That broth-like pall in the air up near Madison Avenue and 77th? Those downturned moustaches on the waiters in Times Square?
All is in hommage to the late, great Eartha Kitt–she who Orson Welles famously proclaimed “the most exciting woman alive,” prior to biting her; she who once told an Ebony reporter, “Don’t come to my house and expect to find Eartha Kitt.”
The illegitimate child of a black sharecropper mother, Kitt worked in cotton fields before honing her comic persona of a kitten with an especially painful whip. The famously outspoken actress-chanteuse temporarily derailed her career twice–in 1968 when she mouthed off to Ladybird Johnson about the Vietnam War, and in 1984 when she toured South Africa (Kitt pointed out that she played to mixed audiences and that the tour helped fund schools for black kids.)
A few years back, a friend of mine had the pleasure of meeting la Kitt to discuss a book project. They met at a cafe. Kitt ordered coffee, and when the waiter asked how she took it, Kitt stipulated,