Video of the Week: Lilly Christine, The Cat Girl

This week’s video only peripherally involves Timothy, but trust me, you’ll thank me later. When he was in New Orleans filming Bayou (1957), he was told he needed to learn to “dance real wild.” He went to the 500 Club every night for a week to watch the infamous Lilly Christine do her Cat Girl routine. And thus, his immortal “crazy Cajun dance” was born.

If I have burlesque on my mind, it’s because I’ll be driving up to Seattle today for my very first BurlyCon! It promises to be quite the adventure, and posting here may be a bit sporadic until next week. I just wish Miss Christine was still around to join us. Tragically, she passed away after a bout of peritonitis in 1965 at the age of 41.

Quote of the Week

Previously unbeknownst to us, Romeo Carey, upon his first visit to the [Dead Flowers] exhibition in Philadelphia, revealed the origin of one of Timothy Carey’s signature “dances,” first devised for the camera in Bayou (1957, directed by Harold Daniels, re-released in 1961 as Poor White Trash), and revisited in other noteworthy Carey performances such as Beach Blanket Bingo (1965, William Asher) and The World’s Greatest Sinner. Arriving in New Orleans to shoot Poor White Trash, Carey apparently asked a cab driver for a recommendation as to where he might learn a distinctive Cajun dance. He was promptly driven to Leon Prima‘s 500 Club on Bourbon Street, where he witnessed The Cat Girl [Lilly Christine], considered the most publicized Burlesque performer of her time, and rendered the experience into one of his most characteristically eccentric performances.

Lia Gangitano, “Afterword and Acknowledgements,” from Dead Flowers (Participant Press/VoxPopuli, 2011)

Artwork by Scott Ewalt

Artwork by Scott Ewalt from the Dead Flowers exhibition at Vox Populi, Philadelphia, 2010

Timothy’s Bayou dance, with music by Honeyboy Slim and the Bad Habits

Video of the Week: Lilly Christine, “The Cat Girl”

EDITOR’S NOTE 05/22/12: The original video posted has been removed by the user, so I replaced it with this one, “Song for Lilly Christine” by Big Rude Jake. I like this one better!

Our video for this week is something a bit different. Tim arrived in LaFitte, Louisiana in the fall of 1956 to begin filming Bayou. He had an unusual assignment from the film’s producers – he had to learn to “dance real wild.” In New Orleans he asked a cab driver to help him out. The cabbie took him straight to Leon Prima’s 500 Club in the French Quarter. A stunning, statuesque burlesque dancer by the name of Lilly Christine, billed as “The Cat Girl,” was performing there. Tim returned to the club every night for a week to watch her dance. I’m sure he needed little persuasion to conduct this kind of research. After all, it was for the good of the film, right?

So now we know the inspiration for Ulysses’ crazy Cajun dance. Wow!