A BIRTHDAY SALUTE: The celebrated Mr. K’s latest in a recurring series of great stories about folks connected to the comics world…
Welcome to columnist Paul Kupperberg’s recurring feature A COMIC MOMENT WITH… Having worked decades in the biz, Paul has so many great, humorous stories to tell, this seemed like a really groovy way to share some of them — especially on birthdays. This time out, it’s the late EARTHA KITT, who was born 95 years ago!
A COMIC MOMENT With… EARTHA KITT
By PAUL KUPPERBERG
Eartha Kitt (Jan. 17, 1927 — Dec. 25, 2008) was a singer, dancer, actress, comedienne, and activist famous for her recordings of “C’est Si Bon,” “Santa Baby,” and “Under the Bridges of Paris.” She made her first appearance on Broadway in 1945 and her last in 2000, winning two Tony Awards along the way. She also appeared in Disney’s The Emperor’s New Groove (2000) and won a pair of Daytime Emmy Awards for her work on the animated series, The Emperor’s New School, and a third for a guest role on Wonder Pets! And in 1967, she became the third actress to play Catwoman on ABC’s Batman.
In 2006, we had tickets to the Westport Playhouse in Connecticut to see Thurgood, the one-man show by George Stevens Jr. about civil rights attorney and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, starring James Earl Jones. The show, with the talented Jones fiercely stalking the stage against a backdrop of black-and-white slides, was wonderful and it was impossible not to be sucked into the history and performance.
But then came intermission, and as I stood to stretch, I glanced around at the rest of the audience. The Playhouse, under the artistic direction of actress Joanne Woodward, attracted a large celebrity audience and it wasn’t unusual to find yourself sitting next to someone from stage or screen. At this particular performance, I wasn’t sitting next to a star, but one section over and two aisles up from one.
Eartha Kitt was in the audience. She was almost 80 but she still looked amazing, dressed in black, the same lithe figure and distinctive smile I recognized from variety shows throughout the 1960s and, of course, as Catwoman in Batman, Season 3. Kitt’s replacing Julie Newmar, the original TV Catwoman, who was doing a movie, was what producer Charles FitzSimons called “a provocative idea.” He felt that Kitt “was a cat woman before we ever cast her as Catwoman. She had a cat-like style. Her eyes were cat-like and her singing was like a meow.”
I waited until the show was over to pounce, very un-cat-like, on the unsuspecting actress, awkwardly introducing myself, telling her what a big fan of her music I was from all her TV appearances in the 1960s and 1970s. Miss Kitt was most kind, listening to me babble on with an indulgent smile I’m sure she had used on countless admirers before.
I said I was a writer for DC Comics and had once written a short story for a Batman anthology starring Catwoman (Bantam’s 1993 The Further Adventures of Batman, Vol. 3).
“Really?” she said (purred, actually). “And did I triumph over the Caped Crusader in this one?”
“No, Ms. Kitt, I’m sorry, but the good guy won again.”
“Ah well, one of these days, perhaps,” she sighed. “C’est la vie,” and swept past me up the aisle.
I swear she even put a little extra feline in her walk, just for me.
— PAUL KUPPERBERG: A Comic Moment With… DON HECK. Click here.
— PAUL KUPPERBERG: A Comic Moment With… DAVID V. REED. Click here.
Sure, you know Paul Kupperberg as the prolific writer of over a thousand comic books for such characters and series as Superman, Aquaman, Doom Patrol, Vigilante, Life with Archie, Bart Simpson, Scooby-Doo, and dozens more for DC Comics, Archie Comics, Bongo Comics, and others, and that he is also the creator of the series Arion, Lord of Atlantis, Checkmate and Takion, and is a former editor for DC, Weekly World News, and WWE Kids Magazine. But Paul is also the author of numerous books, including the superhero novel JSA: Ragnarok and the comics industry-based murder mystery, The Same Old Story, not to mention (but we will anyway) Paul Kupperberg’s Illustrated Guide to Writing Comics, I Never Write for the Money, But I Always Turn in the Manuscript for a Check, Direct Comments: Comic Book Creators in their Own Words, The Unpublished Comic Book Scripts of Paul Kupperberg and Son of the Unpublished Comic Book Scripts of Paul Kupperberg. You can follow Paul at PaulKupperberg.com and at Crazy8Press.com.