Kitty Carlisle was an American singer, actress and spokeswoman for the arts. She is best remembered as a regular panelist on the television game show To Tell the Truth. She served 20 years on the New York State Council on the Arts. In 1991, she received the National Medal of Arts from President George H. W. Bush.
Kitty Carlisle was born as Catherine Conn in New Orleans, Louisiana. Her family was of German Jewish heritage. Her grandfather, Ben Holtzman, was the mayor of Shreveport, Louisiana, was a Confederate veteran of the Civil War and was a gunner on the Merrimac, the first ironclad warship. Carlisle’s father, Dr. Joseph Conn, was a gynecologist who died when she was 10. Her mother, Hortense Holtzman Conn, was a woman obsessed with breaking into the prevailing Gentile society.
Carlisle’s early education took place in New Orleans. In 1921, she was taken to Europe, where her mother hoped to marry her off to European royalty, believing the nobility there more amenable to a Jewish bride ? only to end up flitting around Europe and living in what Carlisle recalled as “the worst room of the best hotel.” Carlisle was educated in Switzerland, then at the Sorbonne
and the London School of Economics. She studied acting in London at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.