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.