Lili St. Cyr Revisited

1950’s burlesque icon Lili St. Cyr.

Again, Lili St. Cyr interviewed by Mike Wallace, this time remastered and not broken into two fifteen minute segments. In my opinion, her candid answers propelled her to a woman way ahead of her time. In her astute approach to Wallace’s direct style of questioning, I see a woman of both inner and outer beauty, calling out the glaring hypocrisy of her time, while perfectly balancing her own complex inner-conflicts. The fact that she admitted to not liking herself very much was heartbreaking and her sorrow was palpable. The inner strength to say these things in the late 1950’s cannot be overlooked. Her stance on marriage may be a point of contentious dialogue even now in the current day and much more unprejudiced atmosphere of defined relationships and matrimony. She said, “If you love someone and you want to live with them, the moment you decide that, you are married, without any law to say so—” a sentiment I wholeheartedly agree with. As stated in the interview, she wanted to leave her profession but found it hard to do so because of monetary concerns and mounting debt. In the beginning of the broadcast, Wallace states her annual income as $100,000.00 — certainly an amount that would have made her a wealthy woman for her time. Lili was also Marilyn Monroe’s role model; as is documented, Marilyn studied Lili’s dance moves and incorporated much of her signature look into her own personal and professional life. Lily St. Cyr had been arrested several times for “lewd behavior,” most notably in Los Angeles, California, in December of 1947. She was renowned for bubble baths during her famous burlesque performances. The interview:

Black Burlesque (an exploration)

Recently, mid–twentieth century Black burlesque has piqued my interest. I am fascinated with the night life of the time period, particularly — the rich cultural demographic of Harlem, Manhattan, New York. I view the women of the burlesque art form as pioneers of fearless feminine sexual expression; Black women, in particular, because of the overt racial discrimination and stereotypes of the era. In my brief viewing of films of the era, I have taken notice of the intricacies in the performances, and the layers of skill intertwined throughout the dances are quite captivating. If I may say, I have had a few interesting conversations about the comparability of burlesque performers and so called “strippers” of the modern day era; I think the most highlighted point referenced in all three dialogues, is that stripping is an evolution of burlesque, (a theory which I reject) which in turn caters to a modern audience who would be dismayed and dissatisfied at the prospect of women dancing in only partial nudity. In my opinion, burlesque and stripping have certain similarities, but they are largely incomparable and should be seen as two completely separate entities. I consider burlesque, circa 1950’s an art form in a theatrical setting, and I consider stripping, pornographic adult entertainment in a setting of monetary exchange for services rendered. There are indeed many skilled strippers who perform wonderfully and have mastered incredible dance routines, though I know patrons of strip clubs might not particularly care about the skill involved as much as the removal of clothes in those specific settings. I have not yet extensively researched burlesque, but I have found that its origin was in England, circa late 1830’s in the Victorian era.

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/burlesque-photos_n_6142560