Friday, December 26, 2008

The Incomparable Eartha Kitt Died Yesterday

Black actress, singer, and dancer Eartha Kitt died yesterday, on Christmas, at age 81, report news sources. The last time I wrote anything about Eartha Kitt was when the Catwoman movie came out starring Halle Berry. I did so because people kept talking about Halle Berry being a "black" Catwoman like that was novel. Catwoman had been played by an African American Actress before, Kitt, and I posted something on her reign as the feline villain.

CNN's obit has the following information on Kitt's passing:
Singer and actress Eartha Kitt has died, her publicist, Patty Freedman, told CNN on Thursday.
Actress Eartha Kitt, shown at a benefit for the Actors Fund in 2003, performed almost until the end of her life.

Kitt, 81, died in New York, where she was being treated for colon cancer, Freedman said. Her daughter, Kitt Shapiro, was by her side.

She was performing almost until the end, taping a PBS special six weeks ago in Chicago, Illinois. The show is set to air in February.

Her recording of the saucy Christmas song "Santa Baby" was certified gold last week.

Kitt was well known for her distinctive voice and made a name for herself in her portrayal of Catwoman in the television series "Batman." That role produced Kitt's recognizable sultry cat growl.

She worked in film, theater, cabaret, music and on television during her lengthy career. According to Kitt's official Web site, she was nominated for a Tony three times, a Grammy and Emmy twice. (CNN)
The story's frequent references to Kitt's "official website" lead me to believe the writer knew little of Kitt or where else to find information. Most likely the actress became famous before the writer's lifetime.

Prior to the Catwoman remake, I'd written about Kitt because some stupid man on a "black" social website harassed and called me a "fake azz Eartha Kitt" based on a picture of myself I had up back then (Looks nothing like what you'll see of me on the Web today. I was thinner then and you could see pronounced cheek bones, but I wasn't anywhere near as thin as Kitt. That would take a miracle.)

Despite Kitt being associated with sexiness and glamour and so, "fake" or otherwise, being called a type of Eartha Kitt is probably a compliment on some level, his note angered me. I suspected misogyny and other ugly issues motivated his message.

I wrote the following at a now-defunct blog:
In the black community, during my mother's generation, Eartha Kitt was seen as a sellout because she dated white men and lived a glamorous lifestyle while others struggled.

... I reported the guy to the site. Didn't even feel like dealing with it. He sent me a long apologetic note saying that he'd never send a note like that to anyone. Must've been one of his children, he said. Considering that his oldest child was 14, according to his webpage, I found that highly suspect. What in the hell would children who were still children know about Eartha Kitt or even care? Maybe his wife sent it after looking at his surfing history. Per the site administration's request, I did not respond.

While the note unnerved me initially, ultimately I found it amusing. "Man, if I had Eartha's looks, talent, and body, I'd be living a glam life somewhere too." Not necessarily with the type of males she preferred, but definitely I'd take advantage of having marketable physical assets. (from an old post, Dec. 2004)
I ended that post by telling stalker men in general to kiss my behind, which was definitely not fake, and guaranteeing them my sassiness was as real as Eartha's.

My mother, who was Kitt's age and from her era died last month. She too was 81, but her health did not last as long as Kitt's did. My mother suffered from dementia and was using a walker when she passed on. Kitt, while suffering from colon cancer, appeared to be quite fit otherwise. She was still performing.

If I live to 81 and look as good as Eartha Kitt, I'll be happy. Sadly, I don't look as good as Eartha right now and am more than 30 years younger than she was.

Most people recall her for her unique voice and sex appeal. Here's a YouTube clip so you can get an idea of its distinctiveness. You can also hear how males joke about her. It's from a 2006 NBC performance when Kitt was 79 years old. What a class act! Most of us can only wish we had her her umph and the courage to live as we want to live.


Update 12/28: Came across some fantastic photos of Eartha Kitt throughout her career at Tribe.net, including this one of Eartha with her daughter Kitt Shapiro.

People Magazine reports that Kitt was at her mother's side when Eartha passed on.

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