Francesca “Kitten” Natividad was born in Juarez, Mexico, just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas. Her start in Hollywood came when she was a teen, working in a domestic capacity for another kitten, Miss Stella Stevens. It was in the Stevens household that Kitten decided she wanted to be in movies, too. She began go-go dancing, then moved into stripping, culminating in being named Miss Nude Universe. She shared an agent with Morgana, the Kissing Bandit.
Through a friend she met Russ Meyer, renegade director of smart, expertly edited films that explore human nature with a life-affirming, light touch and plenty of nudity. The two began their collaboration when Kitten narrated his film “Up!” (1976). Meyer then cast Kitten as the lead in his next film, “Beneath the Valley of the Ultravixens” (1979). Her double role as Lola/Lavonia Langusta made the film, and won her plenty of adulation. But let’s check in with Kitten now, and find out where things have gone since then.
When I reached Kitten in her Hollywood home, she informed me that she was just being a couch potato that day. She had to switch phones because one’s battery was dying, and the other one, her favorite, was on the fritz because she’s dropped it so many times during phone sex. “I even dropped it once in the toilet — [because of the gurgling] the guy thought I was coming, but I was going!”
You had a part in a film recently. Do tell.
I’m in a film called “Night at the Golden Eagle.” I guess it’s a “cult” film. It’s been showing here in L.A. for six weeks. I play, of all things, a bag lady on Skid Row. It was frightening at times because it could have been my real story, you know? It has a surreal ending, in which I become beautiful and I’m dancing with a Prince Charming. I witness a murder, but because I was a bag lady, nobody knew. The director is Adam Rifkin (“Detroit Rock City”). Let me tell you how I got the part.
One day I was driving. It was about 25 years ago. Russ let me drive his Mercedes. I was at a stoplight, and this young guy is looking at me, and he goes “You’re Kitten Natividad!” I said, “Yes, baby,” and took off. I loved to speed in that Mercedes. He never forgot, and he found my Web site, contacted me and said, “Guess what? I was the guy at the spotlight.”
I remember reading an interview John Waters did with you and Russ Meyer for one of his books. In it, you said that once you sat on a fan’s lap, and the guy… lost control. In your response to this episode, you seemed very charitable. As far as fanhood is concerned, he paid you a high compliment, no?
Absolutely, that’s why I couldn’t get mad. I was ready to puke, the smell was so strong. But he was my fan, and the minute I sat on him, he blew the load. Russ thought it was wonderful, he kept telling that story to everyone. John Waters was really nice, and of course he was crazy about Russ, and Russ liked him, but when John became successful, Russ got jealous.
What was the process with Russ?
Originally, he would get an idea, and it would be an extension of one of his fantasies. In this case [Ultravixens] he had never had anal sex, so then he went on to do that stupid film [that was the premise: Kitten’s boyfriend in the movie always wants to partake in back-door sex with her]. I said to Russ, Is he going to do it to me for real? He goes no, no, no. [laughs] I didn’t know! It was going to be my second film in my life, I didn’t know what went on with filming.
What were the original venues for Russ Meyer films? Who was the original target demographic?
The target audience was educated youth. We went to universities and Russ would do talks, and I’d go along, and then we’d open in the city, and they’d all flock, mostly young people. He also had a following from when he was a Playboy photographer; the older ones liked the pinups, and the younger ones liked his films because he was self-made, he didn’t take no bullshit from the studios.
I didn’t know that Roger Ebert cowrote “Beneath the Valley of the Ultravixens” (in addition to “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls”). He’s a smart man.
He has an incredible imagination. He also did “Up!” When it says “script by,” it has a different name. He used an alias. He was trying to build his name at the time, and… did you know he got a Pulitzer Prize? Now that he’s established he doesn’t give a fuck who knows he worked on these films. He’s his own man – he married a black lady, which is something for a Midwestern, Chicago guy.
Do you watch TV, and if so, what shows do you like?
I like “Sex and the City,” “Six Feet Under,” then I like HGTV, then Food Network. I could watch those all day long. It’s wonderful to watch people cook, decorate, garden. It gives me a good feeling, makes me want to do gardening, it’s a motivation.
Who’s your favorite movie star of all time?
Cary Grant… Humphrey Bogart… Clark Gable. As far as men, I’m greedy, I can’t make up my mind. I used to have a big crush on Clark Gable in “Gone with the Wind.” Who I love as an actress: Jane Fonda, I adore her. She’s been through a lot, she’s a good girl.
How would you characterize Hollywood?
I live in Hollywood, and it’s sort of a small town, and everybody is kind of wanting to be discovered, and if you’re doing well they want you, and if you’re doing badly, nobody wants you and word gets around like wildfire. It’s better to stay out of trouble, ’cause you’ll get caught.
You have a Web site now. How has the Internet changed things in your world?
Well, let’s just say it’s kept me alive financially, and it’s kept my name alive. Sometimes some of these guys didn’t know who I was, but they found my Web site and loved it…
Thank you, Kitten!
Thank you, pussycat!
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