Carol Channing is so consistently herself -- dizzy, hilarious, talented, relentless -- and, yesterday, at the Lincoln Center Barnes & Noble, host Richard Skipper basically just let her go, which was great, because being in her presence is really enough.
Her husband, Harry Kuligian, a man who was her childhood sweetheart -- and with whom she got back together only a few years ago -- is a perfect match for her. When she would do one of her frequent meandering down rabbit trails, he was there with a ready punchline to pull her back. And she would break out into this huge guffaw.
She was there to promote her new Gospel CD. Yes, Gospel CD. (Mom, I got one for you).
Oh, why not. Ethel did a disco album. Channing can do Gospel.
But she wasn't there merely to sell product. She and Harry, who was a bandleader back in the day, are both passionate about the tragedy of how arts programs are being excised from school curriculum. And they were blunt: To take the arts out of the schools is to destroy our civilization.
And it's that simple.
It's been proven, over and over, that when a student has music or art as part of his curriculum, it creates pathways of understanding for science and math and the other hardcore subjects.
It's not enough, in this life, to merely eat, sleep and work. Our souls and our lives and our minds are enriched by art, music, plays, movies, games. These things make the rest of life possible.
You have too look at these two lovebirds. He's 90. She's 89. Their love for music and art, and for each other, is palpable. And you can tell that one would not be possible without the other.
And though I don't love the TV, GLEE -- a little too wacked out for my taste -- I do love the premise, kids singing in high school. Today, in the NY Times, is an article about college students banding together in schools mainly concerned with other kind of academics and creating glee clubs for themselves. And bravo to all of them. The school systems might be failing our kids, but there's always hope when the kids themselves decide that the arts mean something.