NEW YORK TIMES: Ms. Kitt, who began performing as a dancer in New York in the late ’40s, went on to achieve success and acclaim in a variety of mediums long before other entertainment multitaskers like Julie Andrews, Barbra Streisand and Bette Midler. With her curvaceous frame and unabashed vocal come-ons, she was also, along with Lena Horne, among the first widely known African-American sex symbols. Orson Welles famously proclaimed her “the most exciting woman alive” in the early ’50s, apparently just after that excitement prompted him to bite her onstage during a performance of “Time Runs,” an adaptation of “Faust” in which Ms. Kitt played Helen of Troy.
Ms. Kitt’s career-long persona, that of the seen-it-all sybarite, was set when she performed in Paris cabarets in her early 20s, singing songs that became her signatures like “C’est Si Bon” and “Love for Sale.” Returning to New York, she was cast on Broadway in “New Faces of 1952” and added another jewel to her vocal crown, “Monotonous” (“Traffic has been known to stop for me/Prices even rise and drop for me/Harry S. Truman plays bop for me/Monotonous, monotone-ous”). Brooks Atkinson wrote in The New York Times in May 1952, “Eartha Kitt not only looks incendiary, but she can make a song burst into flame.”
Shortly after that run, Ms. Kitt had her first best-selling albums and recorded her biggest hit, “Santa Baby,” whose precise, come-hither diction and vaguely foreign inflections (Ms. Kitt, a native of South Carolina, spoke four languages and sang in seven) proved that a vocal sizzle could be just as powerful as a bonfire. Though her record sales fell after the rise of rhythm and blues and rock ’n’ roll in the mid- and late ’50s, her singing style would later be the template for other singers with small-but-sensual voices like Diana Ross (who has said she patterned her Supremes sound and look largely after Ms. Kitt), Janet Jackson and Madonna, who recorded a cover version of “Santa Baby” in 1987. Ms. Kitt would later call herself “the original material girl,” a reference not only to her stage creation but also to her string of romances with rich or famous men, including Welles, the cosmetics magnate Charles Revson and the banking heir John Barry Ryan 3rd. She was married to her one husband, Bill McDonald, a real-estate developer, from 1960 to 1965; their daughter, Kitt Shapiro, survives her, as do two grandchildren.
From practically the beginning of her career, as critics gushed over Ms. Kitt, they also began to describe her in every feline term imaginable: her voice “purred” or “was like catnip”; she was a “sex kitten” who “slinked” or was “on the prowl” across the stage, sometimes “flashing her claws.” Her career has often been said to have had “nine lives.” Appropriately enough, she was tapped to play Catwoman in the 1960s TV series “Batman,” taking over the role from the leggier, lynxlike Julie Newmar and bringing to it a more feral, compact energy. MORE
EARTHA KITT: I Want To Be Evil
UPDATE: Details Emerge In Palin Baby Mama In Law Oxy Bust
ASSOCIATED PRESS: Johnston is the mother of 18-year-old Levi Johnston. Gov. Sarah Palin announced in September that her 18-year-old daughter Bristol was pregnant and Johnston was the father. Authorities say the case began in the second week of September – a couple of weeks into Palin’s campaign as Republican vice presidential candidate – when drug investigators intercepted a package containing 179 Oxycontin pills. That led to the arrest of the suspects, who agreed to be informants. According to the affidavit, Johnston sent a text message to one informant Oct. 1, writing: “Hey, my phones are tapped and reporters and god knows who else is always following me and the family so no privacy. I will let u no when I can go for cof.” Ten days after Johnston said there wasn’t enough privacy for a drug sale, she texted again to set up a meeting at a store, according to the affidavit. The document says the informant received $800 to make a purchase, meeting investigators later with 10 pills of 80-milligram Oxycontin. A second purchase was made the following day, authorities said. This time the informant wore a hidden camera and a microphone. MORE