Lili St. Cyr: The Queen of Burlesque

Aug. 24, 2023 in Models & Actresses Photos by Charlotte Sinclair

Lili St. Cyr: The Queen of Burlesque


Lili St. Cyr was a prominent American burlesque stripteaser and actress, born Marie Frances Van Schaack on June 3, 1918, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She rose to fame in the 1940s and 1950s, becoming one of the highest-paid performers of her time. She was a trailblazer, turning the art of striptease into a more refined and theatrical endeavor. She was often seen as a "classier" alternative to her more flamboyant contemporaries like Gypsy Rose Lee and Sally Rand.

St. Cyr performed in some of the most famous burlesque theaters in America, including Minsky's Burlesque in New York and the Gaiety Theatre in Los Angeles. She later transitioned to film and had roles in movies such as "Son of Sinbad" (1955) and "The Naked and the Dead" (1958).

Lili St. Cyr: The Queen of Burlesque

Personal Life

Lili St. Cyr was married six times, most notably to actor Paul Valentine and restaurateur Armando Orsini. Her romantic life was often fodder for the gossip columns of the day. Despite her onstage persona, St. Cyr was said to be introverted and private, a juxtaposition that made her all the more intriguing to her fans and the media alike.

She was involved in several legal battles concerning her provocative acts. She was arrested multiple times for "indecent exposure," but she was so good at articulating the artistic nature of her work that she often managed to avoid conviction.

Lili St. Cyr: The Queen of Burlesque

Fun Facts

  1. Stage Name Origin: Lili St. Cyr chose her stage name in honor of a character from a Dumas novel.
  2. Bathtub Routine: One of her most famous routines involved her taking a bubble bath on stage, a feat that was controversial but captivated audiences.
  3. Luxury Lingerie Line: St. Cyr had her own line of lingerie called "The Undie-World of Lili St. Cyr."
  4. Health Obsession: She was very much into health foods and vitamins at a time when it was not as popular as it is today.
  5. Retirement and Later Years: St. Cyr retired in the 1970s and lived a quiet life until her death in 1999. She became a recluse and focused on her spiritual pursuits, largely shunning the spotlight she once commanded.
Lili St. Cyr: The Queen of Burlesque

Lili St. Cyr was more than just a burlesque dancer; she was a symbol of sexual liberation for a generation of American women and men. Her act wasn't just about titillation; it was a form of personal expression, a stance that was both brave and controversial in her time. With her unmistakable glamour and daring performances, St. Cyr carved out a niche in entertainment history, remaining a legend in the world of burlesque and beyond.

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