Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Lili By Any Other Name

Ten years ago today, as the neo-burlesque movement began to take off, Lili St. Cyr died. (As an aside, it is also the anniversary of H.L. Menken's death. The writer coined the term ecdysiast) To commemorate the occasion, here's an excerpt from Gilded Lili about Lili's death.

In the January 1999 issue of Playboy, the arbiter of sexiness released their list of the one hundred beautiful women “who made this century sizzle.” The magazine ranked Lili number sixty-nine, ahead of Gypsy Rose Lee at seventy-eight. Her idol Greta Garbo landed at number fifty-one. Not surprisingly, Marilyn Monroe scored the top spot.

At the end of that month, on January 29, 1999 at the age of 81, Lili St. Cyr died of heart failure... While newspapers across the country and around the world mourned her death and heralded the former striptease dancer, only four people attended her funeral. Obituaries in papers like the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Independent in London, Time magazine, and Variety recounted her routines, run-ins with the law, and mentioned her connection to Marilyn Monroe.

In one memorial, a reporter for The Guardian wrote, "They don’t make entertainers like Lili St. Cyr ... any more. The sincerity of Miss St. Cyr (say the name quickly) was what people came to see. Or at least, that was what her fans liked to believe. She was an artiste, a delightful character who practiced her art, well, sincerely; a charming lady who did everything in the very best taste."

Award-winning poet Dorothy Barresi composed an elegy for Lili. In "Glass Dress," a poem included in Barresi’s book Rouge Pulp, she wrote:
"Lili St. Cyr is dead.
No tassel-twirling, minimum wage girl.
No discount moon,
no languishing feminine ruses.
She teases the illimitable body,
Marilyn before Marilyn,
Jayne before Jayne."

1 comment:

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