Sunday, 28 December 2008
C'est si bon
One of the great television moments of my childhood was watching Eartha Kitt being carried onto the stage of the London Palladium, slinkily curled up on a leopardskin-clad chaise longue borne on the shoulders of muscular men in loincloths, to sing Old Fashioned Millionaire. She taught me all I needed to know - I couldn't have been more than eight or nine - about glamour, possibly too much. I also remember the thrill that the song's audacious rhyming (Cadillac/in the back - but you need the whole couplet to get the full joy) gave me. Eartha Kitt was always there for me, in a way that Harold Pinter, this Christmas's other illustrious death, never was. When she came back, powerfully, in the 80s with Where is my Man, I was waiting for her. We all were. More rhymes, more sexiness, this time laced with anguish, which made me love her all the more. Pinter's politics won him the Nobel Prize; Kitt was sent into what the US saw as exile (Europe!) for over twenty years for haranguing Lady Bird Johnson about the Vietnam war. This isn't to diminish Pinter's voice and what he did with it, though his poetry, which no one seems to have mentioned, was utterly awful, but the risk Kitt ran was of a different order.