Vinterview 3 - Eva Devore / Lili St Cyr

The next vinterview is with the gorgeous Eva Devore, burlesque babe extraordinaire! Sultry, sensual and seductive, Eva Devore  will transport you to days gone by. Enchanted with old world glamour and bygone eras, this vintage vixen creates luscious visual feasts with acts to titillate and tease. Bringing her fresh take on classic striptease to Sydney stages since 2016, Eva combines her extensive knowledge of costume and history with her love of dance to bring you a performance you won't forget. Let Ms Devore mesmerise you with her hips, sequins and so much more.

Eva Devore is an accomplished seamstress and costumier,with qualifications in Fashion and Costume for Performance. A self-professed history nerd, Eva has lent her expertise to several major productions, including working with the Sydney Conservatorium in 2015 for their Centenary production at the Sydney Opera House.You can find Eva on inta @eva_devore and catch Eva in her upcoming performance in June at the Martini Lounge, Sydney. Details and tickets can be found here.

Eva chose burlesque legend Lili St Cyr for her vinterview. Lili was born Minneapolis, Minnesota, on June 3, 1918. She and her sister (who was also a burlesque dancer ) were raised by their grandparents. Lili took ballet lessons in her youth and began dancing in the chorus line in Hollywood. Lili begged the manager to give her a solo act. From her self-choreographed act she eventually landed a bit part at a club called the Music Box in San Francisco, with the Duncan Sisters. It was here that she found a dancer's salary was only a small fraction of what the featured star's salary was. The difference was that the featured star was nude.

From the 1940s and most of the 1950s, St. Cyr with Gypsy Rose Lee and Ann Corio were the most recognized acts in striptease. St. Cyr's stage name is a patronymic of the French aristocracy, which she first used when booked as a nude performer in Las Vegas. Although more obscure toward the end of her life, her name popped-up regularly in 1950s tabloids: stories of her many husbands, brawls over her, and her attempted suicides.

St. Cyr was married six times. Her best-known husbands were the motorcycle speedway rider Cordy Milne, musical-comedy actor and former ballet dancer Paul Valentine, restaurateur Armando Orsini, and actor Ted Jordan

And now to the interview these questions were taken from a 1957 interview by Mike Wallace

What is your personal opinion of the men that sit in nightclubs and burlesque houses and watch you strip?
Personally, I love that men are coming to see an artform that portrays women as strong, powerful and sensual beings. Burlesque is one of the few platforms that a woman can explore her sensuality in performance without the sleaziness factor. Burlesque can be comedic, sexy, sensual, silly or make a political statement. It’s such an empowering art form.

What is the reason you think most men come?
I think a lot of men might come along to their first burlesque show expecting something similar to a strip club, but come back for the incredible performances and the exploration of striptease and sensuality in art and comedy.

What do you think of women that come to see a girl take off her clothes?
To be honest, most of the audience is made up of women at burlesque shows! I love that women can come together to celebrate each other’s bodies and sensuality. Burlesque doesn’t exclude any body types; whether you’re short, tall, slim or curvaceous, big boobs or small, burlesque celebrates everything that shimmies and shakes!

Why do you go to striptease shows?
They’re just so much fun! I’ve always adored the glamour and the costumes, and as I studied costume-making, I was drawn to the vintage aesthetic of classic burlesque (best represented in the mainstream media by Dita Von Teese.) As I started attending burlesque shows in Sydney, I got to see the variety involved, be it comedy or satire or circus arts, and I fell in love.

Suppose there were a male equivalent of the striptease in which a man got up on stage and took of his clothes would you approve of that kind of thing?
Absolutely! There is indeed a male equivalent to burlesque, known as boylesque or brolesque, and I think it’s fantastic! The burlesque community is very welcoming of many performers, of all genders and orientations, and often this is explored in performance too. There are some absolutely fantastic male burlesque performers, including Russel Bruner, whose vaudevillian acts are just amazing, and here in Sydney we are lucky to have Mac Galleon and Bullseye Billy, supremely talented performers who I recommend seeing if you get the chance!

