Weekly Burlesque: Dita Von Teese Interview Part I

So, anyway, in all this, I started collecting vintage lingerie, and also vintage clothes, and sometime around then I found the “holy grail” of lingerie — a corset. Someone directed me to a fetish shop.

So seeing all the fetish magazines and talking to the people that worked there gave me the idea of being photographed in the same kind of retro spirit of Bettie Page, because, you have to understand, that this was about 1989-90, and it wasn’t being done even in that scene yet, so I had a this idea that I thought was pretty cool.

I was going to get to show off my vintage lingerie, and maybe get some free corsets in exchange! And meanwhile, at this time, I was a go-go dancer in the LA rave scene, and around OC in the best clubs, so I was also making up costumes for that, buying cheap vintage girdles and covering them in sequins, adding bows, etc…making things to wear for that.

And I did this performance-art piece that was quite known in the club scene at that time; it was a really neat, big, high-tech prop that was very space-age.

It was this techno-y cage with bars filled with water, and there I was inside it, and the whole machine with me in it would rise up about 20 feet in the middle of the dance floor, and I would pose and have these high-powered spotlights on my hands to add to the light shows in the clubs.

This was at the height of the Los Angeles rave scene, and it was exciting and I was known for this, and I was at all the big parties. It was pretty cool!

And I had long blonde Barbarella-type hair, still the same cat-eye red lip makeup I’m still sporting, and I wore a black thong and my friend Ava Garter would wrap me in a thin layer of plastic wrap and artfully arranged electrical tape.

But looking back, that contraption was a hazard! All that water, all that electricity. Ava and I go way back. We were the girlfriends of these big rave DJs and so, of course, we were the gogo girls! We met around 1989 and were inseparable.

I’m skipping around, but it’s all intertwined. When I turned 18, I posed for some French and Australian men’s magazines, and that photographer took me and Ava out to check out a “bikini bar” in OC, and we were totally intrigued, and especially excited about how much more money we might be able to make than we did dancing at rave parties, so we tried it out.

Our reasoning was that those girls weren’t doing anything racier than we were; they weren’t even stripping, just walking around in bikinis. So I took that job, but at the same time I kept up the department store job, the gogo dancing job, and the little fetish modeling jobs all at once.

To me, it was never, ever a plan to become a full-time model, or dancer; it was all a big adventure and an experience, and that was it. I was having fun and I was just trying to be the best fish in that little pond.

And having all kinds of things going on gave me the power to decide what I was going to do and what I wasn’t going to do, so I felt very nonchalant about it all. It was a hobby for the most part, and for years and years, I felt like it was all just temporary.

I saved and I invested my money from the very start. I never thought of it as “easy come, easy go.”

I figured that I would get married, have some babies, look back at my wild days and that was it. In the mid -’90s, I started posing for the Playboy newsstand special editions, and became quite known for that. As a star in the fetish scene, that’s when I started touring across the US from time to time as a feature dancer.

Catherine D’Lish and I met around that time because we had the same booking agent, and everywhere we went, people told us that we should meet because we were both doing burlesque-style shows, and most of the other circuit girls were porn stars that were much racier than we were onstage.

So anyway, we had sort of a “blind date” and decided to meet up and come together and do shows together, and so we did that for years. We were in it all together, and she did the costumes for my Playboy cover in 2002, and all my big show costumes.

To answer your question about what else I thought I might have been doing, well, I also had a brief stint at college and I studied pattern making and styling and historic costuming, so I thought at one point that I might do something either in fashion or in film as a stylist.

And at one point I was making hats, so millinery was of interest too. But my shows and modeling jobs and the opportunity to travel kept me from pursuing that.

I never, ever in a million years thought that I would be doing what I’m doing to this extent. I never had any plans of being a star or whatever; I was just having fun and making memories and trying to be the best that I could be.

In my mind, when I started, it was a hobby, and then maybe a way to make some extra money. I honestly thought that I was just going to marry my boyfriend, have some children, and reminisce about that short time in my life when I was dancing and posing for pinups.

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