Friday, December 31, 2010

HELLO, CAROL! Dishing With the Legendary Ms. Channing!

     For the last few years, I had a burning question that I was dying to ask iconic singer/actress/comedienne Carol Channing. I had noticed that every recent story about the star or review of her work always felt the need to point out that she’s still plying her trade after almost 70 years. I finally had the chance to pose my inquiry about our culture’s age obsession to the eternally youthful performer: “Does it sometimes make you want to shout out, ‘Get over it! Focus on my ART, not my AGE!’ ?” Ms. Channing’s response was, “Oh no. I’ve been very lucky to be able to do what I love for so many years. They keep asking, ‘When are you going to retire, Carol?’ and I say ‘NEVER!’ “ That’s just the answer this fan wanted to hear! Still, it’s hard not to be in awe of the fact that the living legend and gay icon is still making music, making news, and making new fans at the age of 89. Channing may have cemented her status in American culture as the quintessential Dolly Levi in “Hello, Dolly”, or with her inimitable rendition of “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend”… but the star’s other achievements in the worlds of theater, cinema, TV, and pop culture are no less than astonishing as well. In the last five years, Channing has used her one-of-a-kind celebrity for a cause that’s close to her heart: raising awareness of the need for the Arts in public schools. With her husband, Harry Kullijian (Channing and Kullijian were high school sweethearts who reunited and then married in 2003.), Channing formed the The Dr. Channing & Harry Kullijian Foundation for the Arts in 2005. The non-profit organization’s mission is to educate the general public about the importance of Arts education, and to support/encourage the artistic aspirations of our country’s youth. On Wednesday, December 1st, Ms. Channing appeared at Borders Books & Music at Columbus Circle to sign copies of her intensely personal new CD of spiritual music, “For Heaven’s Sake”. Her much-anticipated appearance was part of a whole day of events in honor of World AIDS Day to benefit Lifebeat and other HIV/AIDS organizations. For Carol, it was just one stop in what was to be a busy visit to New York City-- a visit which included a performance at The 22nd Annual Gypsy of the Year Competition a few days later. The show was a benefit for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Before heading back to her hometown of Modesto, California, Carol Channing took the time out of her hectic schedule to speak with Jed Ryan in an exclusive interview:
JR: Hello, Carol! Hope you're enjoying your time in New York City.
CC: Thank you! There is nothing like New Yorkers. They just embrace me with so much love when I am here. I’m just so grateful.
JR: So…when most people think of Carol Channing, they think of musical theater and comedy. “For Heavens Sake” is a gospel album. What was the inspiration behind the new music?
CC: Oh, well, it’s not new music. It’s been around forever. These songs were taught to me by my father. They are part of the very soil of the country. My father use to sing these songs with me. I can still hear him harmonizing with me when I sing them.
JR: What song on “For Heaven’s Sake” are you most proud of? Or, put another way, which song means the most to you?
CC: Oh, I really shouldn’t say I have a favorite, but I do. “Momma Send Me a Letter” ... oh, I just love that song. I can remember when my father taught it to me. Our postman would sing it while delivering letters. Oh, I just love singing it.
JR: It's no big revelation that the gay boys look at you as an icon. What message do you want to give to all your gay male fans… besides “Buy my new album!”
CC: Oh, they have always been so good to me. A love affair is what it is. They made me their “Queen” in San Francisco, which is much better than a “Legend“. They declared it “Carol Channing Day” and I was told there wasn't a single blonde wig left to buy in the city. Isn’t that wonderful?! They certainly seem to know who is going to be a hit before anyone else does. I’m just so lucky they liked me, and I just love them. They often make better audiences, because as a group they tend to laugh harder and louder. Applause is great, but it’s obligatory really. Laughter-- now THAT'S a reward for doing something well!
JR: Finally, what’s the next big thing you have in store for us?
CC: Well, we have a new CD coming out called “True to the Red, White and Blue“, that has these great patriotic songs on it like “Over There“, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon“, “America”, and “America The Beautiful”. Oh… and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic“. Songs that just make you proud to be an American. But more important right now than the CD is the efforts that Harry-- that's my husband, Harry Kullijian-- and I are doing through our Foundation, the Dr Channing/Kullijian Foundation for the Arts. I’m a Doctor of Fine Arts now, isn’t that nice? And, I make theatrical house calls. Yes!  We are traveling all over the country to let people know how important the Arts are to developing young minds. Congresswoman Jackie Speier has authored a Resolution, H.Con.Res. 275, that has passed the House with 101 signatures of support and passed unanimously. Now it’s going before the Senate. Oh, she did such a good job writing it. It’s not too long and it’s clearly written. It requires that schools across the U.S. dedicate the second week of September to the Arts in Public Schools. Its so sad that the Arts are being cut out of the curriculum. Without the Arts, all other aspects of education suffer. Its been proven that the Arts help children in other areas of development. It's like fertilizer on the brain!
I couldn‘t agree more! Carol Channing‘s new CD “For Heaven‘s Sake” is available now. Visit Carol’s official website at Learn more about the Dr. Channing & Harry Kullijian Foundation for the Arts at

