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Cheers! Welcome to Virgin Hotels Chicago.

Cheers! Thank you, thank you. I love it when it’s just extra icy cold and extra effervescent.

Is champagne always your go-to?

I like to drink tequila, too. I like a lot of different kinds of drinks, but champagne is what I drink before I’m about to go on stage. I’ve tried other kinds of booze and nothing gives you that lift and that joyful, special feeling. I used to experiment and think, “I should have a little vodka because it’s probably better for the stomach and the corsets,” but [champagne] really gives you a different feeling, a joyful feeling onstage.

Do you still like absinthe?

Yeah I do! I like to cook with it actually. I have this dish that I love to make. It’s a vegetable saffron absinthe pot pie. I love that flavor, but I have to say it took me a long time to drink it again after getting divorced from my ex-husband [Marilyn Manson] who was a huge absinthe fan. It’s been over a decade. It’s okay now. It’s just a nice drink. It gets you drunk faster. That’s for sure.

You’re on tour for your burlesque show, “The Art of the Teese.” What is your pre-show ritual?

