Singer, Actress Eartha Kitt Dies

December 25, 2008


Eartha Kitt with daughter Kitt Shapiro and granddaughter Rachel.

Eartha Kitt with daughter Kitt Shapiro and granddaughter Rachel.

By POLLY ANDERSON, AP
posted: 4 MINUTES AGO on PopEater

NEW YORK (Dec. 25) – Eartha Kitt, a sultry singer, dancer and actress who rose from South Carolina cotton fields to become an international symbol of elegance and sensuality, has died, a family spokesman said. She was 81.
Andrew Freedman said Kitt, who was recently treated at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, died Thursday of colon cancer.

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.

Her career spanned six decades, from her start as a dancer with the famed Katherine Dunham troupe to cabarets and acting and singing on stage, in movies and on television.

She persevered through an unhappy childhood as a mixed-race daughter of the South and made headlines in the 1960s for denouncing the Vietnam War during a visit to the White House.

Through the years, Kitt remained a picture of vitality and attracted fans less than half her age even as she neared 80. When her book “Rejuvenate,” a guide to staying physically fit, was published in 2001, Kitt was featured on the cover in a long, curve-hugging black dress with a figure that some 20-year-old women would envy. Kitt also wrote three autobiographies.

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Once dubbed the “most exciting woman in the world” by Orson Welles, she spent much of her life single, though brief romances with the rich and famous peppered her younger years. After becoming a hit singing “Montonous” in the Broadway revue “New Faces of 1952,” Kitt appeared in “Mrs. Patterson” in 1954-55. (Some references say she earned a Tony nomination for “Mrs. Patterson,” but only winners were publicly announced at that time.) She also made appearances in “Shinbone Alley” and “The Owl and the Pussycat.”

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Her first album, “RCA Victor Presents Eartha Kitt,” came out in 1954, featuring such songs as “I Want to Be Evil,” “C’est Si Bon” and the saucy gold digger’s theme song “Santa Baby,” which is revived on radio each Christmas. The next year, the record company released follow-up album “That Bad Eartha,” which featured “Let’s Do It,” “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” and “My Heart Belongs to Daddy.”

In 1996, she was nominated for a Grammy in the category of traditional pop vocal performance for her album “Back in Business.” She also had been nominated in the children’s recording category for the 1969 record “Folk Tales of the Tribes of Africa.”

Kitt also acted in movies, playing the lead female role opposite Nat King Cole in “St. Louis Blues” in 1958 and more recently appearing in “Boomerang” and “Harriet the Spy” in the 1990s.

2008 The Associated Press. 2008-12-25 17:47:46

On television, she was the sexy Catwoman on the popular “Batman” series in 1967-68, replacing Julie Newmar who originated the role. A guest appearance on an episode of “I Spy” brought Kitt an Emmy nomination in 1966.

“Generally the whole entertainment business now is bland,” she said in a 1996 Associated Press interview. “It depends so much on gadgetry and flash now. You don’t have to have talent to be in the business today. “I think we had to have something to offer, if you wanted to be recognized as worth paying for.”

Rest in Peace beautiful lady.  Thank you for all that you gave the world. My condolences to the family.
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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 coffee buzz January 4, 2009 at 1:17 am

Eartha Kitt contributed a huge amount to the entertainment industry.. and it was so funny to find out that she was a voice in “The Emperor’s New Groove”

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2 Joan Fullmore August 19, 2010 at 1:25 am

Love this Lady! In my opinion she holds her own as one of the great mystics of our time. Beautiful in mind and body and always her spirit. She even dined with Einstein!!

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3 SonDan August 21, 2010 at 9:10 pm

Absolutely, positively correct Joan. Miss Kitt broke the mold: they sure don’t make them with spirit like her’s anymore.
Thank you so much for expressing yourself here at OSML. And please don’t be a stranger.
Musically Yours,
SonDan

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4 Doug Johnson October 14, 2010 at 12:43 am

About 30 years ago my wife and I were watching TV when Eartha Kitt came on the screen. My wife remarked, “I hope I look that good when I’m her age,” to which I replied, “I wish you looked that good now.”

Actually, that was my former wife.

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5 SonDan October 14, 2010 at 8:58 pm

What a wonderful anecdote Doug. I am so glad you found OSML and hope you continue to enjoy the articles here as much as I just enjoyed your post.
Thanks so much for sharing. ;-)

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6 Honut Sinti February 5, 2011 at 8:50 pm

Doug,

I have to say your post made me burst into a loud laugh! Thank you! :)

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7 Pop Star Parties May 3, 2011 at 12:31 pm

I was a great fan of Eartha Kitt’s music, but didn’t really know too much about her background. From your article it sounds like she lived an exciting life.

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