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Eartha Kitt, Kitt McDonald, and John William McDonald | Source: Getty Images
Eartha Kitt, Kitt McDonald, and John William McDonald | Source: Getty Images

John William McDonald Was Eartha Kitt's Ex-husband and Kitt Shapiro's Father - Story of Their Family

Aug 14, 2023
07:15 P.M.

John William McDonald married Eartha Kitt in the early 1960s, and the couple welcomed a child, Kitt Shapiro. The renowned businessman came from a wealthy family but was allegedly derailed into life using drugs. Unfortunately, his marriage to Eartha Kitt did not last, and he tied the knot two more times.

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John William McDonald, better known as Bill McDonald, was born to a wealthy Irish-American family. He was a war veteran who studied accounting at the University of Southern California.

He later pursued an associate role in a real estate company and married singer and actress Eartha Kitt. At first, their interracial relationship made people talk, but their racial difference became the least of their worries as they tied the knot.

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John William McDonald met Eartha Kitt through a Friend

Eartha Kitt was making strides in the entertainment industry when her love story with John developed. The duo first met in 1957 when their mutual friend, Bob Dix, introduced them. At the time, he was still a student, while Eartha had just ended her tour and met up with Bob in Las Vegas.

However, Bob decided to bring his childhood friend, Bill McDonald, the eldest son of a prominent family. Bill was dating a girl named Sandy at that time after being dismissed from the army due to a severe injury he sustained in Korea.

Bill soon formed a strong friendship with Eartha, and together with Bob, they became a close trio. The singer and actress eventually fell in love with Bob, but he was not ready to enter a committed relationship, having just gotten out of a marriage.

Eartha Kitt and John William McDonald, circa 1962. | Source: Getty Images

Eartha Kitt and John William McDonald, circa 1962. | Source: Getty Images

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When Bob landed an acting job, she and Bill spent more time together. They also connected over their shared heartbreak — Eartha with Bob and Bill with his then-girlfriend. Soon, their friendship turned into a romantic relationship.

John William McDonald Became Eartha Kitt's Husband

Bill and Eartha reached a point where they were ready for marriage. At this point, he had graduated and was working. Bill's family, although not ecstatic, accepted his decision. His lover soon announced her engagement during her concert at the El Rancho in Las Vegas. She said:

"I'm terribly happy. Now, I'll have something I never had – a family of my own."

Eartha Kitt during her wedding to John William McDonald, circa 1960. | Source: Getty Images

Eartha Kitt during her wedding to John William McDonald, circa 1960. | Source: Getty Images

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The couple, whose wedding announcement shocked his sister, planned a small intimate wedding on a beautiful Thursday. With only about 20 guests in attendance, they tied the knot before their closest family and friends. Bob refused to become the best man, so Marry Ellen's now ex-husband, Stan Kane, assumed the role.

Much of their time as husband and wife was spent thousands of miles away from each other.

Meanwhile, the maid of honor was Marjorie Meade, the bride's best friend. Christine Wicks, Virginia Eicks' daughter, served as the bridesmaid. Following their marriage, Bill became a first-time father with the birth of his daughter at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles.

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He and his wife, who endured a challenging labor, named her Kitt McDonald. She was born on November 26, 1961, and was said to have looked like a beautiful Hindi princess.

John William McDonald and Eartha Kitt Had a Troubled Marriage

Unfortunately, Bill and Eartha had a troubled marriage, partly because of her busy work schedule. Much of their time as husband and wife was spent thousands of miles away from each other. She would still work and record music during her brief time back home.

Despite her business, Bill's wife never turned away from her responsibilities as a mother. She refused to hire a nurse and would only hire a babysitter when she was on stage. Undoubtedly, she embraced motherhood with open arms.

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However, her duties as a wife were less prioritized. When she toured Europe, their daughter went along while Bill stayed home. While the singer may have had her lapses, Bill was also allegedly using drugs. His friend, Bob, suggested otherwise, although he rarely saw the couple then.

On the other hand, Mary Ellen believes Bill's drug use stemmed from the morphine used to help him after he sustained injuries from the war. His usage may have been the reason he stopped traveling with his wife. Upon Eartha's return to the US, she reportedly learned of her husband's troubles and the treatment at Synanon House.

Eartha Kitt during a M.A.C Cosmetics and Zac Posen event at Cafe Carlyle on September 19, 2007, in New York City. | Source: Getty Images

Eartha Kitt during a M.A.C Cosmetics and Zac Posen event at Cafe Carlyle on September 19, 2007, in New York City. | Source: Getty Images

As a known artist, talks of Eartha's marriage problems began to swirl on the internet. Other controversies drowned out reports of their racial differences. Kitt later spoke of her father's condition stating he was not stable at some point. She said:

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"His drug addiction had significantly escalated over the years. People often told my mother that they would go to my father's house and find drug paraphernalia."

Soon, Kitt Shapiro's father could no longer be the man her mother married. Eartha realized although she loved her husband, she could no longer live with him. She felt more like the head of the family — an independent, career-driven woman with no time for childish behavior.

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Bill and Eartha Kitt divorced in April 1964. Although without a husband, she had a successful career, a beautiful daughter, several properties, and financial stability. She won the divorce based on grounds of mental cruelty.

It didn't help Bill's case that he did not attend court. The judge made him pay $100 for monthly child support for their then-two-year-old daughter.

After their divorce, Bill tied the knot two more times, the first with a Filipina. He also has a son from his second marriage named Chad, eight years younger than Kitt. Bill passed away on May 12, 2005, in Los Angeles. He was 82.

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Bill's daughter was raised well, primarily by her mother. She grew up familiar with the entertainment industry, watching behind-the-scenes actions in movies and plays. Kitt eventually joined the business and became her mother's manager and best friend until Eartha died in 2008.

Kitt later launched the brand Simply Eartha in honor of her mom. She also released a joint memoir with her mother titled "Eartha & Kitt: A Daughter's Love Story in Black and White."

Since her mom's passing from cancer, Kitt became an inspirational speaker, advocating for early cancer detection. She often speaks for the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, among other organizations.

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