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Meowing singer Eartha Kitt, who plays Billie Holiday in "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill," a play that has opened in Chicago, told the New York Times that in many ways her own life has paralleled Holiday's.

Kitt's first encounter with Holiday was in 1945, when she had left home to study ballet. "I ran away and lived with another student on 145th Street," recalled Kitt. "I used to hear her rehearsing through the wall."Kitt said the last time she saw Holiday was at the Emerson's Bar referred to in the play, which is in Philadelphia.

"She was singing on a stage in back of the bar and was wearing a black dress. I remember seeing her dirty white brassiere strap with the biggest safety pin. No one was around who cared that she was unkempt, no one cared enough about her."

She said that like Holiday, she was subjected to all kinds of racial discrimination, in addition to physical abuse from men. She said that she had overcome those obstacles, however, "because I have a daughter and good friends who supported me. And I never thought a man was more important than a healthy lifestyle."

- Leah Garchik