Lily was the reigning burlesque queen of Las Vegas, Hollywood and Montreal in the late 1940's and 50s. Statuesque at 5"9 with measurements of 34"24"34 she was, quite simply, an elegant knockout. Her bleach blonde hair, red lips, beauty spot and oozing sex appeal are said to have inspired Norma Jean's transformation into Marilyn Munroe.
Even those who called her immoral, deviant and a gold digger (Lily was married six times during her life) admitted to her artistry in her work. Her burlesque acts were memorable and refined stories based around mythology and folklore - she would enchant the audience by becoming Cleopatra, Salome or Carmen and could bring sincerity to an on stage bubble bath.
I have just finished reading the biography of Lily written by Kelly DiNardo.
Her stage presence as well as the way she lived her life is admirable. Lily aspired to glamour, her own values and moral codes and independence, all of which she achieved in her life. Not only did she inspire countless performers but she was an important positive figure in a time of many changes for women in society.
Despite her achievements Lily's story has a seamy undertow - and she died of heart failure caused by Heroin at the age of 81. She leaves behind a memory of burlesque at a time when glamour outweighed time constraints, live orchestras provided the music and dressing rooms were sumptuous rather than sordid.