Seductive singer Eartha Kitt dies at 81

Thu Dec 25, 2008 7:42pm EST
 
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By Christopher Wilson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Eartha Kitt, who rose from the Southern cotton fields to captivate audiences around the world with sultry performances as a singer, dancer and actress, died on Thursday at the age of 81.

Kitt died of colon cancer for which she was recently treated at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York, said Andrew Freedman, a long-time friend and publicist.

The cancer was detected about two years ago and treated but recurred after a period of remission.

"She came back strongly. She had been performing until two months ago," Freedman told Reuters by telephone from Los Angles. "We had dates booked through 2009."

Slinky, sensuous and cat-like, Kitt described herself as a "sex kitten" and used her seductive purr to charm audiences across the world.

Actor-director Orson Welles once called Kitt "the most exciting woman alive" and, along with Lena Horne, she was one of the first African-American sex symbols.

Kitt picked up a string of awards during her long career, winning two Emmys and being nominated for a third, as well as a Grammy. She also had two Tony nominations.

Her hit songs included "C'est Si Bon," "Let's Do It" and "Just an Old Fashioned Girl." She also was widely associated with Christmas because of her hit "Santa Baby." The song, recorded in 1953, went gold this year and she received the gold record before she died, Freedman said.   Continued...

 
<p>Singler Eartha Kitt arrives for a taping of the second annual TV Land Awards in Hollywood in this file photo from March 7, 2004. REUTERS/Fred Prouser FP</p>