Blue Plaque for Eartha Kitt Placed at Riverside Studios

Marks her appearance in first ever broadcast from the venue in 1956

Wendell Park School children attended the unveiling ceremony

March 25, 2024

Eartha Kitt, the singer perhaps best known for her performance of ‘Santa Baby’, has been honoured with a blue plaque at the Riverside Studios.

It is close to the site of the former BBC studio where she made the groundbreaking 1956 Sunday Night Theatre live broadcast starring as Mrs. Patterson, the first ever from the venue.

In partnership with the Nubian Jak Community Trust, the plaque was installed as part of H&F’s Women’s History Month 2024.

At the blue plaque unveiling on Thursday (21 March) there were performances from pupils from Wendell Park primary school in Shepherd’s Bush, as well as Zairean-English singer songwriter Miss Baby Sol, who performed Kitt’s iconic song C’est si bon.

Meanwhile, Britain’s “first lady” of house music, Kym Mazelle, honoured her former mentor as a “fireball with the courage to stand up for what she believed in”.

)Cllr Patricia Quigley, Mayor of Hammersmith & Fulham, said, “Eartha Kitt was an incredible woman, who believed in breaking barriers.

“She conquered the stage, screen and the charts with her distinctive voice and looks. However, her outspoken views in America to promote civil rights and oppose the Vietnam War forced her to spend her later career in Europe.”

Dubbed "the most exciting woman in the world" by filmmaker Orson Welles, Kitt found her path to stage and screen in New York. She was able to join America's first Black modern dance company, run by Katherine Dunham.

Eartha Kitt's blue plaque
Eartha Kitt's blue plaque

During the group's European tour Kitt broke away to make a solo career in Britain, which later became a second home for her and her daughter, Kitt McDonald Shapeiro. They lived in Fulham and Knightsbridge.

She quickly rose to fame with her distinctive voice and magnetic stage presence. Her repertoire spanned jazz, cabaret, and pop genres, drawing in audiences with a mix of sensuality and wit.

In 1948, Kitt made her stage debut as a dancer in the film Casbah. Her first starring role followed as Helen of Troy in Welles’ staging of Dr Faustus two years later.

In her role as Catwoman, she became the first Black woman to achieve mainstream TV success in America in Batman and broke racial barriers by flirting with her screen partner, Adam West.

Beyond her artistic achievements, she was a fierce advocate for civil rights and later, LGBTQ+ rights. Her outspokenness led to her being forced to relaunch her career in Europe after condemning the Vietnam War.

Across the 1970s and 80s, she performed to audiences in London's West End with her role in Stephen Sondheim's Follies and a sold-out one-woman-show.

She also appeared several times on BBC's long-running variety show, The Good Old Days and, in later years of her 50-year career, lent her distinctive voice to several Disney characters including Yzma in The Emperor's New Groove.

Eartha Kitt died in 2008.

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