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Suicide Girls Interview w/Daniel Robert Epstein 05.10.06

topic posted Sat, February 10, 2007 - 5:17 PM by  ★Wednesdey★
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Suicide Girls Interview w/Daniel Robert Epstein

Dita Von Teese author of The Art of the Teese
By Daniel Robert Epstein
May 10, 2006

Dita Von Teese is one of the most beautiful and sexy women alive today. She is a SuicideGirls favorite for her breakthrough work in burlesque performance, fetish posing and being married to a music icon. Her famous figure can be found on display all over the internet and fetish magazines but now she has showcased her humor and intelligence in the double sided book Burlesque and the Art of the Teese/Fetish and the Art of the Teese.

Buy The Art of the Teese
Daniel Robert Epstein: Hi Dita.
Dita Von Teese: Hello, are you recording or taking notes?
DRE:
Recording.
DVT:
Good, I get real nervous about those people that write things down.
DRE:
I'm an Internet writer. We never put anything down on paper.
DVT:
Oh good. British journalists, as they like to call themselves, like to write down everything in their own words.
DRE:
Yeah. You just came back from the UK, right?
DVT:
I'm always really just coming back from there though. I'm on my way there on Tuesday. That's probably where I work the most.
DRE:
Why is that?
DVT:
I'm more famous there. I'm in the tabloids and the newspapers on a regular basis there. Maybe that's why. So therefore I get booked at more events. Also our dollar is weak there.
DRE:
I read your last SuicideGirls interview and the book was meant to come out a while ago. Why did it get delayed?
DVT:
It took a lot more time than we expected to secure all the rights to the photos. Also it's published by Regan Books and they seem to have a high employee turnaround rate. So I went through like eight editors which made the process much longer. But I think the timing's actually better than ever and I feel like everything has worked out the way that it should.
DRE:
Why did the photos of you have to be cleared?
DVT:
I don't own all of my images. It's important to me to retain ownership of a lot of my images that I shoot for my website especially, but we wanted to include the pictures that Ellen von Unwerth has taken and a lot of other famous photographers. We wanted to include all these photos that I did for fashion magazines and also with Playboy. I wanted to use a really broad range of photos. I didn't want to be limited and it's difficult sometimes to get clearance for those images. I did have to do a little bit of begging every now and then. I felt free to call people and ask them "Please, oh please, can I use that picture?" Usually the people that you have to do that with are the ones that aren't very famous. I had the hardest time with people that weren't high-paid, big-name photographers. The people that get finicky over their images are the ones that shouldn't be as much.
DRE:
That's really funny.
DVT:
Yeah. Somebody that took just photos of my show that I did in some small town somewhere and was really funny about letting me use the images.
DRE:
You're like "Who do you think you are?"
DVT:
I try not to use that "Who do you think you are" language. But it's a little bit like "Well, I let you photograph my show. I didn't let anyone else shoot it. I let you shoot it."
DRE:
I saw the Asia Argento movie your husband is in.
DVT:
Oh yeah. I haven't seen that one yet actually.
DRE:
It's really painful but beautiful.
DVT:
I think he lost interest in it when he found out it wasn't a true story. We felt duped because we met J.T. Leroy and everything.
DRE:
It's almost embarrassing.
DVT:
Yeah. I read the book cover to cover in one sitting and I have a hard time looking back and thinking, "Why did somebody make this up? Why make up more ugliness in the world when there's so much already?" I don't know why someone would write something like that for kicks.
DRE:
Obviously there are two sides to your book with the fetish and burlesque. Do you look at what you do as having two sides?
