I had my first brush with greatness in the late 1970s. My mother and a friend gathered all the kids together, dressed us in our Sunday dresses, ankle socks, and patent leather shoes and off we went to the theatre to see Timbuktu starring the legendary diva Eartha Kitt. After the show we all gathered at the backstage door to be ushered into her glamorous dressing room; the kind that you only see in old black and white Hollywood movies. I was speechless. Ms. Kitt was bubbly and enchanting. She spoke to us as if we were old family friends in that purrrrrrfectly sultry voice that has become her trademark, along with her shapely legs.
Ms. Kitt turned 80 years young this week and she continues to charm and seduce audiences of all ages. Who hasn’t heard her sexy rendition of “Santa Baby” or recall her charged up roles as Catwoman in classic episodes of Batman or as Lady Elouise in Boomerang? Her most recent role has been on stage as Mimi le Duck on the New World Stage in New York.
This feisty vixen has been fighter all her life. Standing at a reported 5′4" (and I would venture to say that is in stilettos), Kitt was raised by an aunt in Harlem after being abandoned by her parents. She went on to carve out a career for herself in show business after being inspired by a caring teacher that gave her a matinee ticket to a Broadway show. She has been ostracized for everything from her mixed race heritage to her outspoken nature. Kitt recalls in an interview with Nichelle Gainer, "When I walked through Harlem, they used to say "Why don't you go back downtown; This is after they would read about me in the papers with a white man. But, the funny thing is, I went out with Sammy Davis too, but no one said anything about that!"
Eartha Kitt has survived it all, from car accidents to her most recent battle of a diagnosis of colon cancer. True to form, Ms. Kitt is living her life to the fullest — continuing to work, continuing to laugh, and continuing to fight. Happy birthday Eartha Kitt!