Bristol's Badass Burlesque Show
CoochieCrunch are excited to present an excerpt from a Biography of one of our favourite Burlesque Dancers, Lili St. Cyr. Read the excerpt, then continue your journey in to the world of Lili by buying Gilded Lili: Lili St. Cyr and the Striptease Mystique by Kelly DiNardo or by downloading from September 30 2013.
On a stage set to look like a small cottage, a tall woman with blond curls appeared as Cinderella. She began fully clothed in a peasant dress, with a red skirt and black corset top, which perfectly showed off her body’s curves. Exaggerating each movement, she moved around the stage—revealing an ankle, a thigh, the hint of a breast. Slowly, to the beat of the music, she took off her high heels, her dress, then her bra. Suddenly a wand appeared, magically floating in the air, and delivered silk thigh-highs, a blue and pink-trimmed satin gown, and glass slippers. With her new clothes, she slowly covered up her long, tan legs and torso, still slowly swiveling her hips and mesmerizing the audience. She ran her hands through her hair and she puckered her glossy red lips. With a redpainted fingertip, she softly traced her neck, letting her hand slide down, down, down. Then she nuzzled a brown fur stole softly across her face, slid it around her body, and admired her new look before her tall, dark-haired prince arrived. She and her prince waltzed across the stage. He leaned in to kiss her, but she coyly turned her face and offered him just her cheek. Then, as the clock perched above her approached midnight, he disappeared. With each passing minute the clock ticked closer to midnight, a crescendo built, and more of her clothing vanished. Tick. She stood in only a blue, ruffled bra and panties. Tock. She appeared in just a G-string and pasties. Tick tock. She stood nearly naked, wrapping her arms around herself so as to hide her breasts. Tick tock. She stared at the clock, and in a flash she returned to her red and black peasant’s dress. She looked forlornly at the glass slipper, the only remnants of her enchanted evening.
Cinderella was not Lili St. Cyr’s most famous striptease, but often the fictional world she created on stage echoed, predicted, or commented on the real circumstances in her life. And in many ways, she lived a sexier, bawdier Cinderella tale. Instead of an invisible fairy godmother with a magic wand, she used the sexy twirling of her G-string-clad hips to pull herself up from a working-class life to inhabit a real bejeweled, fur-draped world.
In May 1936, as the jacaranda bloomed with clusters of trumpet-shaped purple flowers throughout Pasadena, an 18-year-old Lili St. Cyr, still known as Marie Van Schaack, took the first steps toward that bejeweled, fur-draped world. She left her childhood home and traveled nearly three thousand miles across the country to New York. Standing in the sun, her dirty blonde hair hanging in waves and curling at her chin, Marie watched the crowds wave good-bye as the boat slipped down the Hudson and out to sea on its way to England.
Before the advent of jet travel, the ships that sailed between America and Europe oozed with the aura of opulence. While many passengers suffered below deck in cramped and squalid steerage berths, the carefree indulgence of the first-class passengers imparted a sense of excitement and wonder about the era’s idea of ship travel. Travelers with last names like Rockefeller and Carnegie and the onboard exploits of movie stars and Olympic athletes generated headlines and newspaper columns about the steam liners. Moving between two continents, ocean liners could become their own world, magnificent floating palaces.
On her first trip aboard a grand steam liner, Marie reveled in the excitement of this milieu. She felt she had “penetrated to the very heart of a grandiose and marvelous party. Everything made me crazy, excited me, surprised me, enchanted me. Everything happened like the scenes I’d seen in films. . . . I had the realization that life was mine, that it was my own universe.”1 Her journey in 1936 would be a six-day whirlwind of bubbly dinners and illicit moonlit kisses. Three women had shown Marie that the world could be this glamorous adventure—her grandmother Alice, the European princess Rosemary Blackadder, and Greta Garbo— and for the rest of her life she strove to live her life as if traveling first-class on an ocean.
You can find out more about Gilded Lili: Lili St. Cyr and the Striptease Mystique on the Author’s website kellydinardo.com.