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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Actress Eartha Kitt, 81, Dies at Her Weston Home

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Eartha Kitt with her daughter Kitt Shapiro before a preview of “All About Us” at the Westport Country Playhouse last year. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo
Actress and singer Eartha Kitt died today at her Weston home, a family spokeswoman said. She was 81.

Kitt, a frequent performer at the Westport Country Playhouse and visitor to Westport, had been under treatment for colon cancer. Her daughter, Kitt Shapiro of Westport, was by her side.

She was performing almost until the end, taping a PBS special six weeks ago in Chicago which is set to air in February. Her recording of the Christmas song “Santa Baby” was certified gold last week.

Kitt was well known for her distinctive voice and made a name for herself in her portrayal of Catwoman in the television series “Batman.” That role produced Kitt’s recognizable sultry cat growl.

She worked in film, theater, cabaret, music and on television during her lengthy career during which she was nominated for a Tony three times, twice for a Grammy, and won two Emmy awards and was nominated for a third.

Kitt last appeared at The Westport Country Playhouse in April 2007 in the Kander and Ebb musical, “All About Us,” which was based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “The Skin of Our Teeth” by Thornton Wilder.

Kitt played Esmeralda, the fortune teller, in the production by the famed duo who wrote a string of long-running musicals, including “Cabaret” and “Chicago.”kittaccident08070401260.jpg
Eartha Kitt describes her accident to Westport police officer Anastasia DeLuca in August 2004. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)  WestportNow.com photo ©2004 WestportNow.com

In 2004, Kitt escaped serious injury when her SUV flipped over in an accident at Compo Road North and Post Road East in Westport.

WestportNow’s exclusive pictures of the accident aftermath were printed around the world. (See WestportNow Aug. 5, 2004)

Kitt was returning from a jog at Compo Beach when her SUV was “nipped in the derriere,” as she later described it.

She and her two toy poodles were shaken up but not seriously injured.

She said the “superior construction” of her Range Rover had saved her life.

Kitt rose to fame from humble origins as a mixed-race child who grew up in South Carolina’s cotton fields.

She was blacklisted during the late 1960s after she spoke out against the Vietnam War during a luncheon at the White House.

She worked abroad for years until her triumphant return to Broadway in 1974. She received her second Tony nomination in 1978 for her role in the musical “Timbuktu.”

In December 2006, she returned to the White House to light the national Christmas tree, standing beside President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush.

Singing in 10 different languages, Kitt performed in more than 100 countries.
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See obituary by The Associated Press here.

Posted 12/25 at 10:56 PM

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