DVT:
Yes, I do but I feel like they're all relative as well. It was difficult to separate the two because there are so many fetishistic elements in the burlesque side and classic nostalgic pin-up elements in the fetish side. I feel like they're all very similar but I thought it would be interesting thing to write two stories. It's all about the photos, but I wanted to write text in it. I wanted to explain what I think about burlesque and how I see it and why I got into it and the same thing with fetishism. I wanted people to see it in another light because you hear people talk about burlesque a lot. They talk about how it's art and it was all beautiful and it was all good girls and that it was a kinder, gentler time but in reality it wasn't really that way. I think people have lost sight of that because a lot of women that are performing neo burlesque now want to make sure that people think they're not a stripper because they're afraid of that word. I feel like people are trying to candy coat it a little bit even though in reality burlesque was a pretty risqué show in its time. They were bouncing around in G-Strings and pasties in the 30's and I think people forget how racy it was. Also with fetishism I felt like so many people look at fetishism as being about bootlicking and hurting people and whips and chains. I want to portray an elegant fetishism. One of the things that I love is that I want to know the history about everything I've become involved with whether it's fashion or hair or makeup and movies. I like knowing about how old movies were made, how things have changed and how they're made now. I think it's interesting to look at the past.
DRE:
Do you see burlesque as a fetish as well?
DVT:
Well because I started doing what I do in 1990 and everyone's talking about the Bettie Page movie right now and it's 16 years later. I feel like the fetishists have always gotten burlesque and understood burlesque a little bit better than the rest of the world. It takes the mainstream a long time to accept something or to even discover it. To me they're similar because fetishists have always appreciated corset wearing and girls in girdles and women with a nostalgic, fetish look. That's why I think that there's a parallel with burlesque and fetishism.
DRE:
I read that you never wear sweatpants, is that true?
DVT:
I don't wear sweatpants as casual wear. I have sweatpants that I sell on my site that are real cute that have my martini glass logo. I wear them over my costume to keep my legs warm when I'm getting ready for a show. But I don't look at sweatpants as fashion. A lot of people think that's something you should pick out as fashion but it's not for me. I don't really like dressing that way. If I want to be comfortable, I'll wear a cashmere robe or a little vintage slip. I feel like you see all these girls walking around wearing UGG Boots and sweatpants which they spent a fortune on. I don't understand why they put forth so much effort to look casual.
DRE:
It sounds like you were very hands on with your book.
DVT:
I wanted to be because people have done other books about me and I've seen the end result. I really wanted this book to be something where I could turn every page and be proud of it. I think it's a good overview of my work over the past 16 years. I'm working on another book because I have lots of books I want to do. Eventually when I'm 70 I'll write my scathing autobiography and dish all the dirt on everyone.
DRE:
That'll be really interesting. I can't wait.
DVT:
It'll be awhile.
DRE:
The text in your book was obviously secondary to the photos but it was still really interesting. It is almost a how-to book.
DVT:
Yeah. I wanted it to be a fun, light, easy read. I think I had that instilled in my brain because they tried to make me take the text out. They said, "No one's going to read it. They just want to look at the pictures." I thought they might be right but I'm glad they left it in because it turns out a lot of people are enjoying it.

