Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Goodbye Kitty

Self-invented chanteuse Kitty Carlisle Hart died Tuesday at her Manhattan home. Though 96, she continued singing on stage as recently as last year, when she appeared at the Plush Room. She began her theater career in a 1932 Broadway revue, acted in films, was an indefatigable arts supporter -- and a glamour puss to the end. The New York Times recalls Kitty here. Gawker helpfully points to this wonderful New Yorker profile.

Born in New Orleans, it's no wonder she had a colorful childhood. Her mother, Hortense, was a daughter of the first Jewish mayor of Shreveport, La., and a woman notoriously obsessed with breaking into gentile society. As Hortense once said to a taxi driver who asked if her daughter was Jewish, "She may be, but I'm not."

In 1921, Hortense took Kitty to Europe, hoping to marry her off to royalty, believing nobility there were more amenable to a Jewish bride -- only to end up flitting around Europe and living in what Kitty recalled as "the worst room of the best hotel."

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