Sunday, December 13, 2015

Eternal Ertha

 "Santa Baby" was originally recorded by Eartha Kitt with Henri René and his orchestra in New York City on October 6, 1953. It was released by RCA Victor Records as catalog number 20-5502 (in the USA). The song was a huge hit and continues to be played at the holidays.

When someone live through hard times, sometimes they get lucky and move on, but they never forget.  Life stacked the deck against Ertha from an early age. She was labeled a 'yella gal' from birth (due to her mixed heritage skin color and living in the south).  Eartha never knew her father, she was abandoned by her mother at an early age (in favor of her darker sibling), and was raised by another family that ignored her.  By her own thoughts, she grew up with extremely low self-esteem.  How did she cope? She focused herself into a dream-type fantasy world and created a vision of herself.  Along the way, she became many a gay man's icon.  

A self-proclaimed 'sex kitten,' Ertha was famous for her catlike purrrrr.  Her career spanned six decades, from her start as a dancer to cabarets and acting and singing on stage, and later in movies and on television.  Ms. Kitt was one of America's most versatile performers, winning two Emmys. She also nominated for several Tonys and also for two Grammys.  She made headlines in the 1960's for denouncing the Vietnam War during a visit to the White House.  The next ten years found her blacklisted in the United States.. Her career continued to soar, however, during her exile in Europe until 1976, when President Jimmy Carter invited her back to the United States. 

One title Ms. Kitt was proud of was her being awarded the title of "Gay Icon". Later in life Eartha Kitt would say: "After my blacklisting, it was the Gay community that welcomed me back with open arms." This was something she never forgot and spent a great deal of her time dedicating herself to working with the Gay Men's Health Crisis and other AIDS charities.dded Kitt, "I feel very close to the gay crowd because we know what it feels like to be rejected."
Kitt’s sentiments in that interview are still topical now. Speaking on the subject of marriage equality for gay and lesbian families, Kitt said, "I support it because we’re asking for the same thing.

"If I have a partner and something happens to me, I want that partner to enjoy the benefits of what we have reaped together."

Added the world-famous performer, "It’s a civil-rights thing, isn’t it?"

Though some Black Americans take umbrage at the suggestion that the civil rights struggle of gays and Blacks have close parallels, Kitt herself made that comparison, saying, "We were not allowed to go through certain doors because of our race, our color.

Eartha Kitt, Batman series 'Catwoman' and "Santa Baby" singer, 'international symbol of elegance and sensuality,' died on Christmas Day.

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