Actress Bibi Osterwald, the original standby for Carol Channing in Jerry Herman's Hello, Dolly!, died Jan. 7, according to her friend Peter Howard. She was 81. Ms. Osterwald eventually got to play Dolly Levi, filling the role for a week in November 1967, right between the tenures of Betty Grable and Pearl Bailey.
She was born on Feb. 3, 1920, a short train ride from Broadway, in New Brunswick, NJ. Her first Broadway credit was the Morgan Lewis-Nancy Hamilton revue Three to Make Ready, which starred Ray Bolger and had a moderate run in 1946. After that, she appeared in the George Batson flop play, Magnolia Alley in 1949, and created the role of Lovey Mars in the Pheonix Theatre's staging of Jerome Moross and John LaTouche's musical adaptation of "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey," The Golden Apple.
Television was a part of Ms. Osterwald's career from an early stage. She was a regular on several series, none of them too successful, including "Captain Billy's Mississippi Music Hall," 1948; "The Imogene Coca Show," 1954-55; and "Bridget Loves Bernie," 1972-73, as well as a couple soap operas. She made guest appearances of shows such as "The Naked City," "St. Elsewhere" and "Newhart." Her most high profile film role was her last, as Jack Nicholson's neighbor in 1997's "As Good as It Gets."
She is survived by her husband Justin Arndt, a son Christopher, a daughter-in-law Maureen and two grandchildren. A New York memorial is being planned.
—By Robert Simonson