My Lunch With Eartha Kitt
By Out.com Editors
It was so delicious to walk into a restaurant with such a star. Their was an immediate frisson as people began to realize that Earth Kitt was on the premises. I felt so incredibly special and blessed to be in her presence.
After we ordered luncheon the 'girls' started to get into a real gabfest.
Christobel: 'And how is Jane? Where is Jane? I haven't seen Jane in years.'
Eartha: 'Jane is still living in Arizona, we have been promising each other we would go on a cruise together for years, but we still haven't done it.'
Eartha, Christbel and Jerry continued talking about Jane for awhile -- how Jane had gotten drunk and 'mistaken' Jerry for her 'husband' and crawled into bed one with him one night after a party at her house' Jane this and Jane that until finally Eartha leaned over and whispered in my ear, 'Jane Russell.'
'Oh'' I nearly choked.
Eartha spoke about her work as an activist, how she had an organic garden in Connecticut where she grew food for needy children, she spoke about politics, about being blacklisted -- she had a few choice words for Ladybird Johnson. She talked about singing' how much she loved dancing to Duke Ellington's music' It was amazing.
One of the most interesting things she told us about was when Nat King Cole was given his own television show in the 1950's. Evidently he was the first African-American entertainer to be given his own TV show so the stakes were very high within the African-American community that his show be a success so Eartha, along with many other entertainers -- black and white -- would fly themselves to LA on their own coin to be guests on the show. She spoke very eloquently about Nat King Cole and the struggles they all went through to break down racial barriers in the entertainment industry.
Part of why this resonated so much with me was that at the time I was involved with Queer Nation, we were working very hard to demand the establishment of queer visibility in the media and I had been involved in several events in San Francisco such as the Queer Kiss In at the Cable Car turn around, The Queer Be In (this was before Ellen came out, Will and Grace, etc.) and it seemed to me that there were a lot of parallels between what was going on with African-Americans in the '50s and LGTBQ people in the '90s.
Blake and I were in her thrall.
When it came time for coffee and desert Ms. Kitt inquired if they had any fresh fruit and was brought a beautiful piece of mango.
'This mango is delicious! Would you like to try some?'
'Yes please.' And the next thing I knew she was feeding me mango. I nearly died, but since I was living with a bunch of lesbians who would be hanging on my every word when I got home I knew I had to make the most of this moment so as she put the mango in my mouth I met her gaze and gave her my best 'come hither' look. For a split second she looked slightly startled and then she laughed and put it in my mouth' I was treated to that world famous grrrowl.
Come on!!! I mean really -- Eartha Kitt purred at ME! I was living'
Blake and I spent more on lunch that day than we had probably spent on anything before in our lives outside of rent, but we were treated to one of the most amazing afternoons we had ever had. For me, it was the most informative lesson on show business, politics and just plain fabulousness I could have possibly imagined.
Gurrl, it was spiritual experience.
Two years ago I saw her again at the Carlyle and that show was even more stunning than the first. 'Earth' Eartha was a blessing to this world and we are all better off for her having graced us with her fierceness for so long.
We will miss you Miss Kitt! The stars in Heaven will shine brighter in your company.
Justin Bond will perform Justin Bond Rites at the Zipper Factory on January 11, 18, and 25. For more details click here.