Carol Channing, a Broadway legend known for starring in stage productions of Gentleman Prefer Blondes and Hello, Dolly!, has died at the age of 97.

Channing died Tuesday inside her home in Rancho Mirage, Calif., of natural causes, her publicist B. Harlan Boll confirmed in a statement.

"It is with extreme heartache, that I have to announce the passing of an original Industry Pioneer, Legend and Icon - Miss Carol Channing. I admired her before I met her, and have loved her since the day she stepped ... or fell rather ... into my life," Boll said.

"It is so very hard to see the final curtain lower on a woman who has been a daily part of my life for more than a third of it. We supported each other, cried with each other, argued with each other, but always ended up laughing with each other," Boll continued.

"Saying good-bye is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, but I know that when I feel those uncontrollable urges to laugh at everything and/or nothing at all, it will be because she is with me, tickling my funny bone."

Channing made her stage debut in 1941 in Never Take No for an Answer. She became a star in 1949 after portraying Lorelei Lee in Gentleman Prefer Blondes, singing the famous Broadway tune, "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend."

Channing also starred in Wonderful Town and The Vamp before taking on her iconic role as Dolly Gallagher Levi in 1964 in Hello, Dolly!. The actress continued to reprise her role in the musical for more than 5,000 performances until 1995.
By Wade Sheridan,

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