Eartha Kitt Dies at 81

| Fri Dec. 26, 2008 12:30 PM PST

Eartha KittLegendary singer and actress Eartha Kitt died yesterday of cancer at age 81. The AP described her as rising "from South Carolina cotton fields to become an international symbol of elegance and sensuality," while the New York Times called her a "seducer of audiences" whose wide-ranging career presaged current entertainers:

Ms. Kitt, who began performing in the late '40s as a dancer in New York, went on to achieve success and acclaim in a variety of mediums long before other entertainment multitaskers like Julie Andrews, Barbra Streisand and Bette Midler. ... With her curvaceous frame and unabashed vocal come-ons, she was also, along with Lena Horne, among the first widely known African-American sex symbols.

After the jump, video of Kitt singing "Santa Baby," a hit in 1953.

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