Eartha Kitt, a sultry presence whether singing, dancing or acting, died in New York at age 81. She had been suffering from colon cancer. Known for her hit "Santa Baby" and as Catwoman on the TV series Batman, Kitt was called "the most exciting woman alive" by Orson Welles (see her discuss how Welles bit her onstage in his excitement). She was also controversial after denouncing the Vietnam War—at a White House luncheon given by Lady Bird Johnson (allegedly making the First Lady cry). The NY Times obituary notes how Kitt influenced many, including Diana Ross, and that critics loved mentioning her feline qualities (the purr of her voice, the slink of her walk—see her perform "C'est Si Bon.") As a child, she was sent to Harlem to live with an aunt: "Though she was given piano and dance lessons, a pattern of abuse developed there as well: Ms. Kitt would be beaten, run away and return. By her early teenage years she was working in a factory and sleeping in subways and on the roofs of unlocked buildings."
Seductive Performer Eartha Kitt Dies at 81
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