Dita Von Teese, 35, née Heather Renée Sweet, grew up in Rochester, Mich., and currently resides in Los Angeles. She began stripping when she was 18 and has since become a modern-day burlesque icon and ambassador for brands such as MAC and Cointreau, the latter of which installed the porcelain-skinned seductress in Suite 1204 at the Ritz-Carlton on Central Park South on Monday for a marathon session of photos and interviews.
Perched on a sofa, her Louis Vuitton shoes barely reaching the floor, Ms. Von Teese recalled a recent visit to an L.A. strip club with an actress researching a role. “Crazy Girls, I think,” she said. “And I wanted so badly—’cause I used to work in a strip club for eight years—to get into it with her ’cause I used to do lap dances and all that stuff. I think, ‘Oh, it was so much fun.’ There’s no press there, there’s no journalists there—no offense! There’s no cameras.”
What does she like about New York? “I like roasted chestnuts,” said Ms. Von Teese. “I don’t know. I like to go to museums.”
She said L.A. and Orange County got her act more because of the thriving rockabilly scene out there. In New York, people sometimes see her in her red lipstick and powdered face and say, in hushed tones, “She looks like she’s in a costume.” Lame! However, Ms. Von Teese said she really digs the raunchy version of burlesque that the Box puts on.
“It was definitely an American invention,” said the starlet of the dance form. “And I’m proud of the fact that it’s a real American thing. But … I think I’m more popular in the mainstream in Europe. Here in America is the only place where you really hear, “I don’t get it. She’s nothing but a glorified stripper.”
Divorced from rocker Marilyn Manson early last year, Ms. Von Teese said that unlike, say, Beyoncé, she does not have an alter ego onstage. “I think a successful burlesque show has to do with the real girl’s real personality coming out,” she said.
Of course, there are other secrets, including gluing pasties to her nipples with heavy-duty spirit gum from Germany, “and having to rip it off … along with maybe a few layers of skin.” Yee-ouch! “You can just feel the burn,” Ms. Von Teese said. “It’s something I always have to explain to my new boyfriends, ‘Oh, pardon me. I still have a little bit of glue on there from yesterday’s show.’ It’s the bane of my existence.”