"I am Eartha Mae," she announced as I walked into her hotel suite. "Eartha Kitt is a character I play and I am happy to talk about her, no one enjoys her as much as I, but I could not be her all the time, it would be exhausting." And thus began my afternoon with Eartha Kitt.
I was working for a small weekly in San Francisco called "Spirit of the City." The publicist at the Venetian room very kindly granted my request for an interview.
Fascinated by all of the exotic locations she had visited I began by asking her about Paris and the early years. She told me many stories and at one point ran over to the desk to get a piece of paper. She asked me where she should eat while in San Francisco.
I confessed that I didn't have the budget for Filet and Champagne and had no where to refer her to. She laughed, "When I first arrived in Paris I knew nothing of caviar and champagne and had no budget for either. My favorite meal was one of my first. After a long day of rehearsal I was very hungry and I wandered into a cafe. They brought me the wine of the house and I pointed to a dish and ordered it, Pot au Feu, I was so surprised when they brought me a boiled chicken with vegetables. I think it was the first time I had tasted leeks and the chicken and broth were so delicious. So many times it is the simple food I crave, tell me where you eat."
So I did, I told her where to get a great Mission style burrito, good Chinese food and one of my favorite Italian Restaurants. She wrote them all down. Food, travel and politics were the topics of the day, almost no time spent on the questions I had written down. Listening to her keen mind go from topic to topic was far more interesting than anything I could have imagined.
After almost three hours she looked at her watch and told me that she had to eat a little bite and then get ready for her show. The tapes had run out but she ordered fruit and tea and invited me to join her. We continued to talk until she had to go take care of her transformation into Miss Kitt.
Towards the end of her run she got my telephone number from the Hotel publicist and called me. She thanked me for the food recommendations and told me how much she had loved the anchovy sauce at Basta Pasta. It was a special I had told her about, and though it was not on the menu the day she went in, the Chef made it for her at her request, and she loved it. This led to a conversation about how anchovies can so wonderfully enhance so many dishes.
The last time I saw Miss Kitt was a few months ago at the Carlyle, she was in strong voice and delighted to be performing. We sat me at a front table and she played with and flirted with myself and a friend. For almost forty years I was in her audience and at every show she always went around and thanked everyone for coming.
With Basta Pasta's indulgence....
Anchovy Sauce Eartha Kitt
4 cloves garlic finely chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 pound butter
2 tablespoons capers chopped
Juice of a half lemon
10 basil leaves chopped
Saute the garlic in the olive oil til soft, add the butter and the anchovies and let the fish melt into the butter. Stir in remaining ingredients. Drizzle on fish, chicken or toss with pasta. Top with freshly ground black pepper and a sprinkle of Parmesan.
I made this on Saturday and served it with a simple wine. We raised our glasses to Eartha Mae Kitt, the most exciting woman in the world.