Francesca “Kitten” Natividad, the go-go dancer who became a cult pop culture figure when she was cast by sexploitation film director Russ Meyer in “Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens,” died Saturday of kidney failure after suffering from cancer at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, according to her friend Siouxzan Perry. She was 74.
“She adored her friends, cats, family and fans,” her sister Eva wrote in a statement on Facebook posted by Perry.
Born in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Natividad moved to Texas as a child, where she became class president of her high school in El Paso. After moving to California, she became a cook and maid for actress Stella Stevens before becoming a go-go dancer and adopting the name “Kitten.” She met “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” director Meyer through a dancer friend, and he hired her to narrate his 1976 sex comedy “Up.” She had already had breast implant surgery in Tijuana when Meyer paid for a second surgery, giving her the outsized proportions that would become her calling card.
The 1979 satirical sex farce “Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens” was co-written by Meyer and film critic Roger Ebert, and stars Natividad as a housewife who both submits to and inflicts a variety of sexual acts on her husband, a teenage boy, and a truck driver, and a nurse.
Natividad and Meyer never married, but they lived together for some 15 years. While the remainder of her career was largely devoted to burlesque appearances, nude modeling and starring in porno films, she continued to appear on TV and in mainstream movies.
Natividad guested on “The Dating Game” and “The Gong Show,” and had small parts in films including “My Tutor,” “Airplane II,” “The Wild Life,” “Another 48 Hours,” “The Double-D Avenger,” in which she appeared alongside two other former Meyer stars; and Adam Rifkin’s “A Night at the Golden Eagle.”
Chris Penn, who had starred in “The Wild Life,” hired her to perform as an erotic dancer the night before his brother Sean Penn married Madonna, and she appeared in a music video for Peaches.
Natividad was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy in 1999.
She is survived by her sister Eva, her mother, four nephews and a niece.