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Hollywood Nudes
"Gilded Lili: Lili St. Cyr and the Striptease Mystique"
By Kelly DiNardo
Back Stage Books, 2007
     Lili St. Cyr is, without a doubt, one of burlesque’s most important figures. In the history of burlesque, there have only been a select few who have been able to elevate bump and grind to an art form. St. Cyr is up there with other greats such as Gypsy Rose Lee and Sally Rand. These women were able to take striptease to the masses and garnered wide appeal. But this created a tension. Sure, striptease could be seen as a high-class art form but it could never extricate itself from it down-and-dirty grind house roots. 
     Gilded Lili: Lili St. Cyr and the Striptease Mystique explores not only the tension St. Cyr felt as a performer but also the tension she had a women whose life fell outside the norm. 
     From the start, St. Cyr has dreams of living in a world of elegance and sophistications. The key, she found out early on, was her statuesque good looks and her ability to cast a spell over men. She quickly found out fame and fortune awaited her on the burlesque stage. 
     Where other dancers made a name for themselves for over-heated gyrations, St. Cyr was always cool and aloof. Her acts included elaborate plots and stagings. It was this distance, the book argues, that made people want her more. She was more unattainable—more goddess-like—than anyone else out there. 
     It was her signature act, her famous bath routine—where she takes a bath and gets ready for an evening out—that paved the way for her to take her act from bawdy theaters to posh night clubs. 
     During her height in the 50’s, St. Cyr made a sensation wherever she went. She was on top of the world, but as Gilded Lili explores, her life was fill with failed marriages and off-stage unhappiness. All this eventually led to heroin addiction and complete seclusion at the end of her life. 
     Gilded Lili is more than just a look at this woman’s life. It’s also an examination of the history of striptease and 20th century feminism. The book takes time to trace burlesque from its early days until it was pushed off the stage by topless dancing. It also traces how society looked at a successful, sensual women through the decades. It’s showbiz history, social history, and personal history all rolled into one.
     Author Kelly DiNardo (who runs an amazing burlesque blog called The Candy Pitch) digs deep into St. Cyr history with exhaustive research and personal interviews. Cyr’s life was filled with larger-than-life legends, rumors and whispers. DiNardo does her best to find the truth in all of it. In particular, she tackles the long-standing rumor that Marilyn Monroe based her sex goddess persona on St. Cyr
     Even though Gilded Lili shows all the human faults and failings that St. Cyr had, it never makes you forget this woman was one of burlesque’s true goddesses. 

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