- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 15, 2001

Now starring in 'Cinderella, Eartha Kitt comes to the KenCen with a lengthy career, a new book and a 'purr'-fect shape. The audience keeps her fresh, she reports, and so does a little exercise.
Eartha Kitt says proudly, "I'm told by couturiers I'm a 'purr'-fect size 8."
The woman who as a teen-ager heard Orson Welles tell her she represented "women of all time" will be 75 next month and remains active as a performer in film and theater.
Beginning Tuesday, Washingtonians will see her in the role of the Fairy Godmother in Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein's "Cinderella" at the Kennedy Center Opera House. Miss Kitt played the part for 11 months straight last year. The new tour lasts four months.
The show, the only musical that the fabled composer and lyricist wrote for television, premiered live on CBS in 1957 with a cast that included Julie Andrews, Kaye Ballard, Ilka Chase and Alice Ghostley. Jon Cypher played the prince, and Edith Adams was the godmother.
"Cinderella" was last revived on TV in 1997 with Whitney Houston, Whoopi Goldberg, Bernadette Peters, Brandy, and Paolo Montalban, who plays the Prince in the stage version at the Kennedy Center.
Miss Kitt, who made her film acting debut in 1957, says she had not seen any version before the current stage adaptation directed by Gabriel Barre.
"'Cinderella' is singing and dancing how can you go wrong with Rodgers and Hammerstein?" says Miss Kitt, perhaps best known as Catwoman in the TV series "Batman" and the Wicked Witch of the West in a touring production of "The Wizard of Oz."
"My grandchildren saw me as Wicked Witch of West. Now they see me as the Fairy Grandmother, but one who isn't a goody-goody with a halo over her head; a little bit mischievous. I love that kind of thing," she says.
How does she maintain her pace? "The audience keeps me fresh, because every time you walk onstage it is like meeting a new person," she answers in her trademark throaty voice in a telephone interview from a hotel room in Charleston, S.C. She still feels popular enough to require the use of a pseudonym on the road to avoid being bothered by fans at inconvenient hours.
Miss Kitt, who is 5 foot 3 inches tall and weighs 124 pounds, has just written a feel-good book of advice titled "Rejuvenate (It's Never Too Late)" from Scribner. (She signs it from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday at Border Books, 1801 K St. NW.)
The book details a number of exercises she does routinely to limber up each day, but in the interview she describes the routine mainly as a matter of "get up and go." She also regularly lifts two-pound weights.
Miss Kitt has just eaten a breakfast of two boiled eggs and a salad. The combination, she says, "gives me energy and makes me mentally alert." Her diet is mostly common sense with a lot of fish thrown in.
Housework and gardening are some of life's healthiest joys, too, she believes. "I love living with dirt," she says referring to property she owns in Westchester, N.Y.
No stranger to Washington, Miss Kitt's reputation as an outspoken entertainer was forged in 1968 when, as a luncheon guest of President Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson at the White House, she electrified the gathering by speaking out against the Vietnam War. Her professional bookings declined dramatically as a result, she said, forcing her to start over in Europe.
These days, she is an admirer of the current occupants of the White House, including with special mention National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Colin Powell.
"They all seem to be sensible, logical, practical people who don't make a move unless it is well thought out. When they give an opinion, they know what their feelings are. Spokespeople in the Democratic party in general give the impression of making a lot of promises and then don't come through.I had no faith in Bill Clinton from the beginning. To me, he was a very handsome con artist," she says.
Sen. Hillary Clinton? "I'm still thinking about her. I haven't decided."
Miss Kitt's daughter, Kitt Shapiro, manages Eartha Kitt Productions in New York City. And, yes, Miss Kitt is both a grandmother and godmother twice over. In addition to walking the Appalachian Trail, her goal in the next quarter of her life is "to be home for a while, not traveling so much."
Meanwhile, there are projects to consider, such as the organization called Kittsville, which she began in 1963 to teach nutrition and math "and anything else" to neighborhood children in the Watts section of Los Angeles.
A memoir under way with her daughter details the twosome's adventures around the world. Miss Kitt has written in two earlier books about growing up as a fearful mixed-race child in the South, then being taken to Harlem to live with an aunt, who ignored her. She was rescued by a teacher in Harlem, who guided her to a full scholarship at New York City's performing arts high school.
This Monday, on Fox-TV, she mentions proudly, she performs a rap in an animated Christmas special called "Santa, Baby" that producers initially were going to have done by a group of young backup singers. Instead, according to the show's publicist, Miss Kitt wowed them.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide