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Eartha Kitt 1927 - 2008

Posted by Whitmore, December 26, 2008 07:47am | Post a Comment

Orson Welles
once called her "most exciting woman in the world;" Eartha Kitt, the singer, actress, sex kitten and cultural icon has died in Connecticut on Christmas Day of colon cancer. She was 81. Her flirty, sexy rendition of “Santa Baby” from 1953 has become a holiday standard, but that was just one part of a career that spanned more than six decades.

Her success extended far beyond the music world into stage, television and film. Just last year Kitt won two Emmys for her role in The Emperor's New School; previously she had been nominated for several Tony and Grammy Awards. In 1966, she made a guest appearance on an episode of I Spy which brought Kitt her first Emmy nomination. But her most famous role is probably that of the sexy villain the Catwoman in the 1960’s hit television series Batman. Kitt had replaced Julie Newmar who originated the role.

She is probably equally as famous for her anti-war comments on the Viet Nam conflict, especially since the most notorious words were spoken at the White House as she attended a luncheon held by Lady Bird Johnson. She adamantly stated, "You send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed, they rebel in the street, they don't want to go to school because they're going to be snatched off from their mothers to be shot in Vietnam."

Needless to say, she spent several years being investigated by the FBI and CIA, and for most of a decade she seldom performed in the U.S. That is, until 1978 when Kitt was invited back to the White House by President Jimmy Carter.

Born Jan. 17, 1927 in the small town of North, South Carolina, as Eartha Mae Keith on a cotton plantation, her mother was said to be Cherokee and African-American and her father of German and Dutch descent. After the death of her mother she was sent to New York City to live. She entered show-biz on a whim when in 1946 she dropped by for an audition as a dancer for Broadway production of Bal Negre. Kitt eventually landed a gig in a Paris nightclub in the early 1950s where she met Orson Welles, who cast her in the role of Helen of Troy in his Paris stage production of Faust. It was in 1954 that she released her first album RCA Victor presents Eartha Kitt, featuring such songs as "I Want to Be Evil," and the classic "Santa Baby."

After well-publicized romances with the founder of Revlon cosmetics Charles Revson and banking heir John Barry Ryan III, she married John McDonald in 1960. They divorced in 1965 after the birth of her only daughter. Eartha Kitt is survived by her daughter, Kitt Shapiro, and two grand children.

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Christmas (76), Eartha Kitt (2), 1950's (53), Obits (63), Television (44), 1960's (84)