Besides stripping and riding mechanical bulls, Dita Von Teese has a flair for keeping her burlesque act inside the mainstream — at the racy end, but just inside the mainstream. The above video features Dita's original mechanical bull act, which she created as a spokesmodel for Canadian cosmetics company MAC's Viva Glam campaign to raise funds and awareness to fight HIV/AIDS. She liked the act and bought her own mechanical bull, and that act is one of the highlights of her 2011 Burlesque: Strip Strip Hurray show, which hits the House of Blues tonight at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. (More here.)
Dita has done racier work. She is a former fetish model, and she used to perform frequently in strip clubs. She debuted her martini glass act in New Orleans at the Gold Club in 2001. But Dita has steered her career into celebrity and Hollywood. She told Gambit last year that she doesn't do fetish modeling anymore because it doesn't pay well, and she's moved on to much better gigs. She now has sponsors including Cointreau, she represented MAC's Viva Glam Campaign, she released lingerie lines with Wonderbra and Secrets in Lace, and she covers many of her outfits and props in another sponsor's product, Swarovski crystals.
She also noted last year that it's an odd double standard that she is considered more controversial than celebrities who "accidentally" leak sex tapes. Her act is cleaner and slightly more clothed than that. But then again, she likes the mantle of being risque.
Dita also believes scandal is a historic part of her trade. She notes that burlesque queens of the 1950s used to stage stunts to get arrested, because it helped their reputation. New Orleans dancer Kitty West, aka Evangeline the Oyster Girl, pulled such a stunt. She smashed the tank of a woman performing a routine in water and LIFE magazine printed photos from the event. That pr stunt helped propel West's career.
West told me in an interview years ago that at the height of her fame, she'd travel to perform in Las Vegas with 15 trunks full of clothes and wardrobe. And that's another way in which Dita has rediscovered fame and fortune in burlesque. Her pink velvet padded mechanical bull cost her $50,000, and she doesn't do the act often because it isn't the easiest piece of equipment to travel with, so she's on a brief tour of New Orleans and Texas with it this week.