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"I have my dresses slit up to my hip -- but that's respectable teasing."
Eartha Kitt, The Lady, Is a Champ

Sunday, November 4, 2007

She may have turned 80 in January, but Eartha Kitt is still setting men's hearts on fire. That's what the self-described "sex kitten" has been doing for more than 50 years, ever since songs like "I Want to Be Evil" and "Santa Baby" brought her unforgettable voice and flirtatious purr permanently into the male imagination. Her life hasn't been easy -- from a traumatic childhood (she was given away by her parents at a young age) to being persecuted for speaking out against the Vietnam War. But Kitt's career, which includes a famous stint as Catwoman on TV's "Batman," shows no sign of slowing. Currently in an extended gig at the Cafe Carlyle in New York, she brings her cabaret show to the Warner Theatre on Saturday.

-- Stephen Brookes

What effect do you think you've had on sex in the 20th century?

I have no idea!

Oh, come on -- you were the original sex kitten. You were Catwoman!

Well, I love to tease men, because I love men. The flirtation! I love the idea of men and woman teasing each other, but we always knew where to stop. That needs to be brought back, because a man doesn't know how to treat a woman anymore. I expect a man to open a door for me -- it's very difficult for a woman to get out of a car when she's wearing a tight dress, very difficult.

Well, with Britney Spears and Paris Hilton now, there's a whole new style to getting out of cars.

[Laughs.] These kinds of people, I'm sorry to say, are setting very bad examples for the rest of the world. There's no subtlety anymore. Everything is exposed! So there's nothing to think about, nothing to guess about. And there's no real teasing.

Okay, so what makes a true sex kitten?

You're born that way. And I don't think you exaggerate by having decollete dresses. Oh I know, I have my dresses slit up to my hip -- but that's respectable teasing. Besides, under my dress there's a leotard that matches the dress, so no matter how high I kick my leg, it's always respectable. There's not a bikini under there. There's a leotard.

Always a lady . . .

That's right.

What's going on in your love life? Anyone special?

No -- I'm working all the time. I've had some wonderful men in my life, and these wonderful men are very difficult to find anymore. I wouldn't say that my eyes are absolutely closed, but I'm 80 years old, and I don't believe in fooling around with toy boys.

Orson Welles once called you "the most exciting woman in the world."

Orson Welles had a wonderful intellect. He taught me how to think, and how to be quiet at the right times. Orson said I was the most exciting woman in the world -- probably because I knew when to keep my mouth shut!

So what's next in your career -- will you carry on forever?

Why not? As long as I'm wanted, I feel worthwhile. And I still feel wanted -- I still have contracts!

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