I had a hard time writing the book and thinking "Oh, there's going to be people that are going to hate that I wrote this." I had to come to terms with the fact that not everything is going to be what everyone agrees with. People aren't always going to agree with what I have said or what I condone. A lot of women are going to say, "I don't have time to put on red lipstick and high heels everyday." I'm thinking, "But I'm just writing what I like and why I like it." Whenever you try to appeal to everyone, you cannot win and you'll never win. So I wrote it the way I wanted to write it.
DRE:
Cosmo magazine is a hell of a lot worse than anything you would've written.
DVT:
Yeah, but it's different. When a girl's reading Cosmo it's different. They're reading it as a general thing. But when someone's reading what I wrote and the whole book is my opinion on everything, then there might be some stuff they don't like.
DRE:
When you first said there's going to be a few people upset I thought it might be because you're giving away all the good secrets or something like that.
DVT:
No. There were some things my editor hesitated at me writing about like Chinese foot binding and things like that. They were really afraid of a few things. But I thought, "Well I'm writing about fetishism. I have to talk about all different angles of it." I was surprised of the things they wanted me to take out, but in the end I left everything the way that I wanted it.
DRE:
You wrote a list of your favorite perverts, if that was in descending order then seamed stocking fetishists are your favorites.
DVT:
Yeah. I've met so many of these fetishists over the years and I love talking to them and hearing them describe their fetish and reading their letters to me. I really enjoy those people.
DRE:
You wrote that you learn of a new fetish everyday.
DVT:
Well, almost everyday. I learned of a new one the other day though.
DRE:
What was it?
DVT:
I have this gentleman who writes me letters about his fantasies where I wear the rarest and exotic furs in the world. He writes that I should be wearing the rarest animals and birds and enjoying their beauty. He's really obsessed with fur and the rarer, the better.
DRE:
That's an expensive fetish.
DVT:
More than that, that's one that really upsets people too. I'm definitely not condoning that I want to go out and club a bunch of seals or something. He wrote out a script of what he'd like to see me doing, like rolling around on these exotic furs. At the end of his letter he wrote "Dita, have you ever littered? I would be so turned on at the sight of an elegantly dressed woman just throwing trash out into the green meadow." I thought, "Wow. I've never heard of a littering fetish." But he went on to describe that he would love to see a video of me throwing trash out of my car or throwing trash on the grass while I'm dressed in high heels, stockings and a beautiful dress. I don't understand that one but I love hearing about it.
DRE:
It sounds like he's into really rich women.
DVT:
Personally I would never litter. I get really upset when people litter.
DRE:
You're okay with fur but the littering is a no go.
DVT:
I'm okay with some fur and I'm okay with my vintage fur. I've put a halt with my personal self on actively bringing new fur into my life. But that's my choice. I'm never going to be anti-fur. Pamela Anderson wanted to rip my coat off me the other night.
DRE:
Oh really?
DVT:
Yeah. She was like "How can you wear that fur around me?" I was like "I'm sorry. I'll take it off." I threw it in the trash.
DRE:
There are a lot of burlesque tours now, SuicideGirls included. Have you seen any of them?
DVT:
I feel like I've seen a lot of the neo burlesque scene and I've seen some of the video of the SuicideGirls. I've seen a lot of authentic burlesque footage too. The only thing I'm offended by would be the media's use of the word burlesque to describe a style. I think troupes or clubs that have girls just dancing around in fishnets and hot pants is not burlesque. Burlesque was about the striptease. I hear all these quotes coming out of people's mouths like "We're classy. We don't take off our clothes." I'm thinking "How insulting to say that Gypsy Rose Lee was a slut because she was a stripper" and she was the greatest stripper of all time. She was a mainstream star. She was as famous as any other star in that time in the 40's. She did do a striptease and she did show some skin. When I hear people using the word burlesque to describe doing booty shake dances to a vintage song, I get a little bit offended. It's like a red flag that they haven't read anything about the history of burlesque.
DRE:
Did you discover most of this on your own or did you have a mentor?
DVT:
I started working in a strip club when I was 18 years old. By that time I was already dressing in vintage clothes and my hair was vintage style and I wore red lipstick. I was very interested in vintage-style pinup and dressing like Bettie Page. So I was already involved in this whole nostalgic, retro pinup thing. I immediately started reading about burlesque and wanting to know more about it. That's how I developed my act. I met Dixie Evans, who runs the Exotic World Burlesque Museum that is now going to be in Vegas and some of the old time stars of burlesque. Then two years later I met my best friend Catherine D'Lish who was a burlesque performer who makes all my costumes now. After I met her, we started making big serious shows with props and more elaborate costumes. That was around 1993 and I was already on the cover of a lot of fetish magazines and I was touring the US and headlining strip clubs with my show.
DRE:
I read that some people didn't think that your shows were fetish in the beginning.
DVT:
In the very beginning I did Torture Garden and the Rubber Ball and I did a Feather Fan Dance. Some people were saying, "What's fetish about this?" The funniest part is that now ten years later, all those clubs are all-burlesque all the time. But at first I did take a little bit of a beating in the fetish community because people didn't know why I was there and why I was performing with feather fans and rhinestones and feathers. They wanted to see latex and whips and everything. As for the SuicideGirls show, I think it's really great that people take burlesque to another level. I don't feel like everyone should be doing burlesque the way I do it or the way it was done in the past. But I do feel that if you're going to perform it, don't discount the striptease. The SuicideGirls definitely do not discount the striptease. The only way that burlesque can really evolve and survive is if people bring something new to it and make it interesting for people. I think it's important for people to have new ideas for shows and not just be stuck in the past.
