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Music / Eartha Kitt

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"The audience has always been my best director."

Eartha Kitt (born Eartha Mae Keith; January 17, 1927 – December 25, 2008) was an American singer and actress.

She began her career in 1943, joining the Katherine Dunham Company, who toured worldwide. When the company eventually returned to the United States, she chose to remain in Paris as a nightclub singer. It was here that she was discovered by director Orson Welles, who gave her her first leading role as Helen of Troy in his play Doctor Faustus in 1950.

From there, Kitt became a regular on Broadway, and recorded many of her notable songs, with perhaps her most famous being the Christmas standard, "Santa Baby." Kitt's most famous TV role is the Catwoman in the third season of Batman (1966), where she wasn't allowed to have the established underlying sexual tension with the white title character, but infused an appealing cat-like slinkiness to her role.

Things came to an abrupt stop in 1968, however, when, during a visit to the White House, she made several statements opposing The Vietnam War. The incident led to her being blacklisted in the United States, and she was relegated to touring in Europe for the better part of the 1970s.

Her career was eventually revived after a starring role in the 1978 musical Timbuktu, for which she was nominated for a Tony Award. She would continue to sing and act until her death from colon cancer in 2008.

Notable acting roles:

Her work contains examples of:

  • Christmas Songs: She was known for writing and initially performing "Santa Baby", and even did a "sequel" record called "This Year's Santa Baby" in which she bemoans the condition of the previous year's goodies and asks Santa for a new batch.
  • Evil is Petty: "I Want To Be Evil" differs from standard Villain Songs in that she doesn't sing about riches, power, or triumphing over the hero, just everyday Jerkassery and slightly unwholesome behavior.
  • Gold Digger: A subject of a couple of her songs. "Santa Baby" has the narrator asking Santa for various luxury goods in a sultry manner, while "Just an Old Fashioned Girl" has the subject disguising her expensive demands as simple requests.
  • Naked in Mink: One notable performance of "Santa Baby" had her barely covered by a length of white fur.
  • Refuge in Audacity: In "Santa Baby," she seductively croons to Santa that because she has been a good girl all year, he should gift her with increasingly extravagant gifts like a '54 convertible, a duplex and checks, and the deed to a platinum mine.
  • Villain Song: "I Want To Be Evil" is about a Girl Next Door who wants to become evil and set aside her frills to become a Femme Fatale.
  • Word, Schmord!: One of her well-known songs is called "Mink Schmink".