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Eartha Kitt: About

Eartha Kitt

Former Weston resident and frequent performer at The Westport Country Playhouse. Her daughter, Kitt Shapiro, is also a Westporter.

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Want to learn more about Eartha Kitt's life? Read the new book Eartha & Kitt: A Daughter's Love Story in Black and White by Westport's own Kitt Shapiro

Who is Eartha Kitt?

Eartha Mae Kitt was an international star who gave new meaning to the word versatile. She distinguished herself in film, theater, cabaret, music and on television. Miss Kitt was one of only a handful of performers to be nominated for a Tony (three times), the Grammy (twice), and Emmy Award (twice). She regularly enthralled New York nightclub audiences during her extended stays at The Cafè Carlyle.

Miss Kitt was ostracized at an early age because of her mixed-race heritage. At eight years old, she was given away by her mother and sent from the South Carolina cotton fields to live with an aunt in Harlem. In New York her distinct individuality and flair for show business manifested itself, and on a friend’s dare, the shy teen auditioned for the famed “Katherine Dunham Dance Troupe.” She won a spot as a featured dancer and vocalist and before the age of twenty, toured worldwide with the company. During a performance in Paris, Miss Kitt was spotted by a nightclub owner and booked as a featured singer at his club. Her unique persona earned her fans and fame quickly, including Orson Welles, who called her “the most exciting woman in the world”

Back in New York, Miss Kitt was booked at The Village Vanguard, and soon spotted by a Broadway producer who put her in “New Faces Of 1952” where every night she transfixed audiences with her sultry rendition of Monotonous. Broadway stardom led to a recording contract and a succession of best-selling records including “Love for Sale”, “I Want to Be Evil”, “Santa Baby” and “Folk Tales of the Tribes of Africa”, which earned her a Grammy nomination. In 1967, Miss Kitt made an indelible mark on pop culture as the infamous “Catwoman” in the television series, “Batman.” She immediately became synonymous with the role and her trademark growl became imitated worldwide.

Singing in ten different languages, Miss Kitt performed in over 100 countries and was honored with a star on “The Hollywood Walk of Fame” in 1960. In 1966, she was nominated for an Emmy for her role in the series, “I Spy”. In 1968, Miss Kitt’s career took a sudden turn when, at a White House luncheon hosted by Lady Bird Johnson, she spoke out against the Vietnam War. For years afterward, Miss Kitt was blacklisted in the U.S. and was forced to work abroad where her status remained undiminished.

In 1974, Miss Kitt returned to the United States, with a triumphant Carnegie Hall concert and, in 1978, received a second Tony nomination for her starring role in the musical, “Timbuktu.” Miss Kitt’s second autobiography, “Alone With Me”, was published in 1976 and “I’m Still Here: Confessions Of A Sex Kitten” was released in 1989. Her best-selling book on fitness and positive attitude,” Rejuvenate! (It’s Never Too Late)”, was released by Scribner in May 2001.

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