Rejuvenate!: (It's Never Too Late)

Rejuvenate!: (It's Never Too Late)

by Eartha Kitt, Tonya Bolden

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Overview


The purr-fect guide to staying mentally and physically healthy and vital from the legendary star who defines longevity.

From her hit songs in the 1950s and television stardom as Catwoman on Batman in the 1960s to her sold-out shows at New York's Café Carlyle in the 1990s, her Tony-nominated role on Broadway in 1999, and her hilarious performance as Yzma, the villainess in Disney's The Emperor's New Groove in 2000, Eartha Kitt is one of America's most versatile and enduring performers. Now, at seventy-four and still going strong, Kitt reveals her secrets of vitality in Rejuvenate!, an elegant and inspiring book.

Seductive, provocative, amusing, and calming, she combines the lessons of her life -- from a difficult childhood in the South and in Harlem to the joys and challenges of her life in the public eye -- to offer this wise window into her incredible mental and physical vigor and an open invitation to the joys of aging in style.

Rejuvenate! is a simple, user-friendly guide that doesn't require a gym, a personal trainer, or even exercise equipment. Each of the nine chapters, with titles such as "Bend," "Stretch," and "Rock-and-Roll," features one basic exercise for the body with easy-to-follow instructions and an entertaining, inspiring message for the mind.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780743216104
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: 01/25/2002
Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 192
File size: 257 KB

About the Author

Tonya Bolden has authored and coauthored more than twenty books. She also worked with Mother Love on her book Forgive or Forget and with Eartha Kitt on Rejuvenate! (It's Never Too Late). To learn more about her work visit www.tonyabolden.com.

Read an Excerpt


Introduction: Warm Up

When the year 2000 commenced, I was seventy-two years old and had quite a lot on my plate. I played to sold-out crowds at Manhattan's Café Carlyle through mid-February (two shows a night, six days a week). Rehearsals for The Wild Party began in January (six days a week -- long hours), with the show in previews in March and fully up and running in mid-April (six evenings a week plus Wednesday and Saturday matinees). I also had the goal of completing this book by May Day, 2000. In between, there were out-of-town appearances -- here a day in Charleston, South Carolina, there a day in Savannah, Georgia, et cetera, et cetera.

"The gods are good," I thought as I sat in my room at the Carlyle Hotel, getting ready for my very last performance of 1999.

Indeed, the gods had been more than good, considering my beginnings: ugly duckling Eartha Mae, born out of wedlock and into poverty on a cotton plantation in South Carolina, then given away because Mama's husband-to-be said he didn't want "that yella gal" in his house. The people she was given to -- were they close or distant relatives? She never knew. Of one thing there was no doubt. These people were cruel: beating Eartha Mae, poorly feeding Eartha Mae, working her like a dog.

And when this Thursday's child was brought up North, to Harlem, and found a new mama in an aunt, there were no great expectations for her. Factory worker or domestic worker -- surely this would be her lot. Instead, there were rescues for her and her irrepressible love of words, of song, of the dance.

The world of possibilities began to open when she was accepted into the School of Performing Arts. Life widened a few years later when she became a member of the Katherine Dunham Dance Troupe. Before she was twenty years old, shy little Eartha Mae had performed with the Dunham dancers in America, Mexico, England, Paris, and elsewhere in Europe.

Then came her debut as a cabaret performer in Paris in 1949, which led to countless engagements at some of the poshest clubs in Europe, at one of which Orson Welles found her and cast her as Helen of Troy in his interpretation of Faust, which became a part of the show An Evening with Orson Welles.

It was when I asked, "Why me?" that Orson said, "You are the most exciting woman in the world." Many people have thought that this statement pertained to my sex appeal. But there was more. "You are the most exciting woman in the world" was not the whole of Orson's response. After that, he said this: "You represent all women of all ages. You have no place or time."

What an affirmation. As a youngster, I had struggled so with feelings of not belonging, of not being wanted, of not fitting in anywhere. Yet, I found that to survive I had to learn to adapt to anywhere, and I had always felt that I had to accept being different.

"Who is the real you?" someone once asked me.

"The me who happens to be in front of you at the moment, that's the real me."

The more I surrendered to myself, to the self that would not be limited and narrowly defined, the more glorious a time I had with me and with life. I stayed open, ready, breathless even, for adventure: eager to go wherever my talents might take me.

