Heaven and Eartha

“One of a kind” is a worn-out phrase used to describe everything from baked beans to hand-painted vases. One hesitates to use it to describe Eartha Kitt, for fear that she might pounce -- and that is the very last feline reference this short article will contain.

So how shall we explain the singular Miss Kitt? Ask four different people and you will hear that she is a “saloon singer,” a “movie star,” a “television actress,” and, perhaps more obscurely, a “disco diva,” thanks to a series of wildly popular recordings she made with dance-music impresario Jacques Morali in the early ’80s. She’s been more famously described as “the most exciting woman in the world” by no less than the late Orson Welles, who was reportedly her lover, and as a Communist, which she never was. This last appellation came as a result of anti-war statements Kitt made at a White House luncheon in 1968, which resulted in her professional exile from the U.S. for many years.

That miserable wrong has long since been righted, and Miss Kitt has more recently returned to us in award-winning Broadway roles and concert performances like the one she’ll gift us with when she joins the Phoenix Symphony.

Sat., May 31, 8 p.m., 2008
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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela