Throwback Thursday – Eartha Kitt

by Tamu McPherson

Eartha Kitt, the iconic African-American entertainer who knocked down barriers on Broadway and internationally, popped onto the ATPB radar via Instagram this week – and the generously posted images GAVE US SO MUCH LIFE! Thank you Gareth (@ZANZANMAN) and Emil (@EMILWILBEKIN).

She’s been grander-than-life for me ever since I discovered her as little girl, owning her “boss” interpretation of Cat Woman or singing “Santa Baby,” an all time favorite of mine that I had no business listening to before the age of 18. A magnetizing force [of nature and femininity], she captured my attention every time she purred across the TV screen, or sung like golden honey over the radio. Her accomplishments are many: she rose above a spirit-breaking childhood in South Carolina, where she was born, to build a spectacular career while always staying true to her principles and beliefs. A strength in character that ultimately lead to a fall in her stardom in the US in 1968 after she made comments against the Vietnam War at a White House luncheon. She was invited by “Lady Bird” Johnson, and at a certain point was solicited for her thoughts on the war. She responded: “The children of America are not rebelling for no reason. They are not hippies for no reason at all. We don’t have what we have on Sunset Blvd. for no reason. They are rebelling against something. There are so many things burning the people of this country, particularly mothers. They feel they are going to raise sons—and I know what it’s like, and you have children of your own, Mrs. Johnson—we raise children and send them to war.” (Wikipedia) I honestly believe that I would have thought the same thing at the time, but who knows if I would have had the COURAGE to say it. And it’s precisely that flavor of audacity that charmed her audiences worldwide and crowned her a brilliantly talented icon. The gutsiness to travel to Europe (London and Paris) and carve a niche for herself, to learn the many languages in which she performed, to hold her own on stage with leading white actors at a time when it was considered absolutely racially taboo, and to return to the US in 1978 after spending 10 years abroad in wake of the White House controversy and captivate Broadway in the acclaimed Timbuktu! deserves nothing but RESPECT! And that’s why she’s our Throwback Thursday Love. Enjoy her splendor!

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