Eating “The Carol Channing” with Carol Channing

John talked me into it. After going to see Elaine Stritch last week at the Cafe Carlyle, John urged me on to see my next aged theater icon by making reservations for Carol Channing at Feinstein’s at The Regency. We dubbed our mission: The “Before They Croak” Tour. And this stop came with dinner.

So here’s the exterior of Feinstein’s:


The interior was nice but as nice as the Carlyle hotel. John’s friend Peter joined us and we were seated right near the stage, right behind the piano. The crowd, as you might imagine, was very old and very wealthy. And stargazers among us quickly spotted Barbara Walters and Liz Smith at a table with two other fancy ladies. In the front row, we were to learn, was Roz Mervin, wife of Mr. Mervin who founded the Mervins empire. It was quite the scene.

You’d think the food would be up to snuff to, but the food was only slightly better than mediocre. This was cruiseship fare. And, in fact, the room looked like a room on a cruiseship. “I feel like if you pull back the curtain,” I said, “We’d see water.”

John, Peter and I all ordered “The Carol Channing”:


(Sorry that pictures whack.)

As you can see, we only had one choice: chicken or fish. We all chose fish.

So here’s the pumpkin soup:


It wasn’t bad—“Mmm, it’s buttery,” said Peter—but I was expecting it to be sweeter, if only because I prefer Butternut Squash soup.

Then there’s the salmon:


It was fine too. None of the food was bad, it was simply adequate. And I guess when you’re feeding a room full of geriatrics in a cabaret setting, this is the type of stuff you serve.

The meal ended with the apple crisp thingie:


I’ll give then points for cleverness. They probably bought pre-made phyllo, made lots of these little things, shoved apples in and baked them—and of course they were tasty. So it’s a good business model they have going on at the Feinstein’s kitchen. Give the people what they want. And most of the people there want this.

And they want Carol Channing. When she came out, she got a standing ovation. She’s 86 years old! She’s truly remarkable for 86. She sang all her old classics: “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend,” “Before The Parade Passes By” and, of course, “Hello Dolly.” She had the audience join in and then quickly cut us off. “Ok, enough!” she said, and finished the song by herself.

After the show, Carol’s husband told us (and her other adoring fans) that we could go backstage and meet her if we wanted. So John, Peter and I snuck back there where Carol was holding court:


Now in the previous sentence I said Carol was holding court, but I should’ve made it clearer: Carol was holding court in the Kingdom of Crazy. Every person you see in that picture is crazy. The craziest of all is the man with the disposable camera. He and his family sat right in front of Carol when she performed and they were orgasming after every number. When Carol called her husband up to dance, the man with the camera moaned in ecstasy: “Oh yes! Oh yes! That’s great!” Heads turned: it was way freaky.

And because all these crazies harrangued Carol for so long, we didn’t get a chance for a picture. But she was nice and said goodnight to all of us. The busboys, meanwhile, were singing “Hello Dolly” as she exited (John pointed this out). And as far as only-in-New-York evenings go, this was a good one. Thanks, John, for dragging me along!

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