So, yes, I went with An Evening with Orson Welles around Europe in 1950, and then through other doors that opened, including New York's Village Vanguard, from where I went on to a twenty-five-week run at the Blue Angel. It was there that producer Leonard Sillman saw me and snapped me up for Broadway: for his New Faces of 1952. Quickly, the whole town was talking about me, especially about my "Bal Petit Bal" and "Monotonous," which were showstoppers for a year. Then came the New Faces national tour and the film, which led to more engagements -- and Eartha Kitt had become a bona fide star.

Eartha Mae was awed by how far and widely she had traveled. She was stunned and grateful that the public had adopted Eartha Kitt and made Eartha Mae feel worthwhile. Never presuming, but always hopeful, she looked forward to the rest of the journey, which did, in fact, continue -- rich, diverse, and intensely rewarding: best-selling records; more work in the theater (a Tony nomination in 1954 for my role in Mrs. Patterson was definitely a high point); work in films (including St. Louis Blues and Anna Lucasta); more nightclub engagements (from the Plaza Hotel's Persian Room to the Talk of the Town in London); more concerts around the world with the pleasure of singing in more than ten languages. There was television, too (the Omnibus presentation of Salome; I Spy, for which I received an Emmy nomination; Mission Impossible -- and, yes, joining the cast of Batman as Catwoman was purrrr-fect for me!).

And in the mid-1950s, I had been celebrated with a star on Hollywood Boulevard's Walk of Fame. Could it get any better than this?

There was a time when many people did not think so. The buzz was that my career was kaput after I spoke out against the Vietnam War, incurring the government's wrath. But Eartha Mae survived that (through Eartha Kitt). Just as she had survived the gossip about her being a sex-crazed creature. Just as she had survived great loves lost (millionaire John Barry Ryan III, cinema-house scion Arthur Loew Jr., and founder of Revlon, Charles Revson). Just as she had survived a marriage to Bill McDonald that did not last, but which did produce the greatest delight of her life, her daughter, Kitt.

Onward, forward, upward. How? By staying ready -- mind, body, and soul. Ready for the club owners and fans in Europe who cherished me when work was hard to come by in America, and ready to get work in America when the "climate" changed.

From the 1970s onward I have been productive, because I kept myself ready: ready for more recordings, more concerts and nightclub engagements (at home and abroad), for Timbuktu! and another Tony nomination, for more parts in films as different as Boomerang and Harriet the Spy; ready to be The Wicked Witch in the national tour of The Wizard of Oz; ready for The Wild Party; and, yes, ready on December 31, 1999, for my umpteenth performance at Café Carlyle, where I had been engaged every winter since the late 1980s.

It was one o'clock in the morning of January 1, 2000, when I bid the second audience adieu. I went to bed supremely appreciative for being alive -- truly alive, with Kitt and her children in an adjoining suite -- alive to greet the new year, the new decade, the new century, the new millennium (depending on your math). I was grateful, too, for a long life without any devastating illness. To still be here and to still be doing, doing, doing -- how fantastic!

"Don't you ever get tired?" people asked when I was sixty, sixty-five, seventy, and when I turned seventy-three in mid-January 2000.

Only the young get tired -- the young, and the elders who have given up on themselves, who think there's nothing more for them but to wait for the gods to call.

Life is too marvelous, too wonderful, too brimming with adventures for me to get tired. After a performance, I may feel spent but not tired, and in no way weary. I know this feeling of exhaustion. It is always a sign for me to refuel, to rejuvenate.

My formula is simple: foods that are right for me (at the right time, in the right amounts) plus continual exercise of the mind and the body.

Some who know me only from afar may think that the body has always been my first priority. Au contraire. I love the brain no less than I love the body. (Perhaps more, if the truth be told.) When the two are functioning well in concert, there is nothing in the world more exciting. So I strive to make the body love the mind, and the mind love the body, keeping the spirit vigorous as a consequence. This, I feel, is the key to my unfeeble longevity: more than twenty-five thousand days on this earth and no complaints. There's the occasional bronchial brouhaha, the legacy of a terrible case of whooping cough I had when my Southern lungs made first contact with New York's winter air. Owing to a bit of arthritis, my joints aren't always jumping. Still, I say, no complaints. What ailments I have are nothing in light of the quality of my quantity of years. (Keep moving! Don't let the limbs catch up with the years!)

I may be genetically predisposed to longevity, but I will never know for sure. Neither my mama in South Carolina nor my mama in Harlem lived to be my age. As for my father, I never had a clue. The mystery of my origins meant that I could never gamble on any advantage of genes when it came to having a healthy mind and body.

