IF I WAS GOING TO GO HOME WITH A 72-YEAR-OLD woman," our film editor remarked upon hearing I was going to see Eartha Kitt at Jazz Alley, "it would be Eartha."

I didn't quite understand what he meant. Okay, I might once have intemperately chatted up my 65-year-old aunt at my sister's wedding, but how can any woman--no matter how curvaceous and slinky and petite and sprightly--still exude sex appeal once she's past the age of retirement? Sure, like any '60s kid I had a prepubescent crush on Eartha as Catwoman in the Batman TV series, and sure, I love the way she purrs her vowels and can switch from fluent Spanish to French to English at the drop of a stocking--but septuagenarian salaciousness? Please. A thigh-length slit skirt and a lascivious laugh do not by themselves make for sweet night-time dreams. Or do they?

"Watch out for the way she 'gets into character' by forcing herself to laugh," our Andy further commented. "It's unnerving. And she's certainly pretty damn lithe for a grandmother."

I should've been expecting this. Eartha is still purr-fect. I should've expected no less from someone who started her career in a Parisian chorus line, and went on to steal countless teenage hearts acting in cult TV shows at the age of 38. (More recently, she's been touring in The Wizard of Oz with the eternally freaky Mickey Rooney.) I should've known that anyone who loves men (young, preferably) and yachts and mink stoles and vamping it up would make for first-class entertainment. Even so, Eartha is something else again....

Ms. Kitt turns her age--and her still-amazing figure--into a weapon of entertainment, continually hamming it up with the men in the front row, leaning over them, stopping and gazing them full in the face, picking someone out and wondering aloud (in French) if he can afford to buy her a farm or a diamond ring, or perhaps feeding an innocent waiter glass after glass of champagne. Eartha should always be 72, she plays her age so well. When she does a sensuous, breathy cover of Sinatra's "It Was a Very Good Year," and compares her life to a fine vintage wine, it's no idle boast. She's been there, baby! Is it possible to be sexy when you're this old and this witty and knowing and campy, and possess such a great, nicotine-stained voice? I'd say!

Eartha prefaces her brief run-throughs of Billie Holiday's "Don't Explain" and "Good Morning Heartache" with a story about singing these songs for hamburgers in a serviceman's cafe in Paris in the late '50s. She didn't know who Lady Day was then--she just knew the songs from time spent listening to jukeboxes in her native Harlem. The moment is magical, the only time she relents from her banter and natural zeal enough to communicate directly with us storm-tossed lovers.

"I've just finished my memoirs and I'm still here," Eartha sings to warm applause at the end of her slinky, autobiographical, opening number ("I'm Still Here"). Her reading of "I Will Survive" is a little unnecessary, though--you wanna attempt a tune like that? You better have the lungs, baby. Eartha has the lungs, but sparingly nowadays. She's far better off camping it up. "Where's your father?" she asks in mock disgust after one of her devotees fails to respond adequately to her considerable vampish charm (stockinged leg and all).

The highlight of the evening comes when the aforementioned waiter marches stoically on stage, holding a tray bearing a champagne bottle and a single flute. "How old are you?" Eartha asks him suggestively. "22." "22?" Eartha sighs. "What a ridiculous age to be. Don't you know nobody's 22 anymore?" she asks wearily. "Not even my daughter is 22. How would you like to be 72 before this night is through?"

Please. Please. Please.


1. QUASI You Turn Me On (from the Up CD Featuring "Birds") How heart-rending is that line, "Walt Disney cannot make me happy"? Perfect early morning music. Quasi make me so happy to be in the Northwest.

2. ADD N TO X Robot New York (from the import Mute CD Avant Hard) Forget any reservations you may have about electronica being a cold music; it takes a far hardier critic than me to resist Add N To X's squelchy, shiny synth sound and retro-future sensibilities.

3. NICK LOWE "Rollers Show" (from the Columbia LP Pure Pop For Now People) The Jesus of Cool sings about attending a Bay City Rollers show on his classic '70s power pop/New Wave album. How cool is that?

4. EMMITT RHODES "You take The Dark Out Of Night" (from the Dunhill LP Emmitt Rhodes) One of our man Rusty Willoughby's main influences. Gentle, whimsical, folky, '70s. And that's just the record sleeve.

5. BLUR "B.L.U.R.E.M.I" (from the Food/Virgin CD 13) Punk rock. From Blur's "traumatic" fifth album, which begins with a full-on gospel ballad, then progresses through Krautrock, Britpop, and mood music to... fuck knows where.