Gilded Lili: Lili St. Cyr and the Striptease Mystique

Kelly DiNardo

Book Cover

GENRE

BIOGRAPHICAL DRAMA OTHER

    Core Theme

    PUBLIC VS. PRIVATE SELF

    TIME PERIOD

    1940s & '50s,1960s & '70s,20th Century (multiple decades)

    COMPARABLE TITLES

    NORMA JEAN: MY SECRET LIFE WITH MARILYN MONROE, MOULIN ROUGE

    CHARACTER LIST

    • LILI ST. CYR: VARIOUS AGES, LIFE BIOGRAPHY. LEAD. AMBITIOUS AND CONFIDENT.

    • DARDY: 30S. LILI'S SISTER, FELLOW DANCER.

    • CORDY MILNE: 30S. LILI'S SECOND HUSBAND.

    • PAUL VALENTINE: 30S. LILI'S THIRD HUSBAND.

    • TED JORDAN: 30S. LILI'S FIFTH HUSBAND.

    • JOSEPH ZOMAR: 50S. LILI'S ROMANTIC PARTNER UNTIL HER DEATH.

    Logline

    A burlesque superstar inspires Marilyn Monroe, amasses famous fans like Ronald Reagan, and captivates millions, but off stage she endures six failed marriages, heroin abuse and suicide attempts. It is a story of mid-century glamour and personal struggle amidst changing sexual politics.

    Target Audiences

    Age: 18-34,35-54,55+

    Target Gender: Universal

    Setting

    New York, California, Vegas, Montreal

    Based on a True Story

    Yes

    Publishing Details

    Status: Yes: with a Publisher

    Publisher: Watson-Guptill

    Year Published: 2007

    Starting Description

    On the stage of Ciro's nightclub in L.A. Lili is performing her famous bubble bath routine for a celebrity-filled room when she is arrested. The resulting trial made front-page news across the country and turned Lili from a star into a superstar.

    Ending Description

    Lili St. Cyr influenced Marilyn Monroe, Bette Midler, Madonna and Dita Von Teese, but few people know who she is today because of her Greta Garbo philosophy -- she disappeared from public life when she started to age. There's also the contrast between how the men and women of burlesque were treated.

    Group Specific

    Information not completed

    Hard Copy Available

    Yes

    ISBN

    0823088898

    Mature Audience Themes

    Nudity,Substance Abuse

    Plot - Other Elements

    Meaningful Message,Philosophical Questions,Other

    Plot - Premise

    Rags to Riches,Other

    Main Character Details

    Name: Lili St. Cyr

    Age: 20s

    Gender: Female

    Role: Protagonist

    Key Traits: Adventurous,Aspiring,Charming,Heartthrob,Insecure,Seductive,Sophisticated,Manipulative,Romantic,Sexy

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Alice

    Age: 60

    Gender: Female

    Role:

    Key Traits:

    Additional Character Details

    The author has not yet written this

    Additional Character Details

    The author has not yet written this

    Development Pitch

    This is the rags-to-riches-to-rags story of one woman, but also the story of American sexuality in the twentieth century. Born into a poor family, abandoned by her parents, and raised by her grandmother, Lili overcame these obstacles and used her ambition and beauty to escape. She shimmied across the swankiest nightclubs for audiences that included Humphrey Bogart. Her sex appeal rivaled that of Ava Gardner and inspired Marilyn Monroe. She took down six figures a year for taking it off. But she was also flawed and insecure and her story is one of contrasts, of glamour and adventure and also disillusionment and disappointment. She lived outside the traditional feminine domain by highlighting her very femininity. She seduced millions through her performances, yet found love elusive. She used her beauty as currency, but ended up destitute. In the end she isolated herself completely in the hope that she would be remembered as a seductress. Instead, she was forgotten. In her life, she challenged traditional gender roles, seized control over her own sexuality, and broadened the range of sexual possibilities for other women. At her zenith, the culture celebrated women’s hair color and shape and defined women by their roles in the lives of men. Lili used these notions to her benefit. She shook her blonde curls, shimmied her hourglass figure, played up her femininity onstage, and earned a fortune. It is within those contradictions that the spirit of her character can be found.

    Brief

    This biography catalogues the life of Lili St. Cyr, a burlesque superstar. She inspires Marilyn Monroe, amasses famous fans like Ronald Reagan, and captivates millions, but off stage she endures six failed marriages, heroin abuse and suicide attempts.

    What We Liked

    - This is a true story of mid-century glamour that has been ignored by modern media and yet has a potent relevance to our current world of celebrity and scandal;
    - Lili was an influencer before instagram existed, but she was also a feminist who worked against slut shaming and traditional female expectations before Gloria Steinem ever donned a bunny suit for investigation;
    - In addition to a story of rise and fall, the story sheds an interesting light on the changing sexual attitudes of the world as a whole and is an interesting look into the past;
    - Sex sells, and so do stories of fallen starlets and period pieces examining the grimmer side of the 50s and 60s. This could be a blockbuster hit;
    - As a series, this would be a great period piece that could span several eras of history with each season, as Lili was active for over three decades.

    Synopsis

    Lili was born as Marie Van Schaack in 1918. She developed a love for the finer things in life and an itch to get away from her humble roots. She initially found that answer in her first husband, but really only used him to go abroad on an ocean liner. She cheated on her first husband while on the ship to England, and almost immediately returned back to the United States divorced to marry another man. She soon realized that they wanted very different things in life: she wanted so much more than a simple housewife's existence. They soon divorced and she started stripteasing at local clubs.

    She changed her name to Lili St. Cyr and realized that in addition to making money from shows, she could make even more money from going to dinner with wealthy men. She moved to Montreal and worked there for a bit as a headlining act. Soon, however, she found herself under intense scrutiny from the law. She got arrested for public indecency after one of her shows and was forced to pay a small fee. This would not be her last struggle with authorities, as she soon became infamous for her "bathtub" act, where she would mimic a woman getting out of the bath onstage. She got arrested right after a show one night. The trial was highly publicized and she had the top lawyer of the day representing her. She was acquitted, but the club that she was stripping at got shut down. She married Paul Valentine and for a while included him in her shows, but he was a jealous man and was unhappy that her career was doing so much better than his, so they too soon divorced. For a while she danced in LA and then in Vegas, drawing enormous crowds. She continued stripping well into her fifties and continued to attract amazing crowds.

    Despite her public persona of confidence and grandeur, she struggled with depression and attempted to take her own life with sleeping pills on three separate occasions. She never saved her money or invested it and soon began to ran out. She took to selling signed pictures of herself for extra money to support her newfound, expensive addiction--Heroin. She and her new boyfriend, Jonathan Zomar, injected heroin on a regular, weekly basis. She became obsessed with hiding her age and began to refuse to allow visitors in to see her--she wanted to emulate Greta Garbo and disappear. The story ends with her death in 1999 but her legacy lives on, as she's said to have inspired Marilyn Monroe and countless other sex icons.

    About The Author

    Kelly DiNardo is the author of several books, and her travel stories have appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, National Geographic Traveler, Forbes Traveler, Time Out, USA TODAY and several regional magazines. She has covered health and fitness for O: The Oprah Magazine, Martha Stewart Living, Health, Glamour, Redbook, Shape, Woman's Day, USA Weekend magazine and Parade.