Certainly, my calling as a dancer, singer, and actress gave me incentive to take care of myself; however, behind all that discipline of proper diet and exercise was a zeal for life: to live to the fullest in every aspect of my existence. Because I have, when I turned fifty, sixty, seventy, I didn't look "my age," I didn't move "my age," I didn't feel "my age."

And it's never too late. Hence, this book in which I share the fundamental ways of being, thinking, and doing that have kept me productive, content, whole, and free of fear about "getting old."

I have never yearned to stay young in the common sense, but rather to stay me: the me committed to embracing her uniqueness; the me who feels no shame in championing and cherishing herself; the me who accepts aging as a natural process (not a disease!) and who is saying to the gods, "Thank you, thank you," when I take care of me.

I encourage you, darling reader, no matter what your age, to make a commitment to take care of yourself. (If you have already made this commitment -- keep it up!) We are living longer, you know. You owe it to yourself and to your loved ones to do all that you can to increase the possibility that the quality of your days is as good as it can get if you are granted twenty thousand days, thirty thousand days, or perhaps a century.

May the exercises in this book help you make the most of each day, the most of yourself -- to keep the desire to be self-sufficient, to love thyself, and to keep moving.

Copyright © 2001 by Kikitt, Inc.

Chapter One: Breathe

Breathe in through the nose, pushing the breath as far as you can into the lower regions of the body.

For as long as you can, hold...hold...hold....Slowly, exhale through the mouth until your stomach is completely deflated. Repeat twice (or as many times as you can). Take time out throughout your day for some deep breathing. (Let it be your coffee break.)

When we breathe thoroughly, we allow the organs their fulfillment of oxygen, which needs to go all through the body to give it strength, to bring up poisons, toxins -- to cleanse (and burn off a bit of fat in the process). According to Asian sages, one deep breath is worth ten minutes of our lives. Habitual quality breathing can also help keep the stomach flat and the back strong.

---------------

I take in life. I choose life. I embrace the reality that life is a cycle.

Just as shallow breathing is not good enough for the body and mind, so shallow relationships to experiences are injurious to our health. Whatever the matter -- fair, foul, grim, glorious -- I breathe it in, knowing that whatever needs to be expelled will be.

Were I not committed to "inhaling" and "exhaling" experiences, I might not have survived the disappointments I have known over the years, especially in my fifty-plus years in show business. I also would not have learned to sing with truth and verve such songs as "I'm Still Here" had I not been able to breathe through so many rejections.

In the early days, from casting directors, I got --

"You don't fit in."

"You're not like anybody we know."

"You don't look like something we're used to."

From the recording companies --

"Your voice is too weird, strange."

On down through the years, along with successes, I have had many sorrows to breathe through, such as not getting the part of The Witch in Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods.

It was to be a temporary job, a six-week engagement to replace Bernadette Peters. I was absolutely elated over the chance, because Into the Woods was such a wonderful, such an intelligent, such a beautiful creation, and The Witch was a stellar character.

At the audition, I had the finest time with my prepared reading of the material I had been sent. After the initial audition, Sondheim sprung a rap song on me. "Now try this," he said.

I rippled through the song without a hitch.

"Oh! I didn't know that you knew how to speak so clippingly on the tongue."

"Well, I did study Shakespeare."

We all laughed and we all shook hands. My audition, I thought, was stupendous -- and that is what I was told. Accolades overflowed. "You've got the part!" seemed on the tips of their tongues.

Though I have never been one to count the chickens prematurely, I leapt, I romped, I jumped for joy when I returned home.

Playing The Witch would allow me to use all of myself: my athletic self (Witch climbing the ropes), my naughty self (Witch being mean to the daughter), my comedic self (Witch so witty), my self who would be ecstatic to be once again on Broadway!

"Oh, God, please, let me have this part!"

I didn't get it.

It was as though I had been deflated. My whole heart and soul was deflated.

I did much walking that weekend, near my home, with my dog, July. Walking...walking...walking around and through the woods -- not missing the irony.

I walked familiar paths, seeing things as if for the first time. Same skyline, same hills, same trees, but it was all so different -- shapes, colors, scents. I became so sensitive to everything, particularly to the gods' power to give and to take away, to form and re-form.

It was as if every hurt I had ever known since the day I was given away in the South had just occurred; and I knew I had to not stop the opening up. I let myself open up even more, heart-wise, soul-wise.

So sensitive and...so much more appreciative I became. Now that something had been denied me, I was acutely aware of how much else there was to share and to become a part of.

"You didn't get it, Eartha," whispered that abandoned, abused South Carolina girl. "They don't want you."

I wrestled with why-why-why.

