To perceive Camp in objects and persons is to understand Being-as-Playing-a-Role. It is the farthest extension, in sensibility, of the metaphor of life as theater.
- Susan Sontag, "Notes on Camp"
In honor of her birthday this week, a reminder of why Miss Carol Channing is (a) divine and (b) the Queen of Camp, Broadway Division. No other performer, I think, combines so much skill with so much self-awareness, assurance, and flat-out eccentricity. She has been playing the role of Carol Channing for 60 years or so, and it's safe to say that no one could ever do it better. The miracle of it is that she has been able to channel that extravagant persona into genuine characters: her Channingness, if you will, proved far more adaptable than you might think, so that when she played Dolly, she was Dolly, or Lorelei, or any of her parts. She's a camp, but not a stunt.
Here she demolishes, in sequence, two kinds of show-biz survivors (not to mention two kinds of speech impediments): first, Dietrich in her glam-grandma phase (I adore how the Channing grin fights for dominance with the Dietrich pout in what really is a masterful impersonation) and then the myth-ridden once-upon-a-timer (Cecilia is a hoot, but with just a shade of a dark side; there really were ladies pretty much that deluded, after all...).
I can't believe I've never seen this clip before - is it something everybody knows about and I've been mysteriously in the dark? If so, I'll never forgive you for not telling me before. Enjoy.