Eartha Kitt, the alluringly feline entertainment icon, has died at the age of 81.
Starting in the 1940s, the South Carolina-born Kitt was a triple-threat sex symbol in a time when few women of color attracted mainstream success. Despite a famously soigne image, Kitt came from a hardscrabble background: the product of a black sharecropper mother and a white father whom she never knew, as a child Kitt worked in the fields, suffered abuse and later lived homeless in New York. She started as a dancer and quickly moved to a career as a cabaret singer and actress in movies and on TV. Dubbed “the most exciting woman alive” by a smitten Orson Welles, Kitt was known for an over-the-top, pragmatist persona in songs like "Monotonous," "Love For Sale," "C'est Si Bon" and "Santa Baby" - a persona reinforced by her numerous offstage love affairs. In the 60s, she played a memorable Catwoman on the Batman TV series.