Biographical / Historical
Lili St. Cyr was a prominent burlesque stripteaser of the 1940s and 1950s, deemed the most famous woman in Montreal during that period and billed as the "Anatomic Bomb" while performing at Ciro's Nightclub in Hollywood, in 1947. Accused of indecent, immoral, and offensive performances, St. Cyr was arrested several times throughout her career, most famously in 1951, during her act at Ciro's. The arrest made front pages of newspapers, and her case went to trial. She performed her act in the courtroom for the jury, and the charges were dropped, marking "a real victory for the profession."
St. Cyr was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1917. Her birth certificate read "Marie Klarquist." Lili was named after the woman she believed to be her mother (although actually her grandmother), Mariah Marie Curry Klarquist (aka "Maud"). Lili's biological parents were Maud's daughter Idella and a Dutchman who left shortly after Marie's birth, Edward Van Schaack. Upon realization of her true family tree, Marie Klarquist changed her last name to Van Schaack (occasionally respelt as "Van Schaak," "Van Chaack," or "Van Schaacht"), and she periodically added the first name "Willis," Lili St. Cyr also started referring to her biological grandmother as "Alice" and her biological mother as "Adelaide" or "Mom."
By the time Lili St. Cyr learned the truth about her family, her mother Idella had already remarried twice. In 1919, Idella married Louis Sherman Cornett, Jr., and together they had Betta Lee (or Bettie Lue, aka "Betty") and Louis "Jack" Cornett. In 1923, Idella married John Alfred "Ian" Blackadder, and they raised Idella Ruth Blackadder and Rosemary Blackadder. Both Blackadder daughters had successful careers in burlesque, going by the stage names Barbara Moffett (Idella) and Dardy Orlando (Rosemary). Barbara married the American toy maker and businessman Louis Marx in 1982, changing her name back to Idella, and they had five children--the eldest named Spencer. Dardy married the adopted son of the eldest Minsky's Burlesque brother Harold Minsky, and together they raised Danny and Ava.
St. Cyr never had children, but she did marry six times, and had numerous affairs throughout (particularly with a man named Jimmy Orlando in Montreal). She first married the racer Cordy Milne in 1937. Her second marriage was to Richard Hubert in 1941. She then married the actor Paul Valentine (aka "Val Valentinoff") in 1946, followed by her marriage to restauranteur Armando Orsini in 1950. She then married actor Ted Jordan in 1955 and special effects man Joseph Albert Zomar in 1959. Every marriage ended in divorce, the last having ended in 1964. It was around this time she met Donald Andrew Markick, a man seventeen years her junior who had served as a paratrooper toward the end of the Korean War. He dreamed of becoming a magician, so she took him under her wing, renaming him "Lorenzo Holmes." His family refused to call him by that name, and they disapproved of his relationship with Lili St. Cyr. Thus, he was kicked out of his house, and he moved in with Lili. He was with her for nearly thirty years. They never married, but she often introduced him as her husband, calling herself "Mrs. (Lili or Marie) Holmes."
By the 1970s, St. Cyr had retired, and she had opened her own lingerie line "The Undie World of Lili St. Cyr," selling garments similar to what she wore onstage. In her later years she was determined to keep herself hidden away with Lorenzo and her cats--Tiny, Bootsie, Tiger, Baby Bear, Little Two Shoes, Max, Big Boss, and Lee-Enze. In 1978, Lili, going by the name Marie Garrelick (the last name of her one-time neighbor, with whom she was staying), applied to rent an apartment from Mathew Tombers. After getting to know her, Tombers began helping Lili write her autobiography.
Lili St. Cyr died at the age of 80, on January 29, 1999, in Los Angeles, California.