The pop burlesque of Dita Von Teese
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In a city where nearly every bar and club has some type of “burlesque” dancer or show, the excitement generated by Dita Von Teese’s “Strip Strip Hooray” tour –- which took over the House of Blues on Friday and Saturday -– is rather significant. Saturday offered two shows; at the early one, the venue was packed to the rafters with the expected greaser guys and curvy gals in bright red lipstick, flowers in their hair and skin-tight vintage frocks.
Yet Von Teese represents the more mainstream side of burlesque, which was evident by a crowd that featured plenty of casually dressed couples in T-shirts and jeans, gussied up goths, blinged-out clubber types, old people, young people, straight people, gay people, black, white, Latin -- you name it. It seems the appeal of burlesque (and we’re not talking faux Pussycat Dolls burlesque, but the authentic bump and grind sans tattoos or contemporary punk references) is officially a universal phenom, and Von Teese is its high priestess.
She may not have been the first, but no one, expect maybe Bettie Page herself, has done more for the popularity of burlesque than Von Teese. Retro-inspired stripper culture is almost incidental to Von Teese’s star power, as she was once married to Marilyn Manson, has been featured in Vogue and Playboy magazine spreads and her name is branded on a bevy of merch. She doesn’t sing, but if she did, could she be a pop star? Indubitably. Like Madonna, who’s been influenced by burlesque culture herself, Von Teese has a mystical allure, a combination of shameless confidence and perfectionism.
Her attention to detail and embellished glitz onstage is unparalleled, even for pop stars. From the sparkle of each and every Swarovski crystal (hundreds of thousands swathe pretty much every prop and article of clothing in the production) to the sensual lighting that caresses her slender porcelain frame to the vampy music that sets the mood for the procession of themed vignettes -- including her classic martini glass sponge bath, cowgirl steer grind, powder compact dance and Opium Den climax -- your eye cannot turn away from the utter flawlessness of it all.
By comparison, the supporting acts in the show may not have been as visually stunning, but in way that made for a nice balance. All were top notch and entertaining in different ways -– and notably represented different body sizes -- from the epic tassel twirling of the large and lovely Dirty Martini to the bodacious boylesque of Monsieur Romeo to the mini motorcycle riding moxie of Selene Luna to neo-burlesque pioneer Catherine D’Lish’s curvy spider web crawl. Rounding out the vaudeville-meets-variety show skin-fest: Russian rubber-clad bad girl Lada, Josephine Baker lookalike Pearle Noir, and wisecracking drag king host Murray Hill, who dubbed the venue “House of Boobs” for the weekend. ALSO:
-- Lina Lecaro