Eartha Kitt - I went to record for RCA
I went to record for RCA, signed up by Dave Kapp, who was fired (he told me years later) because he had signed me to a five-year contract. RCA told Dave Kapp I would never sell a record: 'She is an actress-dancer, not a singer,' he was told. I don't know what they thought I was doing on New Faces and at the Blue Angel. RCA released the most sophisticated and foreign language song of my repertoire to prove they were right; the record would not sell and they would be able to get out of the contract. The opposite happened: 'Usku Dara' was released and went to the top of the charts in a matter of days. The combination of Turkish and my voice was so out of the ordinary that the public's curiosity was roused to the extent that I became the only woman in the popular music department to make money for RCA in twenty-seven years.
When I went to the studio to record, a white chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce was sent to pick me up and a red carpet was spread out on the sidewalk to welcome me; red roses were everywhere, even in the recording room itself, and Dom Pérignon champagne was on ice for all of my musicians - the number of them varied between thirty-five and sixty-five. These were wonderful times, with Henri René, my arranger-conductor, who I really felt great with. As long as he and Mannie Sacks and Hugo Winterhaulter were by my side, I felt safe and wanted and respected and protected. We were a happy group for years but when Mannie Sacks died, Elvis Presley and his management came onto the label and we were sacrified for Elvis; he was singing like a black then, very much in the Little Richard style, but getting the recognition Little Richard never got.
I was lucky to have Henri René and Mannie Sacks behind me - not to mention the public, who made me the hottest recording personality of the Fifties, despite RCA's belief that I would 'never sell a record'. But the black people said, 'Oh, she thinks she's white,' which is ironic seeing as they accepted Elvis thinking he was black, until they saw his photograph on his records. I was accepted by the whites, the international whites, but it took some twenty years on the American scene before I was accepted by the blacks.
Eartha Kitt, I'll still here, Confessions of a Sex Kitten, p.123
Barricade Books Inc., New York, NY, 1991
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