The fans, the critics -- they say that I am so good at my craft, that I am one of the best. I am told that there is nobody like me, that I am unique, wonderful, beautiful, intelligent -- Why didn't I get this part for which I was so fabulously made?

"You didn't get it, Eartha. They don't want you."

I wept a lot that weekend, surrendering to the cleansing to be had through tears, and self-analysis. The hurts from childhood, the hurts that never leave, but leave a scar on the tissues of the soul. They wait there. Open wounds again that some incident salts.

There I was up in my sixties. Not a newcomer, not an ingenue on tiptoe for that first break. The first or the five hundredth -- it was all the same. I had been so passionate about playing The Witch. I would have been untrue to myself had I tried to be stoic about the loss. I had to mourn, to grieve, to wash away my grief with groaning, crying, sighing. With it all, I did a lot of deep, deep breathing. I filled myself to capacity with the sylvan air. I exhaled thoroughly. Oxygen. Oxygen. Oxygen.

"Open the window," a doctor often advises. No matter if it is chilly outside, there are times when we need to open a window and take in new, renewing air, no matter what the climate.

So it is with our souls. When we open ourselves to a situation we revitalize our minds, our spirits, absolving the hurt and thus becoming able to use it in a positive way.

Most definitely, I champion the tears. How sad it is that as we "mature," the less some of us cry.

It's not appropriate, they say.

It's not respectable, they say.

It's not -- blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Why, then, do we have tears? If only babies are to cry, why do our tears not disappear when we "come of age"? A mother's milk, when no longer needed, dries up.

Nothing in Creation is for nothing. Nature has a way of getting rid of what she knows is making us uncomfortable. When a speck of whatever flies into your eye, if the eye is functioning properly, you will involuntarily blink as water rises sufficiently to flush away that bit of grit.

My crying over not getting the part in Into the Woods was critical to my ability to release the hurt and sadness. Had I not inhaled and exhaled Into the Woods, I might have become a real witch, forgetting to keep my soul clean and ready for something wonderful.

What a pity to strive to be so emotionally streamlined to the point of stripping oneself of mourning time, whether the loss is a love, a job, or even an argument. True mourning time is vital, something the ancients all over the world understood so well, and therefore, they gave thought and time to elaborate mourning rituals.

"Get over it!" That oh-so-postmodern dictum can be perilous. Do we ever really get over a loss? Certainly, we can overcome and move beyond. But get over it?

A sorrow ceases to be a stumbling block when we breathe through the experience, when we go to the source, to the why of the grieving.

"No, you didn't get the part, Eartha."

"Eartha Mae, now, how many times in your life have you had disappointments that you know you've had to grieve away, talk away, walk through? And how many times have you found rescue in the thought that something wonderful will happen?"

"Something wonderful will happen?"

"Yes, Eartha Mae, something wonderful will happen. The gods have not let us down thus far. We must stay on the alert for the gods' next handout."

"But you didn't get it, Eartha. They don't want -- "

When I learned that I was not cast as The Witch because they wanted a television personality, I was greatly relieved of the pain. I was about 90 percent better at that point. It wasn't that they didn't want me. It wasn't personal. The truth, they say, will set you free. Soon, I was me again.

I went about doing lots of what-nots that needed attending to. I answered fan mail. I mended things: a hole in a settee, a tear in a piece of clothing. I also prepared myself for an engagement in Los Angeles.

There, in my performances, I drew upon the recent rejection, injecting the hurt into my songs, sad and funny ones alike. Once again, I was reminded that nothing is good-for-nothing.

It was while I was in Los Angeles that Cameron Mackintosh came to see me, offering me a role: to replace the actress playing Carlotta, the "I'm Still Here" girl, in his production of James Goldman and Stephen Sondheim's Follies, which was running in London.

Having inhaled and exhaled that Into the Woods loss, I was in fantastic shape to breathe in deeply this c'est si bon, brand-new opportunity. London and Sondheim -- two of my favorite things!

Something wonderful will happen.

I dare say we sometimes have as much trouble taking in terrifically wonderful happenings. Is this not another kind of holding of the breath, of shallow breathing?

Do you find yourself holding back on tears of joy, on rich laughter, full hugs, broad smiles? Why? Have you been listening to what "they" say? Not mature? Not proper?

This is your life! Take it in!

Sometimes, at a child's antics or a really funny joke, I laugh myself to tears, and I love it! I love to laugh heartily, to give vent to delight, without fretting about "acting my age."

Breathing room. How dearly we need that. I think we do ourselves a disservice when we insist on reserving breathing room for the weekend, or the calendared vacation. I am forever seizing chances for breathing room in my every day.

