*The AP is reporting that a family friend says Eartha Kitt, a sultry singer, dancer and actress who rose from South Carolina cotton fields to become an international symbol of elegance and sensuality, has died.
Ironically, the singer, who recorded the classic "Santa Baby" in 1953, passed away yesterday, Christmas Day, at age 81.
Andrew Freedman says Kitt died of colon cancer and was recently treated at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York.
Kitt, a self-proclaimed "sex kitten" famous for her catlike purr, was one of America's most versatile performers, winning two Emmys and getting a third nomination. She also was nominated for two Tony Awards and a Grammy.
Eartha Kitt background info from Wikipedia:
Kitt was born Eartha Mae Keith on a cotton plantation in the tiny town of North, South Carolina. Though her ancestry is somewhat uncertain, she stated her mother was of African-American and Native American descent, and her father, German and Dutch descent. She claimed she was conceived of rape. Kitt was raised by Anna Mae Riley, a black woman whom she believed to be her mother, but after Riley's death, she was sent to live in New York City with Mamie Kitt, reportedly Riley's sister. Eartha Kitt believes that Mamie Kitt was her biological mother; she still has no knowledge of her father's identity, except that his surname was Kitt and that he was the son of the owner of the plantation on which she had been born. Kitt suffered terrible abuse and neglect at the hands of a family to whom Anna Mae Riley entrusted her, or "given away for slavery" as Kitt described in many interviews.
Kitt got her start as a member of the Katherine Dunham Company and made her film debut with them in Casbah (1948). A talented singer with a distinctive voice, her hits include "Let's Do It", "C'est si bon", "Just an Old Fashioned Girl", "Monotonous", "Je cherche un homme", "Love for Sale", "I'd Rather Be Burned as a Witch", "Uska Dara", "Mink, Schmink", "Under the Bridges of Paris", and her most recognizable hit, "Santa Baby." Kitt's unique style was enhanced as she became fluent in the French language during her years performing in Europe. She dabbled in other languages as well, which she demonstrates with finesse in many of the live recordings of her cabaret performances.