What do you think about while you go through the gyrations which are calculated to arouse the most basic emotions in people who watch you?
I’m usually cheering or whooping along with the crowd, enjoying the performance and the creativity of the artist. I love appreciating beauty in all forms!

I know you have been arrested for indecent exposure 3 or 4 times. What do you think of people who say the striptease is lewd and immoral and its sole function is to arouse lust in an audience?
Well, I haven’t actually been arrested yet, but to people who think burlesque is immoral, I think they should come along to a show and actually experience burlesque. Sexuality, sensuality and the human body are all parts of life, so why not explore them in performance? I think some people are very limited by their beliefs and views, and if we could all be more open and accepting of each other and our own feelings and bodies, the world would be a kinder place.

Have you ever done anything that you are ashamed of?
Well sure, haven’t we all? Nothing burlesque related though. Usually I’m feeling ashamed because I demolished a whole packet of Tim Tams in an hour, when I was supposed to be rationing them out…

Do you think you are an artist?
Absolutely. My interpretation of burlesque is vintage and history inspired glamour, and it’s a great platform for me to explore my costume-making.  I love to create big, lavish costumes! Every burlesque performer approaches their art in a different way, and that is why there is so much diversity in burlesque performance.

How did you get into the business?
I’ve been interested in burlesque since I was in high school, but I started performing professionally in 2016. I’ve always done dance classes of some kind, including belly dance, go go dance and jazz dance, but a few years ago I started taking burlesque classes with the Sydney Vintage Dance Studio, run by Sheena Miss Demeanour. It definitely built up my confidence, and so I started to put together my first act, my Egyptian revival-inspired Nile Queen act. It got a wonderful response when I debuted it at a night for new performers, and things kind of took off from there!

How did you feel the first time you performed?
Over the moon. I was so excited to finally be doing something I had always dreamed of! Also, there’s no feeling quite like having a big audience cheering and clapping as you are taking off your clothes!

How does your husband feel about his wife disrobing and dancing provocatively in public?
My boyfriend is really supportive of my burlesque. When I was just starting, he was a little unsure how he would feel, but at my very first performance he was so proud and supportive! He’s definitely my biggest fan and I’m so lucky to have him. He comes to all my shows!

Are you going into business with your husband or will you just be a housewife and forget the bright lights?
Haha I don’t think I’ll ever be a housewife (even if I dress like one sometimes!) My partner is a photographer and so we often collaborate to shoot my costumes or concepts. He shoots burlesque shows as well, so sometimes we both get to work on the same show.

When you quit what will be your interest?
I don’t know when or if I will quit, I’m really enjoying burlesque at the moment! I’ve always followed one creative pursuit or another, so I doubt that will change.

What kind of religious upbringing did you have? What are your religious beliefs?
I was brought up atheist, but my personal beliefs are just that; personal. I believe everyone has the right to believe what they wish and follow their own religion, but I don’t believe in forcing one’s religion on another or expecting others to abide by your beliefs.

What about politics do you have any interest in that?
I think politics are pretty ridiculous at the moment, given recent circumstances. The world would be a much better place if we could all learn to be compassionate and emphatic.

What kind of things do you read?
I love fantasy and historical fiction! Lately I’ve been working my way through the Miss Fisher series (I just adore the television programme too.) I also love classic literature, and have a huge collection of costume and clothing reference books.

Do you think with your occupation, with your business, your body, your beauty, are you afraid of growing old and growing ugly?
I think everyone is a little afraid of this, but then I also think of the beauty in age. We all grow old one day, and that shouldn’t stop you from doing what you love. One of my idols is Iris Apfel, the eccentric fashionista in her 90s, who exudes amazing style every day. That’s my goals for old age for sure!

You don't respect marriage, you don't want children, you have no interest in politics, religion. What sort of world do you think it would be if everyone were like you?
(Side note: I love how backwards the reporter in this interview was, and how Lili St Cyr handled it with such grace. She is just incredible!)
If everyone were like me, I would hope that the world would be a kinder and more compassionate place. I’m by no means perfect, and I think it would be pretty boring if everyone were just like me! But it would be lovely to see a more accepting and peaceful world, full of art and expression.

And here is the original interview with Lili: