Friday, December 26, 2008

The incredible Eartha Kitt... In Memoriam

One of the sexiest and funniest ladies in Hollywood has left us: singer and actress Eartha Kitt died at the age of 81, on Christmas day (first Harold Pinter, then Eartha... hey, we need people like them!).

Purring and prancing her way through Broadway stages, cabaret venues and films, Mrs. Kitt was a performer extraordinaire, her sexy characteristic voice and feline moves accentuating the libido oozing from her. She may not have had a big vocal range, but her precise, come-hither diction and vaguely foreign inflections (Ms. Kitt spoke four languages and sang in seven) proved that a vocal sizzle could be just as powerful as a bonfire. A persona larger than life, she was born in a cotton plantation in the town of North, in South Carolina.

Kitt started her career as a member of the Katherine Dunham Company(the first African American modern dance company, where Alvin Ailey started too) and made her film début with them in "Casbah" in 1948. A talented singer with a distinctive voice, her hits include "Let's Do It", "Champagne Taste", "C'est si bon", "Just an Old Fashioned Girl", "Monotonous", "Je cherche un homme", "Love for Sale", "I'd Rather Be Burned as a Witch", "Uska Dara", "Mink, Schmink", "Under the Bridges of Paris", and her most recognizable hit, "Santa Baby", which was released in 1953. Brooks Atkinson wrote in The New York Times in May 1952, “Eartha Kitt not only looks incendiary, but she can make a song burst into flame.”

Her first starring role was in Orson Welles' staging of "Dr. Faustus" as Helen Of Troy. He said she was the most exciting woman in the world. Her film debut was with Sidney Poitier in "The Mark Of The Hawk" in 1958. She also starred in many television shows, most notably in the fourth season of the 1960's TV-series Batman, replacing Julie Newmar as Catwoman.(that famous growl of hers originated here). Unfortunately, in 1968, there was a n incident at a White house luncheon, where an anti-war statement of hers allegedly made then First Lady Lady Bird Johnson cry. After that, she found nothing but closed doors in the US, so she left for Europe and performed in cabaret and jazz venues. She returned to the US ten years later, in 1978, with a smashing performance in Broadway, in Timbuktu!, a version of Kismet.

In 1984 she had a chart hit with "Where Is my Man", which gained her a whole new audience and made her a gay icon - she responded by performing for many AIDS charities. She kept performing in Broadway and in films, making also many voice overs for animated features and starring in radio plays. She also wrote three autobiographies.

In recent years, Kitt's annual appearances in New York made her a fixture on the Manhattan cabaret scene. She would take the stage at venues such as the Ballroom and the Café Carlyle to explore and define her highly stylized image, alternating between signature songs (such as Old Fashioned Millionaire), which emphasized a witty, mercenary world-weariness, and less familiar repertoire, much of which she performed with an unexpected ferocity and bite that presented her as a survivor with a seemingly bottomless reservoir of resilience her version of "Here's to Life", frequently used as a closing number, was a sterling example of the latter.She is survived by a daughter and two grandchildren. Rest in peace Ms. Kitt!


  1. Great Post! Thanks for that. She will be missed. I love her very much.

  2. ήταν όντως φανταστική... Αυτό το πράγμα κάθε χρόνο με τα προεόρτια θανατικά, μου κάνει έτσι λίγο σαν οιωνός για τη θνητότητα, δε νομίζεις?

  3. @Concrete Commentator: You're welcome! She was amazing!

    @MenieK: ναι βρε παιδί μου, λες και γίνεται επίτηδες...

    @stereotype: καλή χρονιά και σε σένα!

  4. πραγματικά εκπληκτική καλλιτέχνης.