One year ago, Hollywood and Broadway mourned “Hello, Dolly!” star Carol Channing, who died on Jan. 15, 2019 at age 97 — including one surprising performance for a nationwide audience.
Many NFL fans are probably not aware that Channing was the first celebrity performer for a Super Bowl halftime show in 1970 when the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Minnesota Vikings, 23-7, in Tulane Stadium in New Orleans.
Despite her many accolades, including a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical, Channing wasn’t the main focus of the Super Bowl IV halftime show, with it mostly being centered around the Southern University marching band performing a tribute to Mardi Gras and a reenactment of the 1815 Battle of New Orleans. Channing then took to the field to perform “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
“It was like an opening night on Broadway, except we didn’t have much time to prepare for that first appearance,” Channing recalled in an interview with the Guardian in 2016. “It felt a little like an after-thought … I recall we went over the song a few times and they threw me to the crowd.”
The actress/singer admitted that she wasn’t a sports fan, and didn’t know which teams were playing in the Super Bowl before that day. “When you are working on a Broadway show, you have no idea what’s happening beyond 41st and 54th Street,” she said. “We had no idea it would be such a big deal or set the tone for future halftime shows. Well? They still talk about that appearance today.”
Channing’s vocal performance certainly impressed the football fans, however, and she was invited back to the Super Bowl again two years later.
“I’m not a sports fan, but I am a fan of sports fans,” Channing said of the experience, according to EmmyOnline.com. “I think I received more attention from my two halftime appearances at the Super Bowl on daytime TV than I did for my entire tour of ‘Hello Dolly!'”
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