Thursday, December 2, 2010

WHAT DOES WORLD AIDS DAY MEAN TO YOU? Gerald McCullouch and 11 other movers/shakers answer the question!

 In honor of December 1, World AIDS Day 2010, Jed Central has selected several hard-working members of our community-- including actor Gerald McCullouch and 11 other movers and shakers-- to answer the question "What does World AIDS Day mean to you?" 
Gerald McCullouch
, Actor: “World AIDS Day is a time to acknowledge our community's resilience, yet mourn the loss of countless human beings and the intense effect their loss has had on society.”
(Gerald is still riding the wave of being honored as one of this year's OUT 100 and starting up rehearsals this week for the LA production of “Daddy”, which opens on Jan 8th at the Hudson Mainstage. The play has been revamped with a new creative team on board, and they’re hoping to bring this production back to NYC for an Off Broadway run. Visit for more. Gerald can also be seen in “Bear City”, now on DVD.)
Tony Sawicki
, Producer/Journalist/Screenwriter: “Did you know that there is a church in Topeka Kansas (the Westboro Baptist Church) that is so full of hatred, vitriol, and ignorance that they actually travel the country and go to the funerals of AIDS victims? There, where family members are suffering deep pain from their devastating loss, these pillars of the Lord carry cruel signs and picket, hurling barbs at funeral attendees to the effect of, “John deserved to die and to rot in hell for being gay and having AIDS.” World AIDS Day is important for any number of reasons, not the least of which is to comfort devastated loved ones and commemorate the loss those who left this earth long before their time. But the day is perhaps most important to me because it stands in direct contrast and opposition to the venomous message purported by horrific, nefarious groups like the Westboro Baptist Church.”
(Tony is Producer of “Under the Pink Carpet” for New York City TV. He is also Recipient of 2010 Fresh Fruit “Fruits of Distinction” Award for his work in the GLBT community. Visit
Lady Clover Honey
, Queen of All Media: “Although treatments for those living with HIV and AIDS has made tremendous progress, the crisis is far from over. Its vitally important to keep on talking about the issue to make further progress and to honor those who have passed on, and those who continue to live with HIV. Its also relevant to keep faith and hope burning bright, and to remember the ways to stop the spread of new infections.”
(Lady Clover Honey can be seen on Under the Pink Carpet TV in your living room throughout the week, as well as in person all over NYC! Visit
Terry Christopher
, Singer/Songwriter/Activist: “World AIDS Day is a day to remember those we have lost to this terrible disease, and acknowledge those who continue to fight the day-to-day challenges of living with the disease while they pursue fulfilling, active, vital, healthier lives. Word AIDS Day is also a time for me to reflect on the efforts I can make on a small or large scale to bring more awareness to the fight of HIV. It's also a reminder to me and for each of us that we need to work to ensure that there is a day-- hopefully not to far ahead in the future-- when we can look back on this AIDS worldwide epidemic as a thing of the past and know that for those we have lost, we fought exhaustively in memory to bring this disease down once and for all.”
(Award-winning performer Terry has just completed his third year raising funds [$353,000.00] and awareness for the HIV/AIDS Services of the LGBT Center of NYC via the Braking The Cycle AIDS Ride. He is currently running the 2nd Annual Winter Clothing Drive for Sylvia's Place in NYC. Visit
Will Clark
, Activist/Actor/Promoter: “For me, World AIDS Day is a time not only of refection of the men and women whom AIDS has claimed over the past 30 years, but also as a way to mark how far we've come in treating it. This year we're celebrating the triumph of spirit at the Will Clark Show with a night to benefit the AIDS Service Center, an organization that provides food, clothing and a job bank for the homeless with HIV/AIDS.“
(Well-known man-about-town and fund-raiser extraordinairre Will Clark produces and emcees “The Will Clark Show featuring Porno Bingo” at Pieces in NYC on Wednesday nights at 8pm. Visit  Photo of Will by Gustavo Monroy.)
JD Doyle
