Eartha Kitt – a show business career spanning 6 decades – dies at 81

December 26, 2008 at 7:08 am 2 comments

Eartha Kit died yesterday at the age of 81 after a battle with colon cancer. Born to an African American mother and a white father whom she never knew, Eartha suffered from poverty and abuse for most of her early life. It was by chance that she entered show business as she responded to a dare from friends and auditioned for a part in a dance performance.

So it was in the late 40s that Eartha started her career as a dancer and then went on to be one of the first multi-tasking women in show business, achieving success in a number of mediums – dance, song, film, television, broadway. A seductive woman with a come-hither voice, Eartha Kitt won the hearts of millions. Orson Welles referred to her in the fifties as one of the most exciting women alive.

She spoke four languages and sang in seven. Her greatest hit was “Santa Baby”. I remember listening to it hundreds of times. This number was later also sung by Janet Jackson, Madonna, Kylie Minogue and others. Other numbers that I particularly enjoyed, and that turned out to be her signature tunes, were “C’est Si Bon”, “Love for Sale” and “Old Fashioned Girl”.

The tough life she had led made Eartha a bit hard and certainly very blunt. She suffered because of this bluntness when she was invited to the White House for a luncheon in the late sixties. Lady Bird Johnson, the first lady, asked her about the Vietnam War and Eartha responded: “You send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed. No wonder the kids rebel and take pot.” It was claimed that the first lady broke into tears and this led to a subsequent negative campaign being launched against Eartha Kitt by the CIA, resulting in her getting no work and being exiled to Europe for almost a decade. She was finally invited back to the White House by President Jimmy Carter.

Eartha won several Tony Awards and Grammys throughout her career. She has also written 3 autobiographies. Through her talent, Eartha Kitt brought so much pleasure to the lives of so many. May she rest in peace.

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