There's no mistaking Eartha Kitt's voice for anyone else's; it's the one that makes "Santa Baby" the world's sexiest Christmas song, and her trademark purr left an indelible mark on Broadway and lounge music alike. But it was her iconically sexy turn as Catwoman in the original television version of Batman that made her a household name. In becoming the ultimate comic book temptress, Eartha became a living (gorgeous) rebuttal to the bigotry and marginalization people of color were faced with in Hollywood and American culture in general. She was a model of the self-possessed, powerful woman, and her personal convictions were as amazing as the characters she played.
Most famously, Eartha, while at a White House luncheon, was asked by then-First Lady Lady Bird Johnson what she thought about the Vietnam War's progress. She responded very calmly, "You send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed. No wonder the kids rebel and take pot." There was enormous popular backlash against her, but she stood by her statement in the face of career derailment, threats, and pleas from her friends to retract. Such strength of principle and beauty are a rare combination, but Eartha had it. Orson Wells, who was madly in love with her despite her total disinterest in him, once called her the "most exciting woman in the world," and we wholeheartedly agree. Ms. Kitt, you were truly the cat's meow.