I’m Still Here

Today I finished reading I’m Still Here, the third autobiography by Eartha Kitt, written in 1989. The life stories Kitt describes are as dramatic as the ones she has told in TV interviews: that of being abandoned by her mother as a child; having to live in the forest and eat out of garbage cans; and having a lifelong feeling of never being wanted because she was biracial. After catching a break with the Katherine Dunham Dance Company, Kitt’s career took off with successful dance tours, then plays and movies starring Orson Welles and James Dean.

In describing events in her life, Eartha Kitt has been criticized for remembering extravagant designer dresses she wore decades ago (including all the accompanying accessories) yet forgetting or glossing over many years at a time. While writing this book, in all likelihood a photo of a remarkable event triggered Kitt’s memory to write about it, and chances are these photos are the source of her couture memory. I can’t tell you the number of times she makes reference to Dom Pérignon champagne and beluga caviar. Kitt binges on both from a very early age.

The final chapters about the marriage of her daughter were melodramatic. Over-the-top more like. Kitt felt as though she lost the only person who never abandoned or judged her when her daughter got married. Kitt writes that she was crying her eyes out, walking around like a zombie and hiding away immediately after the wedding ceremony.  She totally blocked out seeing her son-in-law that day since all her attention was focussed on her daughter. The drama was laughable. However I do praise Kitt for her openness in some aspects of her life. She talked about going through menopause and how the repercussions for voicing her anti-Vietnam War sentiments –spoken to none other than Lady Bird Johnson face-to-face– ruined her career in North America for many years.

Kitt was the second Catwoman, after Julie Newmar, yet she hardly wrote anything about the “Batman” series, other than that Adam West (Batman) and Burt Ward (Robin) took themselves too seriously, taking their TV roles into real life. Her only reminiscence she wrote about was learning to drive the Catmobile. Kitt was one of only a few artists to tour apartheid-era South Africa, and she explains why she did so and faces up to her critics.

By 1989 Eartha Kitt had reinvented herself as a dance artist with a loyal gay male following. Her 1983 hit “Where is My Man” was an international hit and her first gold record. Kitt touches briefly on her role as a gay diva. By 1989 Eartha Kitt was 62 years old and she fronted Bronski Beat for the dancefloor classic “Cha Cha Heels”. See the video here:

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