After 20 years of experiencing Dita Von Teese on stage, I can honestly admit that the gal never ceases to impress me.
From her exquisitely constructed costumes to the sumptuously tuned lighting, Dita’s stage performances are triumphs in the art of beauty—and perfection. She and her team leave no Swarovski crystal unturned in making sure that everything is ne plus ultra for the audiences who are paying good money to see her.
With the manuscript for the beauty book I wrote with Dita officially in the hands of our affable editor at Harper Collins as of Monday (yeah!), I can finally share some highlights from the opening night last week of her first U.S. tour, “Strip, Strip Hooray!” the variety show with an emphasis on variety.
Make no mistake: Dita is well aware that burlesque is not just about pretty girls taking it all off for the crowd. Her shows thread elements of vaudeville, specifically in the case of the wisecracking host, the drag king extraordinaire known as Mr. Showbiz, Murray Hill. The gender-bending nod is even extended with the debonair boylesque performer Monsieur Romeo.
Variety, too, is highlighted in the curves and crowns of fellow performers and friends. From the 48-inch hips of the delectable riot Dirty Martini to the lithe tall drink that is the rubber-skinned Russian Lada, there is some body for everyone. New Orleans star Pearle Noir summons Josephine Baker and is a marvel.
Besides seeing Dirty again, whom I’ve adored forever, it’s wonderful to see other great pioneers of the neo-burlesque scene, including the Liliputian Selene Luna doing her mini motorcycle act and the return of voluptuous Catherine D’Lish. The redheaded Catherine has a new spiderweb act on this tour which is simply amazing; she’s also a longtime pal of Dita’s and designer-seamstress of some of her most memorable costumes over the years. A talent!
Dita opens with her signature act, which actually exists as a handful of versions, each with its own twinkling, colossal glass for her to ultimately bathe in. For this tour, it’s the “Swarovski Martini,” named so because the prop glass is studded in more than 250,000 crystals by the Austrian heritage brand which produces the best sparklers in the world. Dita channels Marlene Dietrich in her new Alexis Mabille tuxedo (I covet!), sings a pre-recorded tune (that IS her voice, kids!), then strips off to the most marvelous new lace-up corset…and, of course, finally down to nothing more than a crystal-covered G-string and stars over her rosebuds.
Few millimeters of fabric, shoes, furnishings or props go without the Swarovski treatment, in fact. The massive powder compact that Dita springs forth from in another act is awash in crystals, inside and out; during the “Rhinestone Cowgirl” act, everything from the mechanical bull’s longhorns to the chaps and custom-made Christian Louboutin boots are blanketed in pink crystals. The effect is so blindingly startling—even among those of us familiar with Dita’s performances, not to mention a flood of crystal accessories in our own wardrobes—that it’s physically impossible for jaws not to drop.
Ah, about those Louboutins…Dita’s struts and dances en pointe in iconic red soles custom-made by her good pal throughout the show. New to this tour are the beautiful satin blue pointe shoes—complete with red soles, natch!—that Christian made and rushed to her in time for the opening night show. She shows them and her ballet abilities off in “The Powder Puff Pin-Up” act.
Dita also takes a spin en pointe as an exotic dragon lady in the climactic “Opium Den” finale. For this act, the spectacular gown was made by Catherine D’Lish and the fan, underpinnings and headdress conceived and crystalized by our equally talented friend Michael Schmidt (who is madly working on costumes now for Madonna’s upcoming tour).
As of this writing Dita and troupe are en route from San Diego to Las Vegas. If they’re hitting your town and you’ve never seen her before, GO. If you have seen her before, GO.
Take it from a veteran of her shows, it’s worth the price of admission.
All photographs featured here are by Kaylin Idora and courtesy of DMGLA.
Next up: A few snapshots of my own after the show…