Saturday, December 27, 2008

R.I.P. Eartha Kitt

Goodness. First Bettie Page and now Eartha Kitt. The past few weeks have been really bad for Old Hollywood. Eartha Kitt passed away yesterday, December 26 in Connecticut from colon cancer. She was 81.

She won two Grammys and two Tonys. She danced with Katherine Dunham [!!], starred in "St. Louis Blues" with Nat King Cole and played Catwoman on the Batman television show.

She was the child of a black and Cherokee mother and a white father. She lived with an aunt after her father decided he couldn't have a mixed race daughter. After moving to New York and going to the High School of the Performing Arts for a while, Kitt dropped out and had lucky breaks that had Orson Welles calling her "the most exciting woman in the world".

It's so weird, because just the other day I downloaded "Santa Baby" and I thought about how a few years ago she performed at the Newport Jazz Festival, even when she was in her late 70s. I didn't get to see her because I had tickets for a different day of the festival, but I really wish I'd gotten the chance. Miss Kitt was unstoppable as a singer, dancer, and actress. She was the original sex kitten, coining the term herself with her purr. I was first introduced to her as the batty old lady in "Harriet the Spy". She was a parody of herself in that role but there was still the hint of Old Hollywood glamour and opulence that we still love classic movies for. I watched that movie all the time when I was in 3rd grade.

Photos from the LIFE magazine archive:

Eartha Kitt photographed by famous photographer [and director of Shaft] Gordon Parks in 1952.

More Gordon Parks, 1952

More Gordon Parks, 1952

On the piano. Purrrrr.


  1. First there was Kitt, then Grace Jones took it to another level... and lets see if Rihanna can carry it on...

    RIP - You will NEVER be forgotten!


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