The versatile and ever-sultry Eartha Kitt died today at age 81, the AP reports. Kitt, with her trademark purr, had a career as a dancer, singer, and actor that spanned six decades. Among her musical hits was “Santa Baby," now in common rotation during the holidays. Kitt, who retained her self-proclaimed “sex kitten” image well into old age, died of cancer in a Connecticut hospital.
Born to a white father and a mother who she says was half black and half Cherokee, Kitt never identified herself by her race. "I don't carry myself as a black person but as a woman that belongs to everybody,” she once said. Dubbed “the most exciting woman in the world” by Orson Welles, Kitt briefly played Catwoman on the Batman TV series, and once publicly denounced the Vietnam War while on a visit to the White House. (Read more Eartha Kitt stories.)