Drive time is often breathing time for me. When engaged at Café Carlyle, I have used the drive to and from Manhattan and my home in Westchester to process the performance I hope for or the one just given. During other drives, I process other experiences, decisions, and dilemmas. (Usually, as I am thinking, I am also doing some isometrics, such as squeezing the buttocks or doing tummy tucks or breathing deeply.)

During this breathing time, I might also marvel at life all around me (as much as I can see). I behold the colors of a season. I take note of the changing surroundings as I move from much sun to less sun (or vice versa), as I move from lots of steel and concrete to skylines dominated by nature's constructions. I think about how much I love living among an abundance of trees (all the better for breathing).

Whenever I have journeyed somewhere for the very first time, I have always tried to rise early so that I could feel the place, taking in the sights, the sounds, the different air. It is a way of centering myself in the where-I-am, of becoming a part of a new environment, knowing that were I to cast myself as a mere visitor, the experience would be shallow.

Years ago, in Swaziland, while standing on the balcony of my hotel room, as I watched a gorgeous sunrise, I watched the Africans moving through the woods, across the meadow, in their native dress, and with bundles of I knew not what upon their heads. Long minutes passed without a car or a truck passing by, and suddenly I was no stranger to this place. I was seeing how similar this scene was to scenes from the South of my youth. I felt connected. That hour or so of breathing time on that hotel balcony was the foundation for the fine time I had in subsequent explorations of life in Swaziland.

How some people can get bored bewilders me. There is so much to engage us when "nothing" is going on. To see it, we need only allow ourselves room to breathe, to be. For this, one needs a healthy attitude toward solitude: to be comfortable being alone with yourself.

Alone Time. I have never feared it. In fact, I have relished it. There is nothing like some Alone Time to process problems, triumphs, hopes, to get clarity on the core you and where life beckons.

There was an interview on the NewsHour in 1999 with that master of pantomime, Marcel Marceau -- seventy-six at the time and still performing and teaching. This interview included a discussion of one of Marceau's classic pieces, which I have seen many times: "Mask Maker," the tragicomic routine of a man moving from laughing face to crying face, until at one point he becomes trapped in the laughing face, unable to take it off.

"And in the end is revealed the solitude of man -- the moment of truth, also, when man is himself left in a certain solitude," remarked Marceau. And he added, "It's not sad for me, because solitude is not sad, because it's a deep reflection about life." Further on in the interview, Marceau noted, "But it's important to go deep in the roots of ourselves, and from the silence, there's music."

The ideal time for deep reflection is when we are not drenched in noise-noise, people-people, clatter, so much chatter. There are times, however, when we need to seize breathing room in the midst of the din. The busier one's life, the more one needs to be able to enter into solitude in the midst of the madding crowd.

Often, at a cocktail party I have desperately needed breathing room. To walk away and into a corner would attract too much attention. So right where I stand or sit, I tuck into my trunk of solitude and silence and take myself in my mind on a trip. I return when someone calls my name, or perhaps someone says --

"Eartha, don't you think?"

"Beg your pardon?"

For the mind to wander is not necessarily a bad thing. Often, it is a sign that you are in need of some breathing room, a little time to yourself (because the conversation is boring).

As the years pass, some become unnerved by the possibility that they will have all too much Alone Time. The children are living far away, or perhaps they are near, but busy-busy with their lives. The spouse has passed on. Friends have passed on. Enemies, too. There are fewer and fewer people with whom you can share remembrances of things past.

This can be disturbing. However, if Alone Time is sought out, savored, and even celebrated, when the inhaling and exhaling are done, we are refreshed with insights as to what we can do to keep from being lonely -- more than that, to be productive and very alive. Remember the words of Marceau: "...from the silence, there's music."

Listen to the tune, tap to the rhythm, let your soul dance, and you will discover what to do. Instead of "Woe is me, I'm so lonely," you might volunteer your talents to an organization. You might drop your pride and frankly let your children or grandchildren know that you would like to spend more time with them. You might take the initiative with others as well, even make new friends. Who knows what you might find yourself doing that draws people to you. Without some deep breathing, you may not get to this place. Instead, you may become a grump. Perhaps you will resort to bribing, guilting, or otherwise manipulating children, grandchildren, the neighbor's teen to spend time with you, only to discover that companionship that has been commandeered does not satisfy, and that your neediness actually repels people.

Breathing through something, engaging in some deep reflection, allows us to see the give-and-take of life. Just like physical breathing: air in, air out, stomach expands, stomach retracts. Like physical breathing, reflection clears the mind. Don't you feel better when during a tense moment, you take a deep breath and a stretch or go for a walk?

