Dita Von Teese Wants You to Sweep Her Off Her Feet and See Her New Show

By Diane Anderson-Minshall

Originally published on Advocate.com May 09 2012 4:00 AM ET

She’s the biggest name in burlesque since Gypsy Rose Lee and the desire of queer women and straight men worldwide. Now Dita Von Teese, the pioneer of the famed martini glass striptease, is bringing her new variety show, Burlesque:  Strip Strip Hooray! to the West Coast this spring with a kickoff at Los Angeles’ House of Blues.

“Dita Von Teese is an iconic international superstar,” says Kelly Kapp, vice president at House of Blues Entertainment. “With her innovative style and unique talent, Dita has paved the way for all women to feel sexy, no matter their shape or size. Her electric shows bring together fans of every age group and walk of life, from fashionistas to older couples on a date night to the gay and lesbian communities. The atmosphere at her performances, coupled with the fantasy and spectacle of the performances themselves, creates a dynamic live entertainment experience.”

Von Teese’s 90-minute revue, which also features queer MC Murray Hill and what she calls “a cast of crème de la crème of modern burlesque,” will kick off Friday at House of Blues Sunset Strip in Los Angeles and concludes May 31 at the Yost Theater in Santa Ana, Calif. There are stops in San Diego, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland as well. This marks Von Teese’s first U.S. tour after two decades of performing.

A feminist fashionista who made everyone from goth girls to rockabilly dykes happy with her un-Baywatch style, Von Teese is currently working on her third book (out later this year from Harper Collins), a new dress collection from MUSE (based on her vintage threads), her second perfume, and a new makeup line (which comes out this month). We caught up with the bull-riding, martini glass-shaking burlesque queen to talk about opium dens, retiring at 70, and why she still “fantasizes about being swept away by an elegantly dressed and gorgeous butch lesbian.”

The Advocate: You have so many lesbian and gay fans. Why do you think you appeal so much to the LGBT community?
Dita Von Teese: I think everyone has different reasons for coming out to see my shows — some are empowered by it, some love the glamour and fantasy of it, and perhaps others just like their T&A lavished with feathers, rhinestones, and humor. 

There are a lot of queer women involved in the burlesque movement. Do you think burlesque appeals to women who are outside the mainstream for a reason?
Yes, well, for me, I never felt like I could fit into what many of the modern stereotypes of beauty in America are really, and so that is part of what prompted me to start experimenting with my style when I was a teenager. I had strong intuition that there was a niche waiting to be filled, that not everyone admires the same kinds of beauty, and that what makes me feel good about myself is what makes me sexy. Wearing jeans and lip gloss never made me feel like anything but ordinary.

You have a book in the works about “eccentric beauty.” How do you define that?
I wanted to make a book that breaks the typical rules of beauty and that encourages people to do what they like rather than try to do what’s “right.” For instance, when you open up a magazine and they tell you all the don’ts of beauty and then you turn the page and there’s a beautiful ad campaign that breaks those rules — like the old “don’t emphasize both the eyes and the lips” one. I’m tired of the rules! My book shows step-by-step the way I do my own hair and makeup, and also women that I admire that dared to be different and conveyed glamour without trying to fit into the stereotypes of “pretty.” My book is about glamour and the art of creating beauty.

I’ve seen you perform a number of times, and you always have something pretty spectacular, like the giant martini glass. How do you top that?
I’ve reinvented the martini glass act, so it’s more opulent than ever for this show, but for Strip Strip Hooray! I’ve brought all of my biggest acts into one show for the first time ever. I also will do my Rhinestone Cowgirl show, a show based on the act I created for my role as MAC Cosmetics’ Viva Glam spokesperson. It’s funny and outrageous, and it brings the house down every time.

DITA VON TEESE 02 X400 GETTY | ADVOCATE.COM

That’s a big production.
A lot of my fans always wanted to see it, because it’s one of my biggest production numbers, so we worked hard to make it possible to present it in this show, which isn’t easy because it’s a real mechanical bull and takes a lot of effort to stage it. I’m also doing my Opium Den show as a finale — it’s the most unique, cinematic, and timeless act, and I am very proud of it, it’s my biggest production number. Each of my acts features extravagant costumes with over 100,000 Swarovski crystals each, custom-made Louboutin shoes, and grand stage props. There’s nothing like it.

