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Kitten Natividad died in Los Angeles this past week. The cause was kidney failure after suffering from cancer. She was 74.
Kitten was a genuine cult pop culture figure who, over the last six decades, had a wild life and a storied career: she started out as a cook and maid for Stella Stevens – the Hollywood actress famous for ‘The Nutty Professor’ and ‘The Ballad of Cable Hogue’. Then in the late 60s, Kitten was a go-go dancer on the Sunset Strip, and a beauty queen in the early 1970s when she was twice elected Miss Nude Universe. She was an actress too, appearing in box office hits such as ‘Lady in Red’ with Gene Wilder, ‘Another 48 Hours’ with Eddie Murphy, and ‘Airplane!’. And in recent years, she was a legendary in-demand burlesque dancer appearing in sold-out shows all over the world.
But perhaps The Rialto Report remembers her most fondly for her appearances in two of Russ Meyer’s later films, Up! (1976) and Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens (1979). And for many years she and Russ were the first couple of sexploitation movies, partners on set as well as in life – quite a feat given Russ was not an easy man to live with.
After they split, Kitten fell on hard times, dealing with alcohol, drugs, and illness. She made a series of hard-core sex films before turning her life around and re-inventing herself as a grand dame of bawdy, raunchy, good clean fun.
In person, Kitten was a force of nature, and a person we never grew tired of. She had a gentle, angelic smile, but don’t be fooled: she was a feisty, tough, old-fashioned dame. In truth, she ran circles around us: we emerged from every conversation with her feeling like we had been mauled by a bear, played with like a rag doll, and made love to by a goddess.
She may have been named Kitten, but she was more like a hungry tiger.
Fortunately, we got on well, so we’d often ask to interview her. She was reluctant. We explained that she was the last of her kind and her legacy – in her own words – was important. She always kicked back. We kept insisting, and one day she told me that she just didn’t like to expose herself. In fact, her exact words were that it was easier for her to show her pussy than her life. Somewhat foolishly, we asked her what she meant.
Finally though, we managed to persuade her, even though she expressed doubts right up to the last minute. But I shouldn’t have doubted her.
We spoke for hours. And Kitten finally exposed herself. So here she is: this is the sometimes naughty, often rude, usually sweet, occasionally cantankerous, frequently outrageous, disarmingly tender, but always engaging, beautiful and loving, Kitten Natividad.
Goodnight Kitten. Keep fighting.
This podcast is 68 minutes long.
The tribute to end all tributes.Simply exceptional.
Thank you John Paul!
Moving as always.
I have a lump in my throat as I listen. Thank you for keeping Kitten’s life and legacy alive.
I’m listening to this podcast and am struck by the story she tells about drinking the martini and blacking out. It’s really suspicious ending up in bed naked without being able to consent and I’m leaning towards the possibility that Russ Meyer drugged her. Either way not cool and very predatory.
Some evidence exists that Russ took advantage of the situation.
Not much evidence exists that Russ actually drugged her on the basis of this account. Let’s be real. Just supposition.
Damn it another one of the greats is gone R. I. P. beautiful one hope to meet you on the other side one day.
Thanks so much Sam!
Awesome Tribute To Kitten God Bless Keep Up Good Work
Ashley and April, thanks once again for turning the people who we only knew from a few minutes on film (in my case, I first recognized her by name as the saleslady from MY TUTOR) into fully-fleshed human beings. What a life!
I also feel a strange sense of compassion for both of you. You have given the readers and listeners of this site so much. Yet all the friends in that world you cultivated for so many years are dying off at such a rapid pace. You had such long relationships, in person or on the phone, with people like Jamie Gillis, Radley Metzger, Harry Reems, so many others. I’m sure it must be hard when so many friends from that generation go in so short a time.
Thanks for giving them a measure of immortality.
Thank you so much for your very thoughtful comment Rick – we were touched by it.
100% Absolute, Complete & Total Agreement !
Great interview. I regret that I never got to meet Kitten in person. She seemed so larger than life. I loved Takin’ It All Off and Ultra Vixens. I hope she will be remembered for years to come.