We also advance our well-being when, instead of immediately responding to an annoyance or insult, we "take a breath."

The first and last time that I struck someone was eons ago. I was about seven or eight years old, recently arrived in Harlem, where I was to live with my aunt.

One of the best things that happened to me up North was a beautiful party dress my aunt gave me. Except for an Easter dress she had sent down South (and which, after one wearing, had mysteriously disappeared), the only dresses I had ever known were sticky, itchy things made of croaker sacks. And here was this happiness of blue, red, and green in some fancy fabric, perhaps a fine-grade cotton or silk. It was the most precious thing I had ever had to call my own.

So I was beyond perturbed when I caught Joyce with my dress on. Joyce was a girl about two years older than I was, whose family my aunt and I were rooming with. And there she was one day walking down the hall in my dress without my permission.

The next thing I knew, I had Joyce down on the floor. I do not remember feeling anything, but I do remember that I was choking her. I don't think I would have murdered the girl; still, it was a good thing that her father pulled me off of her. (My dress, I am glad to say, was none the worse.)

Had I taken a breath, I would not have behaved so horribly. But, of course, I was a child, still forming.

I learned a lot from that. For one, I realized how strong I was (from cotton picking, hauling wood from the yard, slopping the hogs, and all the other labor I had been forced to do down South). And this strength could do evil. Somewhere in my becoming self, I realized the value of taking a breath.

Raw rage let loose without thought to consequence is akin to breathing merely from the chest: not good, not salutary for the soul. When we take a breath, however, we allow ourselves to respond to a situation more productively, whether that response is simply to do nothing, or to express, intelligently, our disagreement or displeasure. Unprocessed rage can seriously rend relationships, as well as age us.

Had I taken a breath, I would not have jumped Joyce. I would have told her (spoiled child that she was) that it is not nice to take what does not belong to you. I would have told her that had she asked permission to try on the dress, I would have said yes.

After this incident, Joyce treated me with greater respect, it is true. How much better it would have been, however, had she come to respect me not as a consequence of brute force.

When someone annoys or infuriates you, before you respond, take a breath. Take a deep breath.

Deep breathing is also a barricade against the low-grade bad mood that can sometimes overtake us: that out-of-sortsness spawned by something such as the weather not cooperating with your plans. The rainfall or the snowfall may not be convenient. It may even trigger a little tension. However, if you stop and breathe, you will see that the phenomenon is part of life, part of the cycle, and the tension will abate.

Take in the "bad" weather. Think about what muscles it will allow you to work -- attention to detail on the road or while walking, perhaps. If we are not growling about what we cannot control, we are better able to transform what would be negative energy into positive energy.

Breathe in the rain and think about how necessary water is to life: bird life, plant life, your life. A stone changes from the falling of the rain; so do mountains. Water changes everything. I think of rain as God's tears washing away in order to enhance.

Rain, hail, snow, fog -- I breathe it in -- and I think, "There's a reason for this" -- just as there is a reason for the sunshine that brings such delight. I do not squander my energies damning a day. I do not allow the notion of "bad" weather to trick me into a "bad" mood. I take in the is-ness of the day. When I exhale, I am better able to focus on what I need to do to journey through it. I am open for some new thing to learn or to experience. The alternative -- becoming cranky and cantankerous -- holds no appeal for me. (And when I am cranky, often it is a sign that I am hungry.)

The weather is a metaphor for what we cannot control; and I weather the weather by breathing.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Thanks to my habit of full, proper breathing, I am better able to handle the other "exercises" the gods would have

me do.

Copyright © 2001 by Kikitt, Inc.

Table of Contents


Contents

Introduction: Warm Up
1. Breathe 2. Stretch 3. Bend 4. Rock-and-Roll 5. Release 6. Walk 7. Balance 8. Eat 9. Etceterate
Acknowledgments

What People are Saying About This

Sidney Poitier

Eartha Kitt is the freest spirit you have ever met.

Introduction

Introduction: Warm Up

When the year 2000 commenced, I was seventy-two years old and had quite a lot on my plate. I played to sold-out crowds at Manhattan's Café Carlyle through mid-February (two shows a night, six days a week). Rehearsals for The Wild Party began in January (six days a week -- long hours), with the show in previews in March and fully up and running in mid-April (six evenings a week plus Wednesday and Saturday matinees). I also had the goal of completing this book by May Day, 2000. In between, there were out-of-town appearances -- here a day in Charleston, South Carolina, there a day in Savannah, Georgia, et cetera, et cetera.