How can our readers channel their inner Dita?
Well, I think the message I’m always trying to convey is that it’s about having fun with your style, not seeking acceptance from others. So I don’t like to dictate what finding your own sensuality is. But come see the show and see if there’s something that you see that inspires you. We have an incredible and diverse supporting cast that I’m very proud of that really represents many facets of beauty and burlesque.

You have a number of women who seem to have been inspired by your style. How does that make you feel?
It makes me happy to see the way other women are finding what I know to be true: that you can create your own beauty and that it doesn’t rely on age, shape, size, ethnicity, etc. When I meet my fans and look out into my extremely chic and illustrious audience, it makes me feel so good.

Obviously you’re the desire of many straight men as well as gay and bisexual women. Do you identify as bisexual or straight or heteroflexible?   
I guess now at age 39 — after much experimentation over the years — I have come to realize that I am hetero, which I personally think is unfortunate, because in my dreams, my sexual attraction isn’t limited to just men! But it is what it is, isn’t it? We don’t really get to decide, do we? But I have to admit, I still fantasize about being swept away by an elegantly dressed and gorgeous butch lesbian. It’s just all that cliché faux-girl-on-girl “look at me, guys” stuff I’m not into.

Gypsy Rose Lee, to whom you’re often compared, was very political in her time. What causes are of most concern to you?
I try to stay out of politics, but I am active in the fight against HIV and work a lot with the MAC AIDS Fund and amfAR.

Do you see a day when you’ll retire from the stage? 
I think it’s a constant evolution, and has been since I first started performing 20 years ago. It’s amusing that when I started, when I was 18, I was convinced that by 30, I would be finished and that no one would want to see a lady of that age stripteasing. It’s funny, the notions we have of age when we are very young. I strongly believe that I’m at my best now, and what my show has evolved to is much more than I ever dreamed.

What will the future bring then?
In addition to the burlesque shows, I’ve been spending the past several years setting myself up to retire from the stage, between saving my earnings and starting new projects that don’t rely on me being G-string-clad. I have my books, my lingerie line, a new makeup collection coming out, a dress line, and I am already in the process of creating my second perfume after the success of the first one, which we will have available for purchase at Strip Strip Hooray! And I have some top-secret amazing new ideas for the evolution of my show. Just wait and see: If I want it, I can be onstage till I’m 70! I’ve got something special up my sleeve.

 

 

Upcoming Dates for Dita Von Teese’s Burlesque: Strip Strip Hooray! Tour

Friday, May 11
Los Angeles
House of Blues
@HOBSunset

Saturday, May 12
Los Angeles
House of Blues
@HOBSunset

Monday, May 14
San Diego
House of Blues
@HOBSanDiego

Tuesday, May 15
San Diego
House of Blues
@HOBSanDiego

Thursday, May 17
Las Vegas
House of Blues
@HOBLasVegas

Friday, May 18
Las Vegas
House of Blues
@HOBLasVegas

Saturday, May 19
Las Vegas
House of Blues
@HOBLasVegas

Monday, May 21
San Francisco
The Fillmore
@FillmoreSF

Tuesday, May 22
San Francisco
The Fillmore
@FillmoreSF

Thursday, May 24
Seattle
Neptune Theatre
@stgpresents

Friday, May 25
Seattle
Neptune Theatre
@stgpresents

Sunday, May 27
Portland, Ore.
Aladdin Theater
@Aladdin_Theater

Monday, May 28
Portland, Ore.         
Aladdin Theater
@Aladdin_Theater

Wednesday, May 30
Santa Ana, Calif.
The Yost Theater
@YostTheater

Thursday, May 31
Santa Ana, Calif.
The Yost Theater
@YostTheater
 

For more info or tickets go House of Blues or Dita’s website.