Friday, December 26, 2008

Eartha Kitt: 1927 - 2008

It is with deep sadness that Christmas Day of this year we lost a true and legendary entertainer, Eartha Kitt. I don't say that lightly. She performed on television, film, recording studios, nightclubs (all across the world), and on Broadway--who in this age has done that (or is even capable of doing this)?

Not only that, she was a survivor. The illegitimate daughter of young African-American mother and white father (who she never knew) in times so intolerant of such lineages. She was "given away for slavery" (as she recalled) to abusive and neglectful family members early in life. And, after building a spectacular career, she spoke out against the Vietnam War and suffered through professional exile in the U.S.

Just days ago on our brief vacation, my wife noted after listening in the car radio to her classic Christmas song, Santa Baby, she didn't know why many of those who recorded their versions of that song tried to imitate Kitt's persona while they sang it. They're never were going to out-Eartha Eartha, so why bother? I couldn't agree more. She had such a distinctive voice, personality and talent.

Growing up, I'd see this wonderful woman performer throughout my television viewing. In fact, one of the startling performances I watched in 1965 was Kitt as a drug addicted jazz singer in "The Loser" episode of I Spy. Couple of years later, she took over the part as Catwoman from Julie Newmar in the Batman series, and she became my favorite in that role, ever (...and I've never been the same since). Decades later, in 2000, she was easily the best thing in Disney's The Emperor's New Grove as the villainess Yzme:

Rest in peace, Eartha. You will be sorely missed...


  1. Thank you for mentioning her 'professional exile.' Many of the obits I've read have managed to completely eradicate that period of her life, when with no steady work and very little in the way of possessions she managed to turn herself into something of a real estate mogul. She was a smart lady with a backbone, and she wasn't afraid of hard work. Gotta love her.

    And I agree about 'Santa Baby.' Every other version is a bad imitation of Eartha's.

  2. Corey: yes, many of the obits let that one slip by (or, they simply didn't do their homework). The woman was a legend in every sense of the word--and I still don't think the news media is giving her enough credit, posthumously. Many really don't know what we've lost.