AARP Eye Center
Kitt Shapiro, the only child of actress-singer Eartha Kitt, has written a memoir of life with her mom, who was abandoned by her own mother when she was a young girl. Eartha Kitt's rise from poverty in South Carolina to worldwide fame as an entertainer — as seen through the eyes of her devoted daughter — is a tale of determination and strength. Here, author Kitt Shapiro discusses Eartha & Kitt: A Daughter's Love Story in Black & White.
Q: Your mother, who died in 2008, won three Emmys, and was nominated for three Tonys and two Grammy awards. And yet at her essence, she was a mother.
A: Yes. That's why I subtitled the book “A Love Story,” because it truly is. Somehow we were the right fit. I had the perfect personality to be second banana to her. Yet as a mother, she was very strict. I was not allowed to behave improperly, or act spoiled in any fashion. She was a stickler for being ladylike, which is so interesting, because she was such a strong-willed and independent woman.
AARP Membership — $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal
Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP The Magazine.
Q: The Christmas novelty song, “Santa Baby,” which she made famous, was written for her. She was known as an international sex symbol. How different was she at home?
A: Onstage, she was more of the illusion of sex than anything else. Behind the scenes, my mother was far from risqué, in the sense of being lewd or the least bit crude. She would come offstage, and all that makeup would come off, and she'd go back to being that person who doesn't have that façade, and that was Eartha Mae. She really was most comfortable in her vegetable garden, with her hands in the soil. She would say, “Give me dirt. Don't buy me diamonds or furs. Give me land, because they're not making any more of it."