Pictures of Lili

Today’s selection — from Goddess of Love Incarnate by Leslie Zemeckis. Lili St. Cyr:

Lili St. Cyr

“Lili St. Cyr was born with the conventional and somewhat uninspired name of Marie Francis Van Schaack. Eighty-one years later her death certificate would identify her as Willis Marie Van Schaack. No matter. The world knew her as Lili St. Cyr; the Blonde Venus, the form Divine, La Belle Lili, the Anatomic Bomb, Goddess of Love Incarnate. Of course no one really knew Lili St. Cyr. Obsessively private, shy to the point of rudeness, she would seek confidence in romance, pills and, later, memory-dulling drugs. …

“The face of Lili St. Cyr presented to the world was that of a confident, aloof stripper. She was recognized for her tempestuous and numerous marriages, for rumor innuendo, for headline-grabbing suicide attempts, for arrests, for wealth and a lifestyle of extravagance.

“The private side of Lili was artist, dancer, and craftsman. She had been a savvy director of her career and life. ‘She was entirely self-controlled, aware every moment of exactly what she was doing.’

“She explained there was purposely ‘a certain stand-offishness between myself and the audience. The further away and in awe I can keep them, the better.’ She withheld, mysterious like her idol Garbo. Called both icy and untouchable, Lili masked herself as such, knowing what she was doing. ‘The more mysterious the act the more intrigued the audience becomes.’…

“The world in which Lili pirouetted, the world of burlesque, was considered a second-rate entertainment bordering on sleaze. Burlesque was as misunderstood as the lady herself. Critics were outraged by the multitude of scantily clad women disrobing onstage. Lili shocked even further. She created a boudoir onstage and entered the scene nearly nude. She bathed, dressed, and caressed herself in front of curious eyes as if in the privacy of her own room. The act was erotically intimate, a personal ritual not performed so publicly before. 

“She danced in diamonds and pearls, designer gowns and mink coats. She had a uniformed maid onstage. She was like no other. … Lili revolutionized stripping and redefined what a stripper could be. Lili’s audience held their breaths, mesmerized by her queenly carriage. She was classy. She would surpass Gypsy Rose Lee in terms of fame, though hers would not be as lasting. …

“At the height of her notoriety Lili never showed too much, though it seemed as if she showed it all. Lili didn’t bump and grind and fling herself around the stage like the big-bosomed Tempest Storm or the feisty Blaze Starr — both Lili’s contemporaries, though they came on the scene a decade behind her. … Lili would bring her act into swank Hollywood nightclubs. She was the first exotic dancer brought to a Las Vegas resort. She played there well into her fifties.”

author: Leslie Zemeckis 
title: Goddess of Love Incarnate 
publisher: Counterpoint Press 
date: Copyright 2015 Mistress, Inc. 
page(s): 2-4 

4 thoughts on “Pictures of Lili

  1. Really fabulous, reminiscent of all the great vamps, Monroe, Garbo, Dietrich, Josephine Baker. When friends and I left Woodstock fest, we drove to NYC and went to Radio City where we went to see, somewhat still stoned, an 80-year-old fan dancer perform who was truly a sensual artist. Wish I could remember her name.

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