Those were the days, my friends…
Known far and wide for her sultriness and distinctive voice, Eartha Kitt overcame a horrible childhood to become a superstar singer and actress. She was called “the most exciting woman in the world” by Orson Welles, although his accolade might have been influenced by the affair he was rumoured to have had with her.
Remembered fondly for her 1966 role as Catwoman on TV’s popular Batman show, her popularity took a severe hit two years later when she was invited to a White House luncheon by Lady Bird Johnson. When the First Lady inquired as to her opinion of the Vietnam war, which had deeply divided the nation, Kitt told the assembled group, “You send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed. They rebel in the street. They don’t want to go to school because they’re going to be snatched off from their mothers to be shot in Vietnam.”
Although admired by many for speaking truth to power, her outburst cost her professionally, and she was shunned in the U.S. for about 10 years. Not one to give up, however, she spent that period performing and gaining new fans in Europe. When she returned to the U.S. to star in a 1978 Broadway show, she was invited back to the White House by President Carter.
Many years later, she recalled the controversy with these words: “The thing that hurts, that became anger, was when I realized that if you tell the truth — in a country that says you’re entitled to tell the truth — you get your face slapped and you get put out of work.”
Her biggest hit was probably her rendition of Santa Baby, so it is perhaps fitting that she passed away on Christmas Day, 2008, at the age of 81.
In the above video she sings the lament of good girls everywhere, “I Want to Be Evil,” from a 1962 television appearance.