Carol Channing’s Head Trip



It’s only fitting that the first woman to sing “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” should get to model one of the world’s most coveted headpieces. “I could never wear any old jewelry,” says actress Carol Channing of the Westminster Tiara, which sat atop her trademark blonde bob for the Plaza Hotel’s Hearts and Diamonds Ball in 1961. Channing, who originated the role of gemstone-loving Lorelei Lee in the 1949 Broadway premiere of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, wore more than $2.5 million worth of diamonds that night. But the bandeau-style tiara—on loan from dealer Harry Winston, who co-sponsored the event and two years prior had paid $308,000 for the piece, made by French jewelers Lacloche Frères for the Duchess of Westminster in 1930—was the scene-stealer. “Boy, was it spectacular,” remembers Channing. “Tiaras give one a wonderful royal feeling.” The Tony-winning Hello, Dolly! star, now 90, has donned a series of sparkly headdresses through the years, from the Versace tiara to one that was gifted from Napoleon to Josephine: “The only thing they all had in common is that I never actually made it home with one.”