I’m halfway through this duing my Midnight shift. And as Always Excellent Journalism. RIP to the “Latin Brumhelda ” Kitten Natividad
Thanks very much Mort!
God I miss all the big bust legends from my youth like Kitten, Candy, and Uschi. Thank you for bringing them back to tell their life stories with such admiration and respect.
Okay, I just started listening and I’m amazed at how much she sounds like Bea Benaderet (look her up!). Thanks for sharing this with the world!
Thanks L.A. Gothro!
Such a beautiful tribute to Kitten! I was fortunate enough to have her our for a screening of BENEATH THE VALLEY OF THE ULTRAVIXENS and she told a story about John Holmes that still makes me blush. Thank you for this!
Sooo…what was the story?
And RIP, Kitten. Was fortunate enough to see you once in the 80s with some college friends. Magnificent.
Thank you for listening Andrea!
She was gorgeous and a sweet lady.
What year did Kitten first play at Show World?
Kitten was a family friend. She is truly going to be missed . 🥲😇
Always a great listen, this one though has me with sweaty eyes knowing she gave so much and now she’s gone. RIP Kitten
Thank you Michael!
As is often the case on Rialto Report, I come away feeling like I’ve heard a legend’s story on their own terms, rather than being forced into a narrative they did not want. This was an interview that will stay with me a while due to how much was left unspoken alongside the frankness in what we did learn – there were some laughs, and some emotional moments, but most of all a basic respect for the human experience. Rest in peace, Kitten.
We really appreciate this JL3 – thank you!
Kitten is a legend! I wish she didn’t go hardcore, but life is like that.
I LOVE the ‘Peanuts’ quilt that appears in the early shots you shared. 🙂
Very sad, such a legendary performer… And I just heard the Kay Parker passed today.
I hope both ladies realize what a fan base they had. RIP Kitten and Kay
She was a legend, Sad to hear of her passing. Cool that she lived life on her terms, and had no regrets.
Well, she’s had a few regrets:
– She’s mentioned, often, that Russ lead her to be an alcoholic. Obviously, that was HER choice, but still…
– She hated doing the scenes with ‘Mr. Peterbuilt’ (Patrick Wright) in ‘Beyond The Valley..’. Again, Russ…
– I have a clear memory of her being on ‘The People’s Court’, as she was suing a tenant for damages in a building she was managing. Only in Hollywoodland!
Pro Tip: take what anyone says with a HUGE grain of salt (and, yes, that includes me).
Wonderful interview and such an amazing lady. I’m so glad that she gave in and told her story. Thank you Rialto Report!
Rialto provides a service no one else does, no one I know of anyway. Thank you. I was very captivated with your previous interview with Candy Samples. Her memories were spotty with aging but still refreshingly honest. The men who attended Sean Penn’s bachelor party no doubt remember Kitten more than the actual wedding ! I certainly would have.
I suppose one or both of these ladies had life regrets because everyone does. What if this, what if that? Neither was cheated from an eventful life, however. I don’t speculate about the happenings behind closed doors, but it seems fair to say that Candy deserved much better in her ‘50s than Romano. A comment in these pages from Sharon Kelly captured it best: “greaseball”. I’m sure Sharon knew and cared for Candy personally.
I understand that there are dishonest, exploitative people on the world of porn. There are also many fine people, as well. Candy and Kitten succeeded in this world without getting beaten down, especially Candy. I really do not believe there will ever be another Candy Samples. My memories of her are priceless.
Best to you all,
I never met or saw her in person. But she jumped out of my 25″ Sylvania color TV screen when I first saw network television’s “$1.98 BEAUTY CONTEST” hosted by Rip Taylor–a show inspired by the popular, successful “The Gong Show” hosted by producer Chuck Barris. Kitten simply upstaged the four “legitimate” amateurs that had been selected as contestants. It seemed clear to me that she was a professional model-dancer simply on the basis of her movement. She walked across the stage in a suggestive manner and winked at the camera, making the other girls look self-conscious and clumsy. Never before or since have I seen anything like her on a network show. Her enlarged breasts not only looked completely natural but were clearly on borrowed time for a show occupying family prime time 7pm). Brief as it was, it stirred adolescent fantasies and left an indelible impression.