From Poverty to Living Legend….A Star Dies… Remembering Eartha Kitt
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What an example of someone born with nothing and having the strength to pull herself up by her bootstraps, and move forward.
Considering that she was abandoned by her mother at age 3, forced to pick cotton by age 6 and kicked out of the house at 16, Eartha Mae Kitt did not appear destined for global stardom.
She born in extreme proverty in the South. And because of her light skin color, had a hard time being accepted by both the blacks and the whites.
(remember Imitation of Life?)
Yet by her 20s she had willed herself into becoming a singing sensation in Europe — the next Josephine Baker, proclaimed critics in the late 1940s and early ’50s. In quick succession thereafter, Ms. Kitt seduced American audiences singing in Broadway and Hollywood musicals in the mid-’50s and purring as Catwoman on TV’s ” Batman” in the ’60s.
Triply blessed with a pliant voice, a palpable charisma and a voracious appetite to succeed, Ms. Kitt conquered virtually every medium she took on, earning multiple Tony and Grammy Award nominations. Yet if she made her triumphs look easy, her journey was tumultuous from start and practically to finish.
In 1968 she made scandalous headlines by speaking her mind at the White House, and her career came to a screaching halt. It took nearly a decade to start up her career and wasn’t really until 1995 when she won her rave reviews for shows at the Cafe Carlyle in New York and at Navy Pier in Chicago, where she clenched her fists and bared her teeth in a roaring medley of “I’m Still Here” and “I Will Survive.”
Since then, she played frequently in the Chicago area, performing cabaret at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, and bringing a shot of energy to Lanie Robertson’s “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill” at the New Athenaeum Theatre.
She earned a Grammy nomination for her aptly named 1995 CD “Back in Business”; performed the voice of Yzma in the 2000 Disney animated feature “The Emperor’s New Groove”; and replaced Chita Rivera on Broadway in 2003 in a revival of “Nine.”
“When I look at my Eartha Kitt scrapbooks today, I think, ‘You know, she did a pretty good job of herself,’ ” said Ms. Kitt — who was married in 1960 and had one daughter before divorce — in the Tribune interview.
“She didn’t do too badly — for an ugly duckling.”
Perseverance pays off!
What a wonderful lady and wonderful talent.
Sadly, the singer-actor-dancer-raconteur died December 25th, at age 81 in Connecticut of colon cancer. She will be greatly missed.
BWW TV – Broadway Beat did a great Tribute with Eartha Kitt, full of wonderful footage! Watch it online!
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