This article is about the stripper/erotic actress. For the silent film actress born Lillian St. Cyr, see Red Wing Lili St. Cyr (June 3, 1918 – January 29, 1999), was a prominent American burlesque stripper.
In 1989, one of St. Cyr's husbands, Ted Jordan, wrote a biography of Marilyn Monroe entitled Norma Jean: My Secret Life with Marilyn Monroe (New York, William Morrow and Company, 1989), in which Jordan claimed that St. Cyr and Monroe had an affair.
More DetailsHide DetailsThe claim is both widely disparaged by Monroe's biographers and widely upheld by St. Cyr's. Liza Dawson, editor for William Morrow, publisher of the Jordan book, makes a related claim in an interview with Newsday in 1989. Dawson stated that "Marilyn very much patterned herself on Lili St. Cyr—her way of dressing, of talking, her whole persona. Norma Jean was a mousy, brown-haired girl with a high squeaky voice, and it was from Lili St. Cyr that she learned how to become a sex goddess."
The song, "Lily Sincere" on the 2009 Kristeen Young album, Music for Strippers, Hookers, and the Odd On-Looker is an homage to Lili St. Cyr.
In 2010, Elvis Costello's title track of his album National Ransom mentions "And Millicent St. Cyr" in its introduction. See liner notes for full lyrics.
In 1981, actress Cassandra Peterson became famous for her character Elvira, who achieved her trademark cleavage wearing a Lili St. Cyr deep plunge bra.
She never had any children, but told Mike Wallace in an October 5, 1957, interview that had she wanted children she would have adopted.
More DetailsHide DetailsFollowing her death, and a renewed interest in burlesque, especially in Bettie Page, legions of new fans began rediscovering some of the dancers in Irving Klaw's photos and movies. During this time, A&E devoted a special to burlesque in 2001 which included a piece on St. Cyr.
St. Cyr is famously referenced in two different songs that were both stage and movie musicals. In the song "Zip" from the 1940 musical Pal Joey by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, the singer (reporter/would-be stripper Melba Snyder) rhetorically asks at the climax of the song "Who the hell is Lili St. Cyr?" what has she got that I don't have? Meanwhile, in the 1975 musical The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the final line of the song "Don't Dream It" (sung by the character Janet Weiss, as played by Susan Sarandon) is "God bless Lili St. Cyr!"
While St. Cyr starred in several movies, an acting career never really materialized. In 1955, with the help of Howard Hughes, St. Cyr landed her first acting job in a major motion picture in the Son of Sinbad.
More DetailsHide DetailsThe film, described by one critic as "a voyeur's delight", has St. Cyr as a principal member of a Baghdad harem populated with dozens of nubile starlets. The film was condemned by the Catholic Legion of Decency. St. Cyr also had a role in the movie version of Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead in 1958. In this film, St. Cyr plays 'Jersey Lili', a stripper in a Honolulu night-club and girlfriend of a soldier who boasts to his pals that he has her picture painted inside his groundsheet. Heavy edits of St. Cyr's night-club routine by censors result in some choppy editing in an otherwise finely crafted film. But St. Cyr's movie career was short lived, and typically she settled for playing a secondary role as a stripper, or playing herself. Her dancing is featured prominently in two Irving Klaw films, Varietease and Teaserama.
Lili St. Cyr was born Willis Marie Van Schaack in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on June 3, 1918.
More DetailsHide DetailsHer maternal half-sister, Rosemary Minsky (née Van Schaack; born 1924), was also a burlesque stripteaser; Minsky appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in 2004. The sisters, and Barbara Moffett, were raised by their grandparents, the Klarquists.
Having taken ballet lessons throughout her youth, she began to dance professionally as a chorus line girl in Hollywood. Unlike other women who have stroke-of-luck stories about being plucked from the chorus line and selected for a feature role, St. Cyr had to beg her manager at the club to let her do a solo act. From her self-choreographed act she eventually landed a bit part at a club called the Music Box in San Francisco, with the Duncan Sisters. It was here that she found a dancer's salary was only a small fraction of what the featured star's salary was. The difference was that the featured star was nude.
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