Gulfshore Playhouse (GP) is about to embark on its tenth year. My husband, Bob, and I have been a part of the GP family since nearly the beginning. We have so many wonderful memories of the excellent plays staged by Kristen Coury, the group’s founder and producing artistic director, as well as some blockbuster events and fundraisers. I was reminded of one of those special events as I looked through the New York Times Styles Section a couple of Sundays ago.
Carol Channing, now 92, the star of stage, screen and television, appeared in August at the Ice Palace disco on Fire Island for a crowd that included designer Michael Kors. For those of you who don’t know, Channing won three Tony Awards for roles on Broadway, one of which was a Best Actress nod for her turn in the musical Hello, Dolly. She won a Golden Globe Award and an Oscar nomination for her role in the film, Thoroughly Modern Millie. Bob and I were lucky enough to meet and host Channing and her husband, Harry Kullijian, when she was “just” 85 years old when she came to Naples as a guest performer for GP in 2006.
When Coury contacted to ask her to perform at a fundraiser, the actress agreed, but she needed transportation from Palm Beach and a place to stay. Bob and I suggested that Channing and her husband stay in the Tower Suite at the Trieste in Bay Colony. I cannot tell you how excited we and everyone at the Trieste felt as Channing, with her big platinum hair and gigantic sunglasses, stepped out of the limousine.
After they were settled, the couple came to our condo for cocktails and then to the Bay Colony Beach Club for dinner. Channing and Bob became fast friends and she regaled us with some amazing stories about show biz legends like Joan Crawford, Bette Davis and Larry King. Folks came from all over the restaurant to wish her well and tell her they were huge fans.
The next evening at the fundraiser, Channing enchanted the attendees, singing“ Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” and performing a charming dance with her Harry. They danced as if they were half their age. The outfit the star wore was the very Bob Mackie-designed gown she wore in the 1974 stage production of Lorelei, which eventually was renamed Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Channing donated the dress to the Smithsonian the next year.
As a memento of that special weekend, we now have an autographed picture displayed in our music room of Channing in that gorgeous dress, which reads, “To our fabulous friends, Bob and Linda, with great admiration, Carol & Harry.”
Gulfshore Playhouse begins its tenth season October 4 with a provocative comedy called Venus in Fur, by David Ives and it runs through October 20. Looking ahead, November 1-24 brings Something Intangible, by Bruce Graham. And on As 2013 comes to a close, the holiday spirit will be felt with Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol, December 6-22.
With the new year comes a world premiere for GP titled The God Game, by Suzanne Bradbeer, January 17-February 9. Ken Ludwig’s The Game’s Afoot will run from February 21-March 16. Ending the season will be Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, which will run from March 28-April 19. All performances will be at the Norris Center. Naples is fortunate to have Kristen Coury and Gulfshore Playhouse is our midst. We look forward to more memories in the making, thanks to the incredible talent the troupe brings to each performance.
And mark your calendar for November 4, when the Ninth Annual Gulfshore Playhouse Charity Golf Tournament tees off at The Colony Golf Club.
- For more information, log on to gulfshoreplayhouse.org or call 239-261-PLAY.