EARTHA KITT Biography - Musicians


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Name: Eartha Mae Keith                                                                             
Born: January 17, 1927 North, South Carolina, U.S.                                                 
Eartha Kitt (born Eartha Mae Keith on January 17, 1927)[1] is an American                           
actress, singer, and cabaret star. She is best known for her role as Catwoman in                   
the 1960s TV series Batman, and for her 1953 Christmas song "Santa Baby." Orson                     
Welles once called her "the most exciting woman in the world."                                     
In 1960, Kitt was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She has                       
also received three Tony nominations, two Grammy nominations, and an Emmy win.                     
She was profiled on the December 31, 2007 broadcast of NPR's Morning Edition.                       
Kitt's mother was Black Indian with Cherokee ancestry, and her father was                           
European-American. She was born out of wedlock in tiny North, South Carolina,                       
but jokes about the fact that many audiences assume her to be from somewhere                       
more exotic. Kitt now only slightly recalls her mother, who abandoned her to                       
relatives, and she never met her father. She had a very difficult childhood.                       
Kitt got her start as a member of the Katherine Dunham Company and made her film                   
debut with them in Casbah (1948). A talented singer with a distinctive voice,                       
her hits include "Let's Do It", "C'est si bon", "Just an Old Fashioned Girl", "Monotonous",         
"Love for Sale", "I'd Rather Be Burned as a Witch", "Uska Dara", "Mink, Schmink",                   
"Under the Bridges of Paris", and her most recognizable hit, "Santa Baby." Kitt's                   
unique style was enhanced as she became fluent in the French language during her                   
years performing in Europe. She dabbled in other languages as well, which she                       
demonstrates with finesse in many of the live recordings of her cabaret                             
In 1950, Orson Welles gave her her first starring role, as Helen of Troy in his                     
staging of Dr. Faustus. A few years later, she was cast in the revue New Faces                     
of 1952 introducing "Monotonous", "C'est si bon" and "Santa Baby", three songs                     
with which she continues to be identified. In 1954, 20th Century-Fox filmed a                       
version of the revue simply titled New Faces. Welles and Kitt allegedly had a                       
torrid affair during her run in Shinbone Alley, which earned her the nickname by                   
Welles as "the most exciting woman in the world." In 1958, Kitt made her feature                   
film debut opposite Sidney Poitier in The Mark of the Hawk. Throughout the rest                     
of the 1950s and early 1960s, Kitt would work on and off in film, television and                   
on nightclub stages. In the late 1960s, television series Batman, she played                       
Catwoman in succession to Julie Newmar.                                                             
In 1964, Kitt helped open the Circle Star Theater in San Carlos, California.                       
In 1968, however, Kitt encountered a substantial professional setback after she                     
made anti-war statements during a White House luncheon. It was falsely reported                     
that she made First Lady Lady Bird Johnson cry uncontrollably when in fact, the                     
First Lady replied very diplomatically. The public reaction to Kitt's statements                   
were much more extreme, both for and against her statements. Professionally                         
exiled from the U.S., she devoted her energies to overseas performances.                           
During that time cultural references to her grew, including outside the United                     
States, such as the well-known Monty Python sketch, "the cycling tour", where an                   
amnesiac believes he is first Clodagh Rogers, then Trotsky and finally Eartha                       
Kitt (while performing to an enthusiastic crowd in Moscow). She returned to New                     
York in a triumphant turn in the Broadway spectacle Timbuktu! (a version of the                     
perennial Kismet set in Africa) in 1978. In the musical, one song gives a 'recipe'                 
for mahoun, a preparation of cannabis, in which her sultry purring rendition of                     
the refrain "constantly stirring with a long wooden spoon" was distinctive.                         
In 1984, she returned to hit music with a disco song, Where Is My Man (UK #34);                     
the first certified Gold record of her career. Kitt found new audiences in                         
nightclubs across the country, including a whole new generation of gay male fans,                   
and she responded by frequently giving benefit performances in support of HIV/AIDS                 
organizations. Her 1989 follow-up hit "Cha-Cha Heels" (featuring Bronski Beat)                     
received a positive response from UK dance clubs and reached #32 in the UK                         
In the late 1990s she appeared as the Wicked Witch of the West in the North                         
American national touring company of The Wizard of Oz. In 2000, Kitt again                         
returned to Broadway in the short-lived run of Michael John LaChiusa's The Wild                     
Party opposite Mandy Patinkin and Toni Collette. Begininng in late 2000, she                       
starred as the Fairy Godmother in the National tour of Cinderella alongside                         
Deborah Gibson and then Jamie-Lynn Sigler. In 2003, she replaced Chita Rivera in                   
Nine. She reprised her role of the Fairy Godmother at a special engagement of                       
Cinderella which took place at Madison Square Gardens during the holiday season                     
of 2004.                                                                                           
One of her more unusual roles was as Kaa the python in a 1994 BBC Radio                             
adaptation of The Jungle Book. Kitt lent her distinctive voice to the role of                       
Yzma in Disney's The Emperor's New Groove and returned to the role in the                           
straight to video sequel Kronk's New Groove and the spin-off TV series The                         
Emperor's New School, for which she has won two Annie Awards for Voice Acting in                   
an Animated Television Production. She is currently doing other voiceover work                     
such as the voice of Queen Vexus on the animated TV series My Life as a Teenage                     
In recent years, Kitt's annual appearances in New York have made her a fixture                     
of the Manhattan cabaret scene. She takes the stage at venues such as The                           
Ballroom and, more recently, the Café Carlyle to explore and define her highly                     
stylized image, alternating between signature songs (such as Old Fashioned                         
Millionaire), which emphasize a witty, mercenary world-weariness, and less                         
familiar repertoire, much of which she performs with an unexpected ferocity and                     
bite that present her as a survivor with a seemingly bottomless reservoir of                       
resilience — her version of Here's to Life, frequently used as a closing number,                 
is a sterling example of the latter. This side of her later performances is                         
reflected in at least one of her recordings, Thinking Jazz, which preserves a                       
series of performances with a small jazz combo that took place in the early 1990s                   
in Germany and which includes both standards (Smoke Gets in Your Eyes) and                         
numbers (such as Something May Go Wrong) that seem more specifically tailored to                   
her talents; one version of the CD includes as bonus performances a fierce,                         
angry Yesterdays and a live rendering "C'est Si Bon" that good-humoredly                           
satirizes her sex-kitten persona.                                                                   
From October to early December, 2006, Kitt co-starred in the Off-Broadway                           
musical Mimi Le Duck. She also appeared in the 2007 independent film And Then                       
Came Love opposite Vanessa L. Williams.