Modesto estate sale dim on star power

Few mementos at home of Channing, husband

lrenner@modbee.comJuly 19, 2013 

— Aside from a recording loop of her singing "Modesto, You're My Hometown," a photo and a poster, there weren't many mementos of Broadway legend Carol Channing at the busy estate sale Friday at the Modesto home she once shared with husband Harry Kullijian.

But a steady stream of people filed in and out nonetheless, looking through vintage Will Durant books about history, sheet music, an organ, men's clothes and jackets, ornately decorated Chinese dishes, a bunch of collectible airplanes and more. On one door was a big poster of Channing that advertised a book signing at Barnes & Noble.

It was the second day of the three-day sale at the brick house at 1113 E. Rumble Road where the star of "Hello Dolly" and "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" lived for nearly a decade with her husband, a former city councilman, until Kullijian died in 2011. The final day of the sale is today from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Channing, 92, was not present; she now lives in Rancho Mirage in Southern California. The sale was organized by Kullijian's daughter.

Dozens of cars driven by shoppers lined the street outside the sale. People wandered through all the rooms and out into the back yard, where there was a pool and a gazebo.

The newspaper advertisement for the sale — promoting high-end antiques, Persian rugs, even a 1988 Cadillac Seville — didn't mention Channing but noted the location as the "former home of Harry Kullijian." Many Modestans, of course, know of Kullijian's marriage to Channing.

DJ Stoner, a fan of Channing's who once met her at the Gallo Center for the Arts, was excited to come away from the sale with a meatloaf pan and a stars-and-stripes watch. "I don't care if she ever used it," she said.

Ninon Lapan-Dalman didn't buy anything but went to the sale out of curiosity. "She's a Modesto treasure," Lapan-Dalman said. "To go in there and be amongst her things — I just had to go in there and take a look. The fact that we had her in town is a nice thing."

But not everyone was aware of who once lived in the house. One shopper asked who Channing is. Another said she had to look up the actress on the Internet. Some people just like attending estate sales, no matter who gives them. "It was just like any sale," said Turlock resident Cyndee Norris, whose finds included the book "Broadway Anecdotes."

Channing and Kullijian were junior high sweethearts and reunited after the actress mentioned Kullijian fondly in a book. They married in 2003 when both were in their 80s. The couple attended many public events in the area. Channing sang with the Modesto Band of Stanislaus County, better known as MoBand, at the free summer concerts in Graceada Park and gave pep talks to the student performers in the Youth Entertainment Stage (YES) Company. She recorded "Modesto, You're My Hometown" with local musicians.

Channing's breakout role was as Lorelei Lee in the 1949 Broadway staging of "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." Her biggest fame came from her starring role as Dolly Levi in the 1964 Broadway musical "Hello, Dolly."

She is the recipient of three Tony Awards, including one lifetime achievement award, a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress for her role in the 1967 movie "Thoroughly Modern Millie."

Bee arts writer Lisa Millegan Renner can be reached at lrenner@modbee.com or (209) 578-2313. Follow her on Twitter, @MilleganRenner.

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