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Forever Feline, Forever Fierce (2008) | The New York Times

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Forever Feline, Forever Fierce (2008) | The New York Times

“Je cherche un billionaire,” Eartha Kitt purred last year from the stage of the Café Carlyle, the chic, intimate club in the Café Carlyle that had been her regular stomping ground for more than a decade.

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It was an ideal setting for Ms. Kitt to strut her archetypal show business persona: a glamorous, calculating international gold digger enslaving rich men with exaggerated feline wiles, then treating them like cat toys. If this ageless catwoman, who died at 81 on Christmas Day, was an amusing caricature, the role was fueled by a steady current of anger.

Ms. Kitt, like so many divas before her, seemed driven by an unquenchable anger. Her childhood rejection by both black and white society because of her mixed and uncertain parentage might have left her with a profound sense of having to go it alone.