Carol Channing Celebrates 95th Birthday at Star-Studded Tribute Show
Lily Tomlin, Alan Cumming and Florence Henderson are among the famous fans who paid homage to the legend
Stars descended upon the desert for a special milestone over the weekend: Carol Channing‘s 95th birthday!
The stage, film and TV icon has been wowing audiences since she was a little girl, but the celebration in Palm Desert, California, Saturday found Channing treated to a show inspired by her storied life and career.
As Channing looked on, pals delivered touching tributes under the spotlight and in video at the McCallum Theatre. Lily Tomlin, Alan Cumming, Florence Henderson and Lucie Arnaz are among the stars who fêted Channing at the show and afterparty, while a handful of famous fans – including former President Bill Clinton, Julie Andrews, Barbara Walters, Kristin Chenoweth, Whoopi Goldberg, Betty White, Angela Lansbury, Valerie Harper, Carol Burnett and Leeza Gibbons – offered sweet video messages, the theatre said.
Actor Gavin MacLeod read President Barack Obama’s letter for Channing, who has met and performed for every U.S. president since John F. Kennedy. According to the theater, Obama wrote, “For decades, your performances on stage and on screen have brought diverse stories to life, infusing power and passion into every character you’ve embodied. And through your determined advocacy, you’ve engaged people across our country in fighting for arts education. I trust you take great pride in the ways you have touched lives and hearts over the course of an extraordinary career.”
As if the honor couldn’t get better, the casts of Broadway hits – She Loves Me, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Chicago, Fiddler on the Roof, Les Miserables, Wicked, An American in Paris, Fun Home, The Phantom of the Opera, Jersey Boys, Spring Awakening, Matilda, Kinky Boots and The King and I – praised Channing in clips shot in New York City.
And even though Channing was supposed to sit back and relax, the showwoman couldn’t help but get in on the fun – as the Hello Dolly cast and a 28-piece orchestra concluded the show, Channing sang a few lines into a microphone from the audience.
The McCallum Theatre is keeping the tributes coming in the form of The Carol Channing Fund for the Arts, which will “provide important education and outreach programs to students and educators in California’s Coachella Valley at the very highest level of excellence,” according to a statement provided to PEOPLE. For more information, visit mccallumtheatre.com.