Eartha Kitt has died at the age of 81 of colon cancer. Eartha Kitt was best known for two things. The first was playing Cat Woman on the 1960s Batman series. The second was denouncing the Vietnam War in Lyndon Johnson’s White House.
Eartha Kitt’s accomplishments were far more than those two things. She rose from an abusive childhood on a South Carolina cotton plantation to become a singer, dancer, and actress whose career spanned six decades. Her hit songs included Santa Baby, an ironic Christmas song about a rich woman who wanted expensive gifts such as diamonds and furs, Let’s Do it, C’est Si Bon,Monotonous, and I’d Rather Be Burned as a Witch.
Eartha Kitt’s acting roles included Helen of Troy in an Orson Wells production of Dr. Faustus, Shinbone Ally,Mark of the Hawk (with Sidney Poitier), Boomerang (with Eddie Murphy), and her last film, And Then Came Love (with Vanessa Williams.)
Eartha Kitt’s more familiar role was that of Cat Woman in the fourth season of the 1960s TV show Batman. She played the sultry, purring, leather clad villainess with panache and sensuality.
In 1968 Eartha Kitt was invited to the White House luncheon where, during remarks, she denounced the Vietnam War and, as the story goes, made Lady Bird Johnson cry. Neither act endeared her to President Lyndon Johnson, a man not known for taking slights laying down. The FBI investigated Eartha Kitt and found her to be “foul-mouthed and promiscuous.” Eartha Kitt could not find work in the United States and was forced into exile in Europe for ten years.
In 1978, Eartha Kitt returned in triumph to the United States for a starring role in the Broadway Musical Timbuktu!, an African version of Kismit, for which she won a Tony and an invite to the Jimmy Carter White House that went off better than the previous visit.
Eartha Kitt continued to work for nearly three decades in a variety of acting and singing venues. Despite her advancing years, she maintained a healthy vigor and a mature sultriness almost until the end. Eartha Kitt died on Christmas Day, 2008.
Eartha Kitt made her fame in a variety of venues, but anyone coming of age in the 1960s, learning to appreciate sleek women in leather who could kick butt (Diana Rigg’s Emma Peel was another such), Eartha Kitt’s Cat Woman remains a golden memory. The role was not a prestigious, to be sure, as those she played on Broadway and in New York and Paris cabarets. But one thinks she had fun, camping in up. Everyone who watched her certainly did.
Source: Eartha Kitt, sultry ‘Santa Baby’ singer, dies, Polly Anderson, AP, December 25th, 2008