10 Questions w/ Dita Von Teese About ‘Night of the Teese’ + Just Being Dita
One has to earnestly applaud artists and their facilitators across the spectrum of creativity, for meeting the pandemic head on with so many cleverly staged digital events: virtual art galleries, impromptu DJ sessions, online theater pieces and the like. But burlesque goddess Dita Von Teese is about to go them all one better, by staging a jaw-droppingly ambitious, feature-length revue at LA’s historic Orpheum Theatre, and beaming it around the world, so that it may be a truly communal, global cultural experience.
For the task, she flew in a head-spinning lineup of high-profile fellow burlesquers, including Dirty Martini, Perle Noire, Jett Adore, Marawa, Frankie Fictitious and Vontourage; and the result is the cleverly titled film Night of the Teese, a Cinematic Special, which will premiere as a streaming event October 1, and then be available to view for forty-eight hours over the following two days…the perfect way to heat things up just as the first chill of autumn sets in. At the helm was acclaimed Lizzo Creative Director Quinn Wilson, who brought just the right amount of both innovative thinking and healthy reverence to the project.
“Dita is a legend,” she enthusiastically observes, “and as the best legends do, she created a stage for not only herself but the immense and powerful talent within the burlesque community. As a director, you can only hope to work with a visionary like Dita Von Teese and the performers she introduced me to. This has been one of my favorite experiences.”
In anticipation of what just might end up being burlesque’s biggest, most flamboyantly exciting night ever, we caught up with Ms. Von Teese to discuss what it all means to her, and to all those who love her.
(N.B. October 1st premiere streaming times are as follows: Australia, New Zealand & Asia: 8pm AEST, 11pm NZDT, 7pm JST, UK, Ireland & Europe: 8pm BST, 9pm CEST, East Coast USA & Canada : 8pm EDT, West Coast USA, Canada: 8pm PDT, and tickets can be purchased via shops.ticketmasterpartners.com).
What have you been doing during the pandemic?
Gosh, I think I’ve been through many phases the past two years. First, I was meant to leave for my nine week long Glamonatrix tour in February 2020, so there was a lot of confusion at first, with some of these 2500 capacity venues still insisting the show would go on. Lots of logistics to deal with. As time went on, I stayed fairly quiet, and dealt with the biz of the show, kept to my small circle of friends, and worked on things I’d been neglecting.
Has the time away from performing been otherwise productive?
I felt productive in a way; I focused on the things I’d been procrastinating on. I also spent a lot of time clearing out my closets and letting go of some of my vintage treasures. I’ve been an avid vintage and antiques collector my entire adult life, so it was a great time to clean house; I put vintage wardrobe pieces up in my depop.com/ditavonteese shop. I also had a part in Olivia Wilde’s upcoming film Don’t Worry Darling, went on The Masked Dancer in the UK which was hilarious…and now I’m in France for Dancing With The Stars. I have never really done TV shows like this, but I’ve been loving the experience, and the vulnerability of putting myself out there in a different way.
How did the concept of ‘Night of the Teese’ come about?
During the pandemic, I was getting many requests and suggestions to do an online show, but I didn’t want to jump on the bandwagon and put something out there that wasn’t top-notch. It’s hard to capture the thrill of a live show. When I was introduced to Driift and saw that they were producing events before we all had to stay home, that really appealed to me, because there wasn’t a rush to put something out that wasn’t in line with what my shows normally look and feel like. And then having Quinn Wilson as a director was a really wonderful experience. She’s so talented, and I loved having her fresh and enthusiastic love for burlesque and for this project.
Can you give us a hint of what the night might be like?
I really love the way Quinn makes the viewer feel like they’re onstage, backstage…originally I wanted it to feel like a live show, but then I realized we could take it to another level where it feels like you have full access to the stage and backstage.
Can you tell us about some of the guest performances?
I presented some of my favorite performers I’ve toured with for a decade or more, like Dirty Martini, Perle Noire, Jett Adore and The Vontourage. And then I presented to Quinn some LA-based performers I love, like Marawa. There are also a few newcomers and cameos from so many of my LA favorites like Tosca Rivola, who’s set to tour with me in February. There’s a cameo of Drag Race star Valentina, who Catherine D’Lish and I are working on a new striptease act with for New Year’s Eve at The Orpheum.
Will this be that start of a trend, towards less actual touring and more streaming?
There’s nothing I would love more than to continue this as a series, because there are so many more burlesque performers from all parts of the world I would love to shine the spotlight on in this way. I do think live-streaming and touring can go hand in hand. There are still so many places we can’t bring the tour to. For instance, every US tour I try to put Nashville on the schedule, but they have some really ridiculous nudity laws which pertain only to women’s bodies. For instance, a woman cannot show that horizontal crease between the bum and the legs. I asked about wearing a full coverage brief, but they told me it has to be something like bike shorts. Not even full tights are acceptable; and, of course, as we have just as many men in the show as women, I asked about male nudity parameters, and it turns out there are none.
Burlesque had a moment of being very trendy during the oughts – how would you describe the scene right now?
I think it’s a vast community, with so many types of performers challenging burlesque stereotypes, and fabulous role models for aspiring performers and fans of burlesque. There are burlesque classes and coaches everywhere, and I think that’s wonderful for people of any gender, to explore their own sensuality and power, either for themselves, or to discover their talent.
In the new #MeToo context, how do you feel things have changed in regards to women expressing their sexuality on their own terms?
It’s exciting to see, especially on social media. I love seeing photos of people wearing my lingerie brand, and the stigma of risqué content being liberated. There’s still a long way to go, of course. But I love seeing so many examples people give on how to navigate the world, unapologetically, in their own ways. I wish when I was younger, I had more role models like we have now.
What’s next for you following ‘Night of the Teese’?
I’m in Paris for Danse Avec Les Stars, and I’m having the time of my life, working hard every day, and challenging myself. I know people always hear I was a ballet dancer, but really, I just always loved ballet, and took classes my whole life – but could never keep up. I’ve had it in my head my whole life that I can’t learn choreography, which is one reason I became a solo burlesque dancer! But being here, I’m trying to overcome that fear. I am loving it.
Looking back, how would you describe the last thirty years of being Dita Von Teese?
It’s beyond my wildest dreams. I never could have imagined my first little shows in strip clubs and at fetish parties would evolve into a career like this. I was just having fun. I thought my big fifteen minutes of fame was being on a billboard for a strip club in Wisconsin!