July 30 2014

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Dita Von Teese Can Do Without The Glam Squad, Thanks


Burlesque mistress Dita Von Teese rarely performs in the U.S., but the va-va-voom starlet is bringing her high-fashion ecdysiasm (read: strippin’) to Vegas in a reprise of her much-beloved Paris show, Live at The Crazy Horse. (There’s a Crazy Horse outpost in Vegas’ MGM Grand.) Decades’ Cameron Silver is one of the many style-world pals flying in for the occasion, and we’ll have his take on the evening tomorrow. But before then,’s Derek Blasberg took a few minutes to chat with Dita about her love for the historic Crazy Horse, the perils of corsets, and why burlesque is best appreciated live.

Hi, Dita! Tell me a little bit about Paris’ Crazy Horse. Why there?
When I was a teenager, I saw one little picture in Playboy of these beautiful, nearly nude “toy soldiers” lined up, and I was desperate to find out more about this mysterious place. There was no Internet yet, and I couldn’t find out anything about it. I didn’t even have the name of it, just this image that was in my head for all those years. So when I was finally in Paris in my early twenties, I kept asking people about these naked toy soldiers, and I finally saw the show, and I was amazed. I went to the show every night I was in Paris, and for the next decade I would go see the show every chance I got. I also befriended a Crazy Horse historian and so I would get to see all the archives and meet former dancers. A few years ago I did a photo shoot there, which is something they never allowed, in order to preserve the mystery of the place. Little by little, I became more involved, and I became the first guest star in the history of The Crazy, so that was exciting. Everyone who was anyone went there, since 1951, and for me, just to be in that theater to see the same stage that all these stars went, from Marlene Dietrich, Mae West, Marilyn Monroe, John F. Kennedy, Gypsy Rose Lee, Salvador Dalí…the guest list is impressive, and well, I just think it’s incredible to think that there was once a time when a show like this was revered like that. It’s the art of nude, the glorification of the female form, absolute perfection. There is no show like it on earth, and the history and mystery of this place is amazing.

You made a DVD of your Crazy Horse performance, but I read somewhere you don’t like to be filmed. Is that right?
It’s true, I don’t like being filmed, because it’s a live show, meant to be enjoyed in the moment—that’s what burlesque was all about. I want to focus on what I’m giving the audience, not on how I look for a camera. I can’t understand why people can’t just enjoy and savor the moment when they go to live concerts or shows of any kind! The Crazy Horse is great for this because cameras are never allowed and they control it very well. But it was a pleasure to set aside time to be able to film these shows so people that can’t come to Paris or people that want to relive the experience can have it on DVD.

Did you run into any obstacles filming it?
The big mistake I made on this shoot was in thinking I could do my hair and makeup myself, dress myself, and perform for the camera…that was a nightmare! I always style myself, but on set, in front of the camera, well, I learned that I should have had someone on standby to touch me up, because it was just too much work to try to perform and do all that too. I’m always so determined to do things on my own to get the message across that it’s not about having a big glam squad to be glamorous. I enjoy doing it myself, it’s satisfying. But I took on a little too much this time, between that and all that undressing and redressing in those corsets over and over…. A few times while filming, I would have just done this elaborate show three times, with ten costume pieces shed, submerged in the bath, trying to catch my breath, hair and makeup disheveled, and the crew would be shouting “let’s go again right away, in two minutes!” I was like “Uh, guys…I need to put all this stuff back on again.” These corsets don’t just magically just jump back on my body and lace themselves up, unfortunately!

Photo: EPS / Rex / Rex USA