Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Happy Birthday Lili

We're going to take a short break from our special edition series of The Miss Exotic World Candy Gram interviews to wish a happy birthday to Lili St. Cyr, who was born Marie Frances Van Schaack. To celebrate what would have been her 91st birthday, here's a short excerpt from Gilded Lili on her birth:

On June 3, 1917, Marie Frances Van Schaack was born at Abbott Hospital in Minneapolis. Instead of Marie’s mother, her grandmother Alice took the newborn home from the hospital and raised her. Years later, her family told Marie that Alice took her home because her mother Idella was too sick to care for her and her father Edward simply disappeared. But in fact Edward hadn’t disappeared, he’d been drafted. ... The United States entered World War I toward the end of the struggle and Edward spent less than a year in the army, serving most of his hitch at Camp Lewis in Washington State.

By the time Edward arrived at Camp Lewis, Idella was involved with another man, Louis “Jack” Cornett. While it is uncertain whether the two ever wed--and descendants of Cornett’s doubt it--they did have two children. But Idella’s relationship with their father did not last. By 1924 she had married Ian (John) Alfred Blackadder, a Scottish immigrant, and was pregnant with their first child. A year later, a month before she turned 30, Idella gave birth to her fifth and last child.

While her young mother started a new family and her father served in the military, Marie remained with Alice and her new husband Ben, believing they were her parents and Idella was her older sister. And for much of her childhood, she went by the name Marie Klarquist.

Much later, her family finally explained to Marie that Idella was really her mother, not her sister, and that Alice was her grandmother, not her mother. Marie rarely talked about the admission or its impact on her. As late as 1982 she wrote in her Canadian memoir Ma Vie de Stripteaseuse, “Even today, I don’t understand perfectly how much this revelation affected me. I did my best not to let it affect me.”

Lili's not the only one celebrating a birthday today. According to The Writer's Almanac, "it's the birthday of Josephine Baker, a dancer and singer who became one of the most popular music-hall entertainers in France. Time magazine wrote: 'Mlle. Baker wore feathers on her rump, bananas dangling from her belt, nothing else. Parisians were raving overnight.' Baker said: 'I wasn't really naked. ... I simply didn't have any clothes on.'"

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