, Producer/Radio Personality/Queer Music Collector: “I feel like I am holding a camera and keep pulling it back, to include more in the image. As I’ve been through, during the late 80s and early 90s, the loss of a partner and all my close friends (unfortunately, not a unique experience), I always think of the personal losses. Then I immediately jump to mourning all those lost in the gay community and what they could have created for our culture, and then try to take in what the world has lost. It’s a day remembering the grief, anger, sympathy, activism, education and hope. I have a huge website called Queer Music Heritage, and for this purpose would only like to send folks to a special three-hour show I did, “Songs About AIDS:“
(JD is Producer of the monthly radio show Queer Music Heritage. Visit his amazing website at
Damon L. Jacobs
, Activist/Author: “World AIDS Day means taking time to honor my friends who are living with this disease, and those who are no longer here. It is a reminder to me to take responsibility for doing my part to end this epidemic so no other loved ones have to die. That action might be discussing obstacles to practicing safer sex with friends, educating others about the HIV vaccine trials, or donating time or money to a cause that is proactively serving individuals living with HIV.”
(Damon is a licensed marriage and family therapist. He does education and outreach in NYC for the current HIV vaccine trials through He is also the author of the new book “Absolutely Should-less”. Visit
James V. Jones, Activist: "World AIDS Day is a time of mixed emotions for me. It's a day to reflect on all the people that have touched my life: those who have lost their lives to AIDS/HIV, and to celebrate the ones still with me... and to educate and stop future outbreaks of this disease. It's also a time to remember that this is a worldwide epidemic, not just here in America."
(James is the newly sashed Mr. Leather Akron 2011.  He is a Member of The Rangers in northeast Ohio and set to become President of this club in 2011.He is also an Associate Member of the Iron Eagles and the Ohio Boys of Leather.)
Joe Mannetti
, Activist/Journalist/Perfomer: "World AIDS Day is a time to remember that the fight against HIV/AIDS is not over until there is a cure and a vaccine. It is a time to remember that people are still getting ill and dying because of this disease. Younger people are getting infected, and older HIV/AIDS survivors are suffering from the side-effects of long-term medication use as they age with the disease."
(Joe is Mr. International Daddy Bear 2009, an Ambassador of Goodwill for the DAB the AIDS Bear Project, and one of the most visible spokesmen of the international Bear Community.)
Gerard Mawn
, Activist: “World AIDS day marks another year without a cure and my 25th anniversary since organizing the first medical video conference on AIDS in Washington, D.C. This year we must regrettably acknowledge that there’s still no cure and pledge to stop new infections by acting responsibly in casual sexual encounters. Use condoms every time you have sex.”
(Gerard is a busy LGBT activist and Co-Founder of Staten island Pride Events [SIPE].)
Heriberto Oquendo Jr
., Activist/Performer: “To me, World AIDS Day means a chance to reflect on friends/family that I have lost over the years. In addition, it reminds me of the amazing friends and newfound family I have met over the years as an HIV prevention advocate/educator. I continue to strive to educate the youth about this pandemic. Finally, it reminds me of the work that still needs to be done... “
(Heriberto is Mr. Metrocub 2011. Visit him at and Photo of Heriberto by Adam Woomer.)
Samara Riviera,
Journalist/Performer: “Well, first off, I don’t like how they call it ‘AIDS Day‘. It should be more like ‘Health Awareness Day’ or something more positive. But what it means to me is a reminder to try and stay negative, try to stay healthy, and a reminder to practice safe sex in case somewhere along the way I forgot.”
(Samara’s trans-interest webzine is, which features party pictures, videos, and celebrity interviews… putting the “T” back in “GLBT”. She can also be seen on the weekly live webshow on Mondays at 10 PM.)
Tim Starkey
, Activist: "On the 23rd World Aids Day, I hope people will take a moment to process in their hearts the significance of this global epidemic on our past, present and future. Honor our past as we hurt for the people we have lost. Fight ignorance and prejudice today for the 33 million people who live with HIV infection... and most importantly, have hope for a future free of HIV.
(Tim is International Mr. Bootblack 2010 and Mr. Boston Leather 2009.)