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Eartha Kitt

Eartha Kitt poses in character as Catwoman for the television show "Batman" in this 1967 file photo. Kitt, a sultry singer, dancer and actress who rose from South Carolina cotton fields to become an international symbol of elegance and sensuality, died Dec. 25, 2008. She was 81. 

NORTH -- A famous singer, actress and activist once described by actor, writer and director Orson Welles as "the most exciting woman in the world" will be celebrated by her hometown on Jan. 14.

Born on Jan. 17, 1927 in the town of North, Eartha Mae Kitt was known for her distinctive singing style and her 1953 recordings of the enduring Christmas novelty song, "Santa Baby" as well as "C'est Si Bon," which were both Top 10 hits in the U.S.

Kitt, who died on Dec. 25, 2008, starred in 1967 as Catwoman in the third and final season of the TV series "Batman."  

North Mayor Patty Carson announced earlier this year that the town will hold Eartha Kitt Day on Saturday, Jan. 14, with a gala to be held in the North Middle/High School auditorium from 5 to 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 a person for the dinner and a silent auction; 300 tickets are available. Tickets can be purchased by calling Barbara Jeffcoat at 803-247-5511.

Proceeds from the gala will be donated to North Cooperative Ministries, a non-profit 501(c)3 public charity that ministers to people in need in the North community. Tax deductible cash or items for the silent auction may be donated to North Cooperative Ministries as well.

Kitt's daughter, Kitt Shapiro, hopes to be able to attend the gala and has asked that anyone wishing to honor her mother do so with a gift to the Cooperative Ministries of North.

Shapiro shared some of her mother’s sayings (known as “Kittisms”) she has collected that demonstrate her character and ideals, including:

  • “How healthy can we be living on an ailing planet? Remember, everything is connected and if we care for the planet, the planet will care for us."
  • “The present without the past has nothing to say for itself."
  • "Whatever intelligence we obtain is meant to be passed on. Everyone is a teacher even if it's only for a moment."

Being biracial, Kitt was given away by her mother when she was 8 years old. She was sent from North to live with her aunt in Harlem, New York, where she entered the entertainment field. As a teen, she auditioned and was selected for the Katherine Dunham Dance Troupe as a featured dancer and vocalist. When the troupe toured Europe, Kitt was spotted by a nightclub owner in Paris and hired to perform at his club, where she quickly became a favorite. Orson Welles caught her performance at the club and later cast her as Helen of Troy in his fabled production of “Dr. Faust.” When Kitt returned to New York, she was booked at The Village Vanguard, and was soon spotted by a Broadway producer who put her in “New Faces Of 1952."

Her Broadway successes soon led to recording contracts and bestselling recordings including "Love for Sale," “I Want to Be Evil" and “Folk Tales of the Tribes of Africa”. During this time, Kitt published her first autobiography, "Thursday’s Child."

Kitt distinguished herself in film, theater, cabaret, music and on television. She was one of only a handful of performers to be nominated for a Tony (three times), a Grammy (twice) and an Emmy (twice).

Young fans loved her as YZMA, the villain in Disney’s animated feature “The Emperor’s New Groove," which earned Kitt the 2001 Annie Award for Best Vocal Performance/Animated Feature. Kitt was also featured in the sequel, “The Emperor’s New Groove II,” and reprised the role in the popular Saturday morning animated series “The Emperor’s New School” for which she received a 2007 and 2008 Emmy Award for Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program and a 2007 and 2008 Annie Award for Best Vocal Performance in an Animated Television Production.

Singing in 10 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, 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, Kitt was blacklisted in the U.S. and was forced to work abroad.

In December 2006, she returned to Washington and lit the National Christmas Tree alongside President and Mrs. George W. Bush. 

Source: Official Eartha Kitt website: www.earthakitt.com.

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Contact the writer: speters@surrealestate.com.

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