Eartha meets V.J. the Drunkard!
Eartha Kitt is a sultry, sexy, lovely performer extraordinaire! She's the kitten with intense eyes, and her moves are sinuous. It was 1978, and Eartha was rebounding from a career hiatus that was cut short by the White House.
She was starring in Timbuktu on Broadway and her spectacular entrance alone was worth the price of the ticket. She was carried out on stage, sitting on the shoulders of a once Mr. Universe. Her opening line, she sizzled, "I'm here." The audience ate it up.
In June, I somehow got tickets to attend the Tony Awards and the Ball afterward. After the ball was over (isn't that from Showboat?), we headed over to Ted Hook's Backstage restaurant/theater bar. Around two A.M., the place was clearing out, maybe only twenty people in the joint. V.J., known to his friends as Billy Finn, was a little tipsy. Let me rephrase that. V.J. was excessively tipsy! He, and about ten others, sat around the piano having nightcaps. I don't remember if Steve Ross was on the keyboard that night, but many were the nights we were entertained by Mr. Piano.
Eartha Kitt was coming out of the rear dining room, so V.J. walks, stumbles, more like it, over to Eartha and jokingly says, "yo! Eartha, sing Melancholy Baby for us." Eartha smiled and V.J. said, "just kidding Eartha, we loves ya hon!" Her manager, or arranger, put his arm out to allow her passage.
"I guess we'll just have to pay to hear ya sing. See ya in Timbuktu!
At that point, Eartha Kitt spun around, smiled at V.J. and walked over to the piano. She politely asked the piano player if her friend could accompany her. And then Eartha Kitt sang to this audience of ten at the piano bar. She sang no ordinary song either. She slayed the whole group to tears with her rendition of All By Myself. As Eartha was walking out the front door, she heard a group behind her yelling in unison, "we love you Eartha!"
She was blackballed by the White House by Lyndon Johnson, who was President at the time. America was in a war with Vietnam, and Ladybird Johnson was running around America planting trees with her stupid Beautify America program. Boys were dying in the battlefield, and she's plantin' trees!
When Eartha went to the White House for some kind of affair, she told Lady Bird Johnson that the First Lady's program "was a mere pacifier and that the first priority of the country should be to end the war in Vietnam." The President was furious! He called ABC, CBS and NBC the next day and told the network V.I.P.'s, "I don't want to see that woman's face on the air again." The White House also kept a secret CIA file on Eartha.
Her career paid the price, but I admire Eartha. She stood up for what she believed in and had the courage of her convictions.
Today, Eartha is on tour with her nightclub act. I caught it in San Francisco. It's a performance that should not be missed. Run! Go see her. She's simply a finely tuned stick of dynamite! I wonder if she remembers me. I doubt it, but I just know she will never forget the night at Backstage!
Note: Eartha was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance in Timbuktu.