I rarely get flustered by celebrities, since they’re my job. But every few years, some star rattles my core. This year, that core-rattler is Dita von Teese.
Her face. Her body. Her stage presence. Her voice (it’s womanly, seductive, velvet).
I don’t mean to objectify von Teese, but she is the world’s most famous burlesque dancer and fetish model.
And she’s performing with other dancers through Saturday at the House of Blues in her variety show, “Burlesque: Strip Strip Hooray!”
I just saw her perform amazingly (and mostly nude) a few months ago, about 6 feet in front of my eyes. So I tell her the truth: I can’t believe she’s in her 30s. She looks 20-something.
“I think that comes from my mother. If you see any pictures of my mother, you’ll see she looks very, very young,” von Teese says. “She doesn’t have any wrinkles.”
Von Teese stays in shape with Pilates mostly, plus ballet classes and a little yoga when she’s in the mood.
“The key is to stay active, to keep doing different things. I get bored easily.”
Over the past decade, she has spent about $100,000 perfecting every seven minutes of her stage act.
“That’s what makes me different from a pop star. This is my own money, my own financing. I don’t show up with a sequined outfit that cost a couple of thousand dollars,” she says.
No, she’s talking about $50,000 gowns.
Her clothes collection is insane. She has hundreds of couture shoes. Some were tailored for her by Christian Louboutin.
She has loads of insurance on her fashions, but also on her body.
“I have that same insurance that Betty Grable had – the Lloyds of London (policy, which) insured Betty Grable’s legs and all that kind of business back in the old days.”
She doesn’t hold onto guilty-pleasure clothes.
“I think I have an Adidas tracksuit in baby blue from the early ’90s, but I don’t know where it is.”
About as close as she gets to dressing like most people is on Halloween, when she dresses up as her manager.
“I wear jeans and I go borrow all of her stuff,” she says.
It feels bizarre and uncomfortable.
“I feel like it’s a lot of work putting on jeans, socks, a belt, a shirt. There’s so many pieces to this look, that looks casual. But it’s so much easier to put a dress on, put up the zipper and go.”
When she does the Halloween get-up, she also wears a blond wig. And guess what. As a blonde in jeans, more men approach her.
“I’ve learned it’s true: I am intimidating or unapproachable to men” as a brunette fetish model, she says.
“So I’ve had to force myself to become slightly more sexually aggressive in the past few years, whenever I’m single.”
What I most want to know about von Teese’s dating life: Isn’t it difficult to date men who can’t possibly be as well-dressed as her?
She says there’s some truth to that, but she suggests love and lust overrule fashion.
“I can go on a date with a guy and look at his belt and go, ‘Oh no!’ ” she says and laughs.
“But there’s no substitute for chemistry, whether it’s with a friend or a lover.”
Actually, she prefers friends to wear their own fashions – “who do not dress like me, or wear red lipstick … who don’t need to take on my persona.”
Likewise, she prefers men who don’t dress as if they’re in a 1940s movie.
“I like guys that have their own distinctive style.”
Here’s a funny story.
She once dated an actor. (She won’t name him.) And he was staying in character for an odd movie role, so when he went out with her, he wore his character’s weird outfit.
“I took him to this fetish party. I was all dressed up, like I normally am. And he was in character (for the movie). He had a fringe shirt with a wolf on it, and jeans, and extensions for a mullet.”
Von Teese says other people at the fetish party got confused and angry that she was “all over this guy in a wolf shirt.”
“But I was into him! It didn’t matter what he was wearing,” she says. “We had such sexual chemistry.”
Doug Elfman’s column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Email him at email@example.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.