The Cat Girl, Lilly Christine
Walter Winchell called her "genuine Gee-whiz boy-bait"; when Esquire featured color pinups of her, the issue was an immediate sell-out; and college youths who journeyed to Broadway to see her whip her long peroxide-blonde hair around the Wintergarden stage doing a cat dance in Mike Todd's Peep Show, or to New Orleans to see her voodoo love potion dance at Prima's 500 Club, came away in awe. "The touch that puts the final polish on her act," gushed an undergrad critic from North Carolina, "is one of the warmest and most human stage personalities seen anywhere. Her dance routines are nothing short of a work of art and her muscular control is nothing short of phenomenal."
Lilly Christine, known in burlesque houses and 1950s men's magazines as the "Cat Girl," was born Martha Theresa Pompender on this day in 1923 in Dunkirk, New York.
As a fixture of the 1950s American subculture of erotica, Lilly Christine's image was carefully cultivated for maximum romance and mystery: it was said she was born in New Orleans, the green-eyed child of a Norwegian athlete and his Swedish girl; that she studied yoga, sunbathed in the nude and kept a strict vegetarian diet; and when asked about the occult motifs she used in her performances, she would reply, for publication, "Yes, I am a voodoo priestess."
Although it is true that she knew her way around the lingo of Caribbean mysticism and Eastern erotica, and that she took exceptionally good care of her taut, butterscotch physique, she was in fact an Italian-Polish divorcee from upstate New York. She was still a big draw in nightclubs -- with a nice beach apartment on the east coast of Florida and all secrets still intact -- when she died of peritonitis at the age of 41 on January 9, 1965.
Labels: Pop Culture