Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers will headline at Super Bowl XLVII’s multi-million dollar halftime show on February 2, but Broadway, film and movie legend Carol Channing paved the way for other superstars to be featured at halftime with a slightly-less elaborate spectacle over 40 years ago.
“It was just about a week before the Super Bowl when they asked me to perform,” Channing told FOX411 exclusively of her halftime show in New Orleans. “We didn’t even rehearse! It was 1970–a little while back. I sang ‘When the Saints Go Marching In,’ and we just yelled and screamed. And they all heard it.”
Before Channing, the Super Bowl halftime show was a modest affair, simply featuring a college marching band. Sensing that the Super Bowl was on its way to becoming an All-American ritual, producers upped their game for Super Bowl IV–and brought Broadway and Hollywood to football’s biggest game.
“They were wonderful to us,” gushed Channing. “I thought, ‘Oh, gee, I’ve never felt so welcome in my life. We were on a moving vehicle–a platform. I just remember I was thrilled to pieces. Everybody was shouting, ‘Hey, Carol!’ and yelling. And I said, ‘Oh, gee, I never get to hear all this in the movies or on television or any of that.’ But I got to hear it in the stadium. They were happy to see me.”
Tickets for Super Bowl IV had a face value of $15. More than 80,000 fans filled Tulane Stadium, with another 44 million or so watching at home. 30 seconds of commercial airtime sold for $78,200. And the Southern University Marching Band performed along with Channing, Lionel Hampton and Al Hirt.
"What a great halftime show that was, I'm sure you'll agree,” legendary sportscaster Jack Buck announced at the start of Super Bowl IV’s third quarter, as workers scrambled to disassemble the halftime staging. "The only order of business remaining is to remove some of the Mardi Gras floats from the playing field,” he noted.
“It was a tremendous experience,” Channing said of performing at Super Bowl IV. “I never will forget it. To be invited by THE Super Bowl? Well, it was equal to the opening night of ‘Hello Dolly!’ I’m proud as punch! I tell anyone who will listen to me. You have no idea–the approval of a huge stadium is something I’ll never forget.”
Fast-forward to 2014, Channing was drafted once again to get fans hyped for the upcoming Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime Show by filming a commercial at a bingo hall in Southern California, surprising a fan who had attended Super Bowl IV.
“I was thrilled,” said Channing of filming the Pepsi commercial. “I had a whole chorus of people around me and we just kept dancing and dancing. There were two girls next to me on stage and they were wonderful–oh, they were sweet. I knew everything about them by the time we finished–we talked in-between takes–we talked a great deal. But on stage, we just kept dancing and dancing and we never got tired. It was a wonderful time. It was so exciting to be doing that commercial. I was thrilled to pieces!”
But despite her long association with the Super Bowl, Channing’s no football fan.
“No, I’m a theater fan,” she declared. “All my life, all my emotions and all of my excitement revolved around anything to do with the entertainment world. I’m not proud of it, I just haven’t got the time for sports. There’s something going on every minute in theater.”
But the Broadway icon does have some advice for Bruno Mars when he takes the stage at MetLife Stadium next month. “Well, he’s going to be thrilled–I’d like to talk with him after he gets through it,” said Channing. “He’ll just be thrilled to pieces. There’s so many people at the Super Bowl, all cheering and hollering, ‘Hi Carol!’ and ‘Hi Bruno!’ I’d tell him to just keep waving, don’t miss anybody, and wave back. When they say, ‘Hi Bruno,’ yell back.”
And Channing’s advice for Super Bowl fans?
Carol Channing will be performing on January 20 at Town Hall NYC in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: An Intimate Conversation with Carol Channing and Justin V Bond.”