DRE:
I'm no expert by far. Do you get completely naked in your shows or can you not because of the venues?
DVT:
I have done shows completely nude because I did all these strip clubs when I first started headlining, but I always did it in a way where I left a little mystery. But really I only did that because people expected it of me because I was in strip clubs where the other girls were totally nude. In the past seven years or so I've done it with pasties and a G-string. I just did a big charity event for the LA Lakers and there were kids there. I asked the promoter if I should tone it down. They were like, "Nope. They know what they're here to see."
DRE:
Wow. So it went over fine?
DVT:
Yes it did. Everybody wants what the other venue had. They don't want to get gypped. So they always want me to do the same show that I did at another party that they were at or something.
DRE:
Have you seen the Bettie Page movie yet?
DVT:
No, I haven't but I feel like I should be getting a check any day for all the press I've been doing on it. I've been doing all these interviews and they're showing clips of the movie and then talking to me about it. From the trailer it looks like Gretchen Mol did an amazing job. I do know that Bettie Page saw the movie and was not happy about it at all. I have lots of friends that were at the Playboy mansion when they showed the screening of it and she was basically hurling insults at the screen. But I'm glad that people will know about Bettie Page a little more than they did before. Over the past 16 years I've had people calling me Cleopatra and then suddenly when the E! channel did the story about Bettie Page, people were like "Oh, Bettie Page." It's like the normal people of the world are going to be calling probably half of the SuicideGirls Bettie Pages now. They're all going to know who Bettie Page is. That could be a good thing or a bad thing, but I know how it feels.
DRE:
Are you still into Bettie?
DVT:
Yeah. I've always been into her. We instantly recognize her with the black hair and the bangs. Her image was so amazing and it was really modern for the 1950's and I feel like it translates and can even look modern now. But to be honest though, my major influences are different. I have different people that I look to for inspiration but in the 90's I went through a period where I was very interested in Bettie Page and everything that she did. But for what I do and my performances, I usually look to 1940's film stars and song and dance girls. I'm people that I might not necessarily be trying to look like. For me inspiration comes from finding out what the spirit of that person was and not so much trying to mimic what they were. When I think about why I love Bettie Page, I don't think so much about what she looks like and how she dressed, but why do we still care so much about her? She certainly wasn't the only one that was wearing those clothes and shooting bondage photos. She was one of hundreds of girls doing that. But there was something about her that made her unique and special. Looking at why that is, is what's more important than just looking at the aesthetic.
DRE:
I was surprised to see that you're not in [Marilyn Manson's film] Phantasmagoria [The Visions of Lewis Carroll].
DVT:
I really try to separate myself from the stuff that he does unless it's completely and utterly appropriate. Unless there's the perfect part in the movie for me, then I don't think I should be in it. I want his movie to be as good as it can be so I'm not begging him to write me a part into it. If the right part is in it, then I'll do it. But if not, then I don't mind either way. I don't think that just because I'm his wife, he has to find a part for me in his movie. I've done a few independent films and I have a few scripts that other people have written that are really exciting.
DRE:
Like what?
DVT:
One called The Black Dahlia Avenger, which is the true story of the Black Dahlia.
DRE:
Do they have a director for that?
DVT:
Yes, his name is William Eggleston III.
DRE:
I guess he's related to the photographer William Eggleston.
DVT:
Yep. That's in the works and a couple of other interesting things. I love acting but I really would be happier being known for what I do. I'd rather people know me for being a burlesque dancer and a pinup model than an actress. I don't feel any great desire to be known as an actress. But I enjoy it when the script is right and when it's an interesting story. I don't really want to beat down Hollywood's doors for a TV show or a silly movie.
DRE:
Here is some British gossip I read about you, are you considering getting more plastic surgery?
DVT:
No. In fact I think I read the same thing where it said something like "I want to stay hot for my husband so I get plastic surgery." That's silly. I basically said what I feel about plastic surgery because everybody knows that I had my breasts done. It's no secret and why should it be a secret? It's like the last taboo to be liberated. People have been having plastic surgery for over 100 years. They were trying to reshape people's noses in the late 1800's. I have about six books about beauty that were written between the 1920's and the1930's. They all talk about plastic surgery as an option. So I wouldn't put people down for having plastic surgery. I don't know why people are so afraid to admit what they've had done especially when it's so obvious sometimes. I was just saying that I would not judge anyone for having plastic surgery and I would never say never. Maybe 20 years from now I might say, "Oh. Maybe a little more plastic surgery." But I haven't had anything else done but my breasts. I've been too scared to even get Botox even though I make jokes about getting it all the time.

