, this is so wonderful.
CC: Isnâ€™t it.
JVS: This is especially wonderful to me because, first of all, we were talking about Christian Science. The whole thing about Christian Science is the belief that God is Love. And when you say that, for the first time in your life, youâ€™re with someone who loves you totally, I get it.
CC: Iâ€™m not a [true] Christian Scientist. The curtain goes up at 8 oâ€™clock. I gotta be ready. So I go to Dr. Cahan and get fixed.
JVS: Youâ€™ve given me a lot to transcribe.
CC: Oh, Iâ€™ve never had such penetrating questions. Iâ€™ve never told this.
JVS: Thank you. I love interviewing artists, because I want to know what makes people tick. Weâ€™re all in this together. Weâ€™re all one family. Weâ€™re all trying to do the same thing.
CC: I agree.
JVS: When we understand that itâ€™s all about love, everything else starts falling into place.
CC: Yes. For me too. This is the happiest time in my whole life.
You understand that when you mention God to anyone who doesnâ€™t believe in God, youâ€™re out. All of a sudden, they get mad at you.
JVS: You know what. There are more people who believe in God than donâ€™t. And people get mad at you no matter what. But ultimately, theyâ€™re mad at themselves. When people are really angry, you may trigger it, but ultimately the anger is about them. So if they want to be angry, thatâ€™s okay. Our job in life is to act with integrity. As long as we act with integrity, weâ€™re okay. And when we make mistakes, we ask for forgiveness, because we all make mistakes. But all we can do is take care of ourselves and try to share love in any way we can, which is what you do onstage, which is why so many people LOVE YOU. Because youâ€™re so good at sharing love.
CC: Also, by the time youâ€™re almost 90â€¦ When Mr. Abbott, George Abbott, had his 100th birthday, and every actor who ever worked for him was in the audience at the Palace Theatre, he said, the strangest thing about being 100 years old is that suddenly, everybody loves you. And thatâ€™s exactly whatâ€™s happening to me. If I just get older and older, everybody loves me.
JVS: If there are folks who donâ€™t, theyâ€™re just idiots.
CC: But they didnâ€™t love me when I was younger.
JVS: Maybe this is one of the reasons youâ€™ve stayed around this long.
CC: Maybe itâ€™s a gift. I kept saying, why why? Who am I up against here? Oh, all of a sudden my life is opening up. I can help these young people. Theyâ€™ve got to have creative work. They canâ€™t copy anyone.
You know, people asked Einstein how he came up with the Theory of Relativity. He said, â€œI stayed at it.â€ No, Iâ€™m not smarter than my fellow physicists. I simply stayed at it longer than any of them. Slowly I began to see the infinite harmony of the universe.
When Princeton University asked him to come there and do a one lecture on how he discovered the theory of relativity, he brought his violin and said, â€œIâ€™m going to do a violin concert for you. Maybe youâ€™ll be able to see the infinite harmony that I ran into.â€
JVS: Darling, much love to you.
CC: Much love to you. Bye-bye.