Lili St. Cyr (Willis Marie Van Schaack, 1918-1999) was born on this day. Having studied ballet as a child in her native Minneapolis, she first broke into show business as a chorus girl. One of her first jobs was in an act backing up the Duncan Sisters. She lobbied hard to become a featured dancer, enhancing her stunning looks with classy and creative gimmicks, and became one of the most famous burlesque performers of the 1940s and 50s.
So great was her fame that she also became a popular pin-up model, and appears in several Hollywood films, including Son of Sinbad (1955) and The Naked and the Dead (1958). (She played the Naked). At the same time she was appearing in Irving Klaw’s nudie films, such as Varietease (1954) and Teasarama (1955). Her sister Rosemary (known as “Dardy”) married Harold Minsky.
Leslie Zemeckis has written a terrific biography about this legendary burlesque performer. Read about it here.