by Daniel Robert Epstein

SG Username: AndersWolleck
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★Wednesdey★
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  • Dita von Teese by Laura Nixon

    Dita von Teese by Laura Nixon
    By Laura Nixon
    Dec 6, 2004

    Many know her as the fiancée of Marilyn Manson(not anymore) but Dita von Teese is not just a pretty face. She is a world renowned burlesque artist, performing her infamous martini glass routine at some of the most exclusive events across America and Europe. She has been a fetish model for over a decade but only recently has she been featured more in the mainstream as people have begun to appreciate the elegance and vintage looks of this delightful woman.
    Laura Nixon: What led you to first deciding you wanted to be a model and how did you get started?
    Dita von Teese: I have been a fan of 1940's musicals since I was a very young girl, and I always wanted to dress like the women I admired in these films.... Hedy Lamarr, Betty Grable and Gene Tierney, Rita Hayworth to name a few. Later on as a teenager I started looking for vintage pinup images in books and old nudie magazines, and when I was 18, I began recreating some of these types of nostalgic photos for fun, and around 1992, near the start of the internet, I began a website with these photos.
    I wandered into a fetish store sort of by accident in 1990 in search of a Victorian corset, and that's how I became interested and motivated to become a fetish model.
    I was shocked that at that time there wasn't anyone emulating Bettie Page, although she clearly had many many fans, so that's another reason I started taking fetish photos. I liked the fact that the nudity wasn't what fetishists were after so much as the exotic clothing.
    LN:
    How did you get involved in burlesque?
    DvT:
    As I said, I loved pinups from the 30s and 40s, and I had all of these men's magazines from the era, and they were filled with racy photos of burlesque dancers. I started working in a strip club when I was 19, and I was the only dancer around wearing seamed stockings, corsets and actually undressing onstage rather than simply strolling out in a spandex dress and bikini! People generally thought I was a little crazy, but I had a great time dressing and undressing, planning costumes for the stage. I began developing more of a real act, and once I had become more visible in the fetish scene and known from my appearances in Playboy's Newsstand specials, I had some recognition as a magazine model and so I began touring as a headlining act in strip clubs all over the US. This was a bit before the big "burlesque revival" took off, around 1994.
    LN:
    Do you prefer intimate photo shoots or the thrill of live performance?
    DvT:
    Both are fun in their own ways...I love live performance because I get to meet my fans, and performing is where my heart is.
    Most of the photo shoots I do aren't very intimate, there are usually between ten to twenty people on the set.....but I've been having a good time doing these fashion shoots and having the opportunity to wear these extraordinary couture gowns and millions of dollars worth of diamonds!
    LN:
    Looking back, did you ever think that you'd be where you are today when you first started?
    DvT:
    Not at all, it's pretty surreal.... I am grateful every day for the success I've had, and for how lucky I am to have such amazing opportunities.
    I grew up wanting to be a 40's starlet...a showgirl, and somehow it all worked out better than I could have hoped. It's unbelievable to me! It seems like I'm always on a set saying, "I can't believe I'm here. I can't believe they are letting me wear these clothes and these jewels!" I'm really a small town girl from Michigan who has a good laugh that being a fancy-pants stripper got me here!
    LN:
    You have worked with some of the world's most famous photographers, have any of them managed to capture you in the same way you perceive yourself?
    DvT:
    I like to see the differences between each photographer; each has a different style and obtains a different end result.
    I liked the photos that were taken of me for Vogue in Paris earlier this year; they were taken with one of those big antique 8x10 sized cameras. I was also very happy to be the subject of three Pierre et Gilles portraits, which was a great experience, as I have been a longtime fan of their work.
    LN:
    Having traveled all over the world, you must have seen many beautiful places but is there one that has been particularly breathtaking/inspirational?
    DvT:
    Paris. I go there four to six times a year and I always feel as though I could stay there forever. I love its beauty, its history, and also the Parisians' appreciation of elegance, art and fashion, and their pride in their city. I live it in the wintertime, when the Eiffel Tower is lit with twinkling lights! It's a magical place.
