A sultry singer, dancer and actress who rose from South Carolina cotton fields to become an international symbol of elegance and sensuality, has died.
Her career spanned six decades, from her start at age 18 as a dancer with the famed Katherine Dunham troupe, to cabarets and acting and singing on stage, in movies and on television.
Through the years, Kitt remained a picture of vitality and attracted fans less than half her age even as she neared 80. The photo above shows her singing "Santa Baby" two years ago at The White House. The coincidence of her passing away on Christmas is remarkable.
She lived in Connecticut near her daughter Kitt Shapiro and her four grandchildren.Kitt, a self-proclaimed "sex kitten" famous for her catlike purr, was one of America's most versatile performers, winning two Emmys and nabbing a third nomination. She also was nominated for several Tonys and two Grammys.
She starred with with Orson Welles on the stage in 1950, and had a steamy affair with him. He called her "the most exciting woman in the world." She was married to Bill McDonald from 1960-1965. She said the marriage failed because he expected her to be her stage personae all the time. He didn't like when she took off her eye lashes and took care of her baby.
On television, she was the sexy Catwoman on the popular "Batman" series in 1967-68.
The "Batman" series came to an end about the same time as Kitt's TV career. In an incident greatly publicized at the time, Kitt mentioned to Lady Bird Johnson at a White House luncheon that she was not pleased with how things were going in Vietnam. For four years afterward, Kitt performed almost exclusively overseas. She was investigated by the FBI and CIA, which allegedly found her to be foul-mouthed and promiscuous.
"I would not like to think my political stance kept me out of work, even though I know that is what happened," she said in 1995. "President Johnson called the network and said, 'I don't want to see that woman's face anywhere!' That's according to my CIA dossier."
Eartha Mae Kitt suffered crushing prejudice as a mixed race child. At the age of eight, her mother gave her away, and she was sent from the cotton fields of South Carolina to live with an aunt in Harlem in New York. Go HERE to read more about Eartha Kitt.
Eartha Kitt was an AIDS activist, a voting rights activist, and supported many humanitarian efforts. She spoke four languages, and sang in ten. She wrote several books. She was an intelligent, multi faceted woman of many talents. She overcame so much to achieve so much.
She was a role model.
Farewell Eartha Kitt.