Eartha Kitt

She was Catwoman in 'Batman', fought and campaigned for womens rights and even upset the US President after speaking out against the Vietnam War, but Eartha Kitt is probably best remembered for her huge hit record 'Santa Baby', which became a standard, replayed every Christmas. Born on a cotton plantation in South Carolina, she was of mixed race but never knew her father and had an uncertain upbringing. She began to make her mark after she was sent to New York to study performing arts. Joining a touring company, her remarkable voice underlined a star status that was quickly evident in the innuendo of her seductive early hits including 'Let's Do It', 'Just an Old-Fashioned Girl', 'Love for Sale', 'C'est Si Bon' and, most enduringly, 'Santa Baby', originally released in 1953. Fluent in four languages, she worked regularly in cabaret in Europe and established a successful parallel career in acting after Orson Welles cast her as Helen of Troy in 'Dr Faustus' in 1950. Notable movie roles included the W.C Handy biopic, 'St. Louis Blues' and 'Anna Lucasta' and in the late 1960s she portrayed Catwoman in the 'Batman' TV series opposite Adam West. Noted for her fiery temperament she was never afraid to speak her mind as she campaigned for womens rights and civil rights and her career suffered when, during a luncheon with President Johnson and his wife at the White House, she spoke out bitterly against the Vietnam War, reputedly reducing the First Lady to tears. But she returned, reputation intact, to the Broadway stage in 1978 to star in 'Timbuktu' and played the Wicked Witch in a touring production of 'The Wizard of Oz'. She continued to sing and had a 1984 hit with 'Where Is My Man?' and won Emmy Awards for her vocal contributions to the animated childrens TV series 'The Emperor's New School' and 'The Emperor's New Groove'. She even did the voiceover for TV commercials promoting the Steely Dan album 'Aja' and went to be acclaimed in London when she not only starred in 'Stephen Sondheim's Follies', but also presented her own one-woman show. In later years she became a gay icon and unlikely star of the dance scene, recording 'Cha-Cha Heels' with Bronski Beat. She continued to perform until shortly before her death from cancer in 2008.

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