Miss Dita Von Teese may not have been the type to be named homecoming queen when she was a student at University High in Irvine in 1990 (she was too busy staying home perfecting her craft and building the empire she now sits proudly on the throne of, after all) but she had a homecoming welcome fit for royalty while headlining the House of Blues in Anaheim on Tuesday. Instead of being being lauded by 17-year-old classmates at a football game and given a plastic crown that would be worthless by graduation, Von Teese earns a much higher distinction these days: sold out crowds filled with adoring, raving fans and, perhaps best of all, well-paying customers.
The crowd formed an extensive line snaking through an otherwise empty GardenWalk shopping center in Anaheim and into the (relatively) new location of the venue. The majority were dressed to the nines; the way one would dress when they knew they would be in the presence of royalty. And they were there in fact to see the Queen–the International Queen of Burlesque, that is–only this queen strips down to Swarovski crystal pasties and struts around next to nude to the sounds of a pageboy named Prince.
Her current tour, Dita Von Teese & The Copper Coupe (with contractual obligations to mention Absolut Vodka’s new Elyx beverage), made Orange County the second to last location on the national tour that’s been teese-ing the nation since the end of April (the grand finale is set for Thursday in Las Vegas).
The evening began, not with the poised and polished Dita, but instead with a large and lively emcee: Jonny McGovern. Somewhere at the intersection of a gay southern gospel preacher and a depraved John Goodman character, McGovern played host for the evening; serving as the fluffer for the crowd to raise their reverie in-between titillating sets.
This is not the type of show to sit idly by and remark how lovely Dita and company are, McGovern reminded the crowd. Instead, it’s a place to hoot and holler and cat call and do your best wolf whistle impersonation straight out of a Tex Avery cartoon. “I’m gettin’ you drunk tonight! Drunk on Dita Von Teese!” the showman barked.
The show revealed four exquisite new sets, routines and costumes from Dita, along with performances from an eclectic array of burlesque dancers embodying the diversity of the art form we see evolving today. While Von Teese may have set the standard for many what view as what a neo-burlesque dancer should look like, she says it’s crucial that her shows defy the exact mold she helped to cast.
“[The show] really kind of just stays within what I always wanted for burlesque,” Von Teese told the Weekly in a telephone interview before the show, “in which evolution was to be about diversity, and not just a show with a bunch of pin-up girls of a certain age. I wanted it to always be diversity, with respect to gender and age and ethnicity, body shape, everything. I think we’ve accomplished that very well.”
The performers,which Vonteese says she scours the ends of the earth for, are carefully curated to form a world class burlesque revue. “You’d think it would be easy because burlesque has become so big,” Von Teese said. “But it actually isn’t, for me, easy to find acts that I think strike a chord with people, and that are kind of changing the way we think about burlesque.”
Gia Genevieve, a bombshell blonde Playboy covergirl and model, performed Dita’s bejeweled claw-foot bathtub routine (who made getting clean look just as much fun as getting dirty). The exotic Zelia Rose from Australia showed us how they do it down under and performed a belly dancing routine with a firey take on the classic fan dance. The titillating Dirty Martini hypnotized the crowd with only a pair of tassels and her mesmerizing breasts. Jet Adore performed a cheeky Zorro inspired “boy-lesque” routine cutting the crowd with his mighty silver sword.
“My favorite thing is when we get standing ovations for our other performers that are not me, and when people find that their most memorable performance is not necessarily me,” Von Teese said. “I want people to feel like they had somebody that they felt like they could be a little bit like if they wanted to be.”
And of course, you can’t try to retell the experience of a Dita Von Teese show and not mention her Vontourage. Hip hop-trained dancers Alek Palinski and Elio Martinez appeared alongside Von Teese in her routines–dressed as tuxedoed valets or leather-strapped subs to Dita’s dominatrix–given the distinct honor of carrying away Dita’s clothing as she strips it off, piece by piece.
“When I first started performing burlesque, I always had girls picking up my outfits, and helping me take things off, and taking clothes and shoes away,” Von Teese explained. And then a few years ago, I just thought, ‘Why am I not twisting it and having boys do this for me?’ Because it’s kind of every girl’s fantasy.”
“It would just add a whole new element of intrigue and drama, you know? There’s something that was really satisfying about it–and a lot of fun–and people have enjoyed it.”
If you’d like to enjoy the sensual spectacle that is a Dita Von Teese show, you can attend the finale of “The Copper Coupe Tour” at the House of Blues in Las Vegas on Thursday. At the end of the evening, McGovern officially announced Dita will be performing at the historic Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles (open since 1926!) on New Year’s Eve. Stay tuned to Dita Von Teese’s social media for further details on tickets when they are officially announced.
When not running the OCWeekly.com and OC Weekly’s social media sites, Taylor “Hellcat” Hamby can be found partying like it’s 1899.