Eartha Kitt, 81

Eartha Kitt, the bawdy, sexy, sultry performer whose name will forever live in the pantheon of gay icons, died today at 81.

Actress and “Santa Baby” singer Eartha Kitt has died. Kitt, 81, died Thursday in New York City, her publicist confirmed to CNN, after being treated there for colon cancer. Her daughter Kitt Shapiro was by her side. Known primarily for singing in her distinctively raspy voice and purring like a cat as Catwoman on the television series Batman, Kitt was a star of stage, film, television and music, who was nominated for three Tony awards, two Grammy awards and two Emmy awards, according to her official Web site. A performer to the very end, CNN reports that Kitt taped a PBS special six weeks ago in Chicago, which is set to air in February.

Two year ago Little David and I attended the wretched Off Broadway show Mimi Le Duck, only because we feared that this day would be here soon. I will forever be glad that we got to sit ten rows from the stage and hear Eartha Kitt’s inimitable growl. From 1962: C’est Si Bon and I Want To Be Evil.

From 1983: The gay disco classic, Where Is My Man.

From 1984: I Love Men. From 1989: Cha Cha Heels.