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March 15 , 2009

Gilded Lili

Lili St. Cyr and the Striptease Mystique


Blond and beautiful, Lili St. Cyr shimmied across the country’s nightclubs as one of the century’s great sirens. She inspired future femme fatales including Marilyn Monroe, Madonna and Dita Von Teese. She helped cultivate the modern-day impression of striptease. And, with stage routines featuring themes from fantasy, history and literature, she scandalized and seduced millions, influencing pop culture for decades.
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Gilded Lili: Lili St. Cyr and the Striptease Mystique explores the life of the last real queen of burlesque. Born into a poor family, abandoned by her parents, and raised by her grandmother, she used her ambition, beauty, and charm to escape her small-town life. Upon becoming the top burlesque dancer of her era, she amassed legions of famous fans, including Betty Grable, Frank Sinatra, Ronald Reagan, and Humphrey Bogart. During her reign, one reporter called her “the rich man’s Gypsy Rose Lee” and Marilyn Monroe took cues from her acts. After she retired, Mike Wallace wrote that his television interview with her remained one of the most fascinating he had ever conducted.

The private Lili was considerably more troubled, however. Despite being married six times, Lili found love elusive; she was involved in affairs with wealthy businessmen and rumored to have dalliances with celebrities including Orson Welles, Victor Mature and Yul Brynner. She had as many as ten abortions, attempted suicide several times, and became reliant on sleeping pills and, ultimately, heroin.

A searing look at American sexuality in the twentieth century, Gilded Lili immortalizes the legend with verve and grace. Lili’s era – which see-sawed between McCarthyism and puritanical humor – is presented with vibrancy, intelligence, and commentary on the ever-changing dynamics between sex and commerce. Based on exhaustive research and filled with rare photographs, Gilded Lili reveals a portrait of a woman who made the century sizzle.
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