I’m almost hesitant to make Eartha Kitt the Friday Fierceness.
Although I’d seen her before as a child in her campy ears and catsuit (sorry Ms Newmar, she was the ONLY Catwoman) and knew “Santa Baby“, Eartha Kitt burst onto my burgeoning psyche in the now oft-referenced documentary “Unzipped” when I was a sophomore in high school.
Watching Ms Kitt toy with poor starstruck Isaac after one of her shows transfixed me. He trembles to light a cigarette while she, every inch the cabaret star, whirls and writhes around him singing in what might be Turkish.
She was mesmerizing, more than a bit terrifying and completely, thoroughly and positively glamorously insane.
A few years later I picked up her memoir “I’m Still Here: Confessions of a Sex Kitten” which is well worth reading (she took ballet with James Dean! She danced with Katherine Dunham! She was blacklisted after she made Lady Bird Johnson cry!) is well worth reading and of course no house is complete without at least ONE of her albums —Purr-fect: Greatest Hits , mostly filled with her wry trademark paeans to Very Expensive Things– is the logical place to start.
There is so much about Eartha Kitt that’s worth knowing, and so many wonderful roles she’s played but of all the lessons we can learn from Ms Kitt, the most important is this:
Glamor is a decision. An unloved, unwanted child, a product of rape and poverty, rejected by nearly everyone because of her skin color and unusual features –her father was white and her mother was Cherokee and black– by force of will BECAME one of the most glamorous people in modern history.
We cannot, I think, always choose to be effortlessly chic or graceful or elegant just by willing ourselves to be so, but glamor? Glamor we can do. It takes will, bravery and a certain willingness to not care what other people think about unimportant matters. Do it for yourself, or more importantly…do it for Eartha.