Eartha Kitt, who rose to sudden fame 56 years ago as a cast member of Broadway's New Faces of 1952 , a kind of American Idol of its day in which unknown but remarkable talent was showcased, died Thursday in New York of colon cancer at the age of 81. She was nominated three times for Emmy Awards and won twice. She also was nominated for Tony and Grammy Awards. An outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War, Kitt attracted headlines when, at a White House luncheon of prominent women hosted by the First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson, she accused the Johnson administration of sending "the best of this country off to be shot and maimed." Years later she said that offers of work suddenly dried up following her remarks. In an interview with Essence magazine, she said that she became angry "when I realized that if you tell the truth -- in a country that says you're entitled to tell the truth -- you get your face slapped and you get put out of work."