    LN:
    What do you do to relax after a long photo shoot or performance?
    DvT:
    I have a huge, deep spa bathtub, so I sit there for a good long time, usually with all four of my pets sitting near the edge of the tub!
    It takes a while to unwind after a show, so I am usually up until four or five in the morning.
    LN:
    In recent years you have received a lot of mainstream media coverage. Do you feel this had made the modeling industry become more accepting of more alternative styles?
    DvT:
    I am flattered that you would say so, I don't know. For many years I thought I was never going to be on any covers except fetish and alternative magazine covers, and that has changed.
    LN:
    How do you feel about the increasing number of burlesque troupes that are performing across the world and do you feel you have played a part in this revival?
    DvT:
    In 1993 when I started performing burlesque there were only a handful of other performers, and now there are countless acts and troupes, and beyond that, all of Hollywood is jumping on the bandwagon! I remember doing burlesque shows in the fetish scene around 1997 in the midst of fire and piercing shows, and some people criticized my act as not being "fetish" enough, and now burlesque is a standard thing to have at every fetish party. They finally get it! I think it's great that there are burlesque acts all over the world for people to see, and I think that with more and more performers getting into it, the shows get better and the bar is raised for the quality of the shows.
    LN:
    What do you feel has been the key to your success?
    DvT:
    Remembering that everyone can be replaced by someone younger, more beautiful, and more talented...so it's important to not take anything for granted, and to continue to work hard, evolve, and above all, be pleasant to be around. It's also key to be unique, and not just to copy what makes someone else successful, but to realize that it comes from being your own person.
    LN:
    Do you particularly admire anyone's work (past or present)?
    DvT:
    Of course. I look up to Gypsy Rose Lee, Lili St. Cyr, Sally Rand....and I admire my best friend Catherine D'Lish. She's got terrific shows, and she makes all of my stage costumes.
    LN:
    What are your favorite pastimes?
    DvT:
    I have two classic cars, a 1939 Chrysler and a 1965 Jaguar S-type, so I love to spend the day or evening out and about driving them.
    I love to go to antique flea markets on weekends to shop for art deco collectables. I collect all sorts of things...rare antique hats with real birds on them, vintage powder compacts, bakelite jewelry, vintage dresses and burlesque memorabilia. I have this funny item that Sally Rand, the fan dancer, used to sell as a souvenir at her shows. It's a knit penis cover! It says something like, "men's winter underwear for chilly nights!" and it's a perfectly shaped knit penis cover, still in the gift box with a note from Sally to a fan. That's a pretty racy bit of merchandise for 1939, no?
    LN:
    You seem to have a very unique style. Is there anywhere you look for inspiration whilst creating this look?
    DvT:
    I always look to films and photographs from the 30's and 40s, and I collect books and catalogs full of vintage fashion. I love the old Frederick's of Hollywood catalogs, which have wonderful dresses and the best lingerie! There is a woman who reproduces these things for me, as authentic vintage in good condition is getting harder and harder to find.
    I also love modern designers like Jean Paul Gaultier, Galliano, and Marc Jacobs. I recently went to the shows at Paris fashion week and thought I'd died and gone to heaven!
    LN:
    Have you got any major projects lined up for the future?
    DvT:
    I've just shot two major fashion ad campaigns for spring 2005. I recently shot a cover and pictorial for Style Monte Carlo which was on location at The Crazy Horse in Paris, which is one of my favorite burlesque revues; it's been running every night since 1951 and it has such an amazing history and unique style.
    I have a fashion story coming out in the UK's Tatler magazine, and another for W magazine. This winter I am doing a lot of parties for the fashion set, and planning a special event for the Los Angeles area at the Queen Mary to debut my two new burlesque acts.
    A DVD series of my striptease acts is being released this winter, along with a re-release with bonus footage of the 1930's style bondage serial Dita in Distress.
    My book "The Art of the Teese" will be out spring 2005, and my pinup style cookbook also published with Harper-Collins is due for publication in fall 2005.
    There are lots of other big projects are in the works that I can't yet disclose!

    For further information about Dita von Teese, visit her fan club.

    By Laura Nixon
    SG username: Perversia

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