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Eartha Kitt: In memorium
Eartha Kitt: In memorium
by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

On Christmas Day this year there was a new star in the sky. It had nothing to do with the season as much as it did the passing of a legendary woman. On December 25, 2008, Ms. Eartha Kitt lost her long battle to colon cancer and died at the age of 81. Survived by not only one daughter but four grandchildren as well, Ms. Kitt's life and career became one of originality in many different fields including cabaret, stage, screen, television and the printed word.

Born into severe poverty in the rural, prejudicial South, Eartha Kitt's beginning appeared as if life was stacked against her. Labeled a 'yella gal' from birth due to her mixed heritage skin color, Eartha never knew her father and was abandoned by her mother at an early age in favor of her darker siblings. Raised by another family that barely noticed her, she grew up with low self-esteem and a focused vision to surpass her surroundings and achieve greatness.

Managing to overcome and triumph, Ms. Kitt made her way to New York City and eventually became a member of the prestigious Katherine Dunham Dance Company. Her solo spot captured the attention of Orson Welles, who cast her in his Faustus, starting a love relationship and proclaiming her: "The most exciting woman in the world." Eartha Kitt's career blossomed on Broadway in New Faces of 1952 and to her most famous television persona of "Cat Woman." She hit the record charts with such titles as: "Santa Baby," "Monotonous," "I Want to be Evil," and "Champagne Tastes," among other hits. It would be her Gay club hit "Where is My Man," however, that would be her first certified gold record, and last week the ringtone version of her classic "Santa Baby" was also certified gold.

After expressing her views on the Vietnam War to 'Lady Bird' Johnson, at a White House luncheon, the media exploited Ms. Kitt's opinions and the next ten years found her blacklisted in the United States. Her career continued to soar, however, during her exile in Europe until 1976, when President Jimmy Carter invited her back to the United States.

Among her life achievements, Ms. Kitt earned nominations for two Tony Awards, two Grammy Awards and won several Emmy Awards for her work on the television series, Emperor's New School. One title Ms. Kitt was proud of was her being awarded the title of "Gay Icon". Later in life Eartha Kitt would say: "After my blacklisting, it was the Gay community that welcomed me back with open arms." This was something she never forgot and spent a great deal of her time dedicating herself to working with the Gay Men's Health Crisis and other AIDS charities.

Ms. Kitt appeared annually at Seattle's Dimitriou's Jazz Alley. Her last appearance was July 22-25, 2008. Very selective with whom she'd grant interviews to, one of her last personal interviews went to the Seattle Gay News (July 11, 2008). To the very end, Ms. Kitt was a fighter and a force to be reckoned with. Self-describing her life in six words: "rejected", "ejected", "dejected", "used", "accused", and "abused". Regret was never mentioned.

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