"The gods are good," I thought as I sat in my room at the Carlyle Hotel, getting ready for my very last performance of 1999.

Indeed, the gods had been more than good, considering my beginnings: ugly duckling Eartha Mae, born out of wedlock and into poverty on a cotton plantation in South Carolina, then given away because Mama's husband-to-be said he didn't want "that yella gal" in his house. The people she was given to -- were they close or distant relatives? She never knew. Of one thing there was no doubt. These people were cruel: beating Eartha Mae, poorly feeding Eartha Mae, working her like a dog.

And when this Thursday's child was brought up North, to Harlem, and found a new mama in an aunt, there were no great expectations for her. Factory worker or domestic worker -- surely this would be her lot. Instead, there were rescues for her and her irrepressible love of words, of song, of the dance.

The world of possibilities began to open when she was accepted into the School of Performing Arts. Life widened a few years later when she became a member of the Katherine Dunham Dance Troupe. Before she was twenty years old, shy little Eartha Mae had performed with the Dunham dancers in America, Mexico, England, Paris, and elsewhere in Europe.

Then came her debut as a cabaret performer in Paris in 1949, which led to countless engagements at some of the poshest clubs in Europe, at one of which Orson Welles found her and cast her as Helen of Troy in his interpretation of Faust, which became a part of the show An Evening with Orson Welles.

It was when I asked, "Why me?" that Orson said, "You are the most exciting woman in the world." Many people have thought that this statement pertained to my sex appeal. But there was more. "You are the most exciting woman in the world" was not the whole of Orson's response. After that, he said this: "You represent all women of all ages. You have no place or time."

What an affirmation. As a youngster, I had struggled so with feelings of not belonging, of not being wanted, of not fitting in anywhere. Yet, I found that to survive I had to learn to adapt to anywhere, and I had always felt that I had to accept being different.

"Who is the real you?" someone once asked me.

"The me who happens to be in front of you at the moment, that's the real me."

The more I surrendered to myself, to the self that would not be limited and narrowly defined, the more glorious a time I had with me and with life. I stayed open, ready, breathless even, for adventure: eager to go wherever my talents might take me.

So, yes, I went with An Evening with Orson Welles around Europe in 1950, and then through other doors that opened, including New York's Village Vanguard, from where I went on to a twenty-five-week run at the Blue Angel. It was there that producer Leonard Sillman saw me and snapped me up for Broadway: for his New Faces of 1952. Quickly, the whole town was talking about me, especially about my "Bal Petit Bal" and "Monotonous," which were showstoppers for a year. Then came the New Faces national tour and the film, which led to more engagements -- and Eartha Kitt had become a bona fide star.

Eartha Mae was awed by how far and widely she had traveled. She was stunned and grateful that the public had adopted Eartha Kitt and made Eartha Mae feel worthwhile. Never presuming, but always hopeful, she looked forward to the rest of the journey, which did, in fact, continue -- rich, diverse, and intensely rewarding: best-selling records; more work in the theater (a Tony nomination in 1954 for my role in Mrs. Patterson was definitely a high point); work in films (including St. Louis Blues and Anna Lucasta); more nightclub engagements (from the Plaza Hotel's Persian Room to the Talk of the Town in London); more concerts around the world with the pleasure of singing in more than ten languages. There was television, too (the Omnibus presentation of Salome; I Spy, for which I received an Emmy nomination; Mission Impossible -- and, yes, joining the cast of Batman as Catwoman was purrrr-fect for me!).

And in the mid-1950s, I had been celebrated with a star on Hollywood Boulevard's Walk of Fame. Could it get any better than this?

There was a time when many people did not think so. The buzz was that my career was kaput after I spoke out against the Vietnam War, incurring the government's wrath. But Eartha Mae survived that (through Eartha Kitt). Just as she had survived the gossip about her being a sex-crazed creature. Just as she had survived great loves lost (millionaire John Barry Ryan III, cinema-house scion Arthur Loew Jr., and founder of Revlon, Charles Revson). Just as she had survived a marriage to Bill McDonald that did not last, but which did produce the greatest delight of her life, her daughter, Kitt.

Onward, forward, upward. How? By staying ready -- mind, body, and soul. Ready for the club owners and fans in Europe who cherished me when work was hard to come by in America, and ready to get work in America when the "climate" changed.

From the 1970s onward I have been productive, because I kept myself ready: ready for more recordings, more concerts and nightclub engagements (at home and abroad), for Timbuktu! and another Tony nomination, for more parts in films as different as Boomerang and Harriet the Spy; ready to be The Wicked Witch in the national tour of The Wizard of Oz; ready for The Wild Party; and, yes, ready on December 31, 1999, for my umpteenth performance at Café Carlyle, where I had been engaged every winter since the late 1980s.

It was one o'clock in the morning of January 1, 2000, when I bid the second audience adieu. I went to bed supremely appreciative for being alive -- truly alive, with Kitt and her children in an adjoining suite -- alive to greet the new year, the new decade, the new century, the new millennium (depending on your math). I was grateful, too, for a long life without any devastating illness. To still be here and to still be doing, doing, doing -- how fantastic!

"Don't you ever get tired?" people asked when I was sixty, sixty-five, seventy, and when I turned seventy-three in mid-January 2000.

Only the young get tired -- the young, and the elders who have given up on themselves, who think there's nothing more for them but to wait for the gods to call.

Life is too marvelous, too wonderful, too brimming with adventures for me to get tired. After a performance, I may feel spent but not tired, and in no way weary. I know this feeling of exhaustion. It is always a sign for me to refuel, to rejuvenate.

My formula is simple: foods that are right for me (at the right time, in the right amounts) plus continual exercise of the mind and the body.

Some who know me only from afar may think that the body has always been my first priority. Au contraire. I love the brain no less than I love the body. (Perhaps more, if the truth be told.) When the two are functioning well in concert, there is nothing in the world more exciting. So I strive to make the body love the mind, and the mind love the body, keeping the spirit vigorous as a consequence. This, I feel, is the key to my unfeeble longevity: more than twenty-five thousand days on this earth and no complaints. There's the occasional bronchial brouhaha, the legacy of a terrible case of whooping cough I had when my Southern lungs made first contact with New York's winter air. Owing to a bit of arthritis, my joints aren't always jumping. Still, I say, no complaints. What ailments I have are nothing in light of the quality of my quantity of years. (Keep moving! Don't let the limbs catch up with the years!)

I may be genetically predisposed to longevity, but I will never know for sure. Neither my mama in South Carolina nor my mama in Harlem lived to be my age. As for my father, I never had a clue. The mystery of my origins meant that I could never gamble on any advantage of genes when it came to having a healthy mind and body.

Certainly, my calling as a dancer, singer, and actress gave me incentive to take care of myself; however, behind all that discipline of proper diet and exercise was a zeal for life: to live to the fullest in every aspect of my existence. Because I have, when I turned fifty, sixty, seventy, I didn't look "my age," I didn't move "my age," I didn't feel "my age."

And it's never too late. Hence, this book in which I share the fundamental ways of being, thinking, and doing that have kept me productive, content, whole, and free of fear about "getting old."

I have never yearned to stay young in the common sense, but rather to stay me: the me committed to embracing her uniqueness; the me who feels no shame in championing and cherishing herself; the me who accepts aging as a natural process (not a disease!) and who is saying to the gods, "Thank you, thank you," when I take care of me.

I encourage you, darling reader, no matter what your age, to make a commitment to take care of yourself. (If you have already made this commitment -- keep it up!) We are living longer, you know. You owe it to yourself and to your loved ones to do all that you can to increase the possibility that the quality of your days is as good as it can get if you are granted twenty thousand days, thirty thousand days, or perhaps a century.

May the exercises in this book help you make the most of each day, the most of yourself -- to keep the desire to be self-sufficient, to love thyself, and to keep moving.

Copyright © 2001 by Kikitt, Inc.

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Rejuvenate! 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The third catwoman, what cant she do?
minerva guerra More than 1 year ago
this is a sweet book, written by eartha. she was a fascinating modern woman, ahead of her time. her cinderela story from rags to riches and everything in between has made eartha kitt an iconic legend. the book however warm and well written only scratches the surface of the real life of eartha. i will continue to look for the real story of eartha mae kitt. a biracial child born out of wed lock to a black mother and white plantation owner. she grew up to become a professional entertainer and learned 10 languages in order to make it in the biz. she spoke out against mandatory enlistment to the vietnam war and quickly found herself blacklisted by her own government. years later cia and fbi files uncovered a conspiracy to destroy her career. she survived that and more.where is her biography? there were also rumors of a love affair with james dean. i look forward to more books about eartha.
docb1231 More than 1 year ago
I have always admired Eartha Kitt but, really knew nothing about her. This book, however, gives insight into a most fabulous person, indeed. I enjoyed this book and will pass the information that I have received from reading it, onto others who welcome inspiration and upliftment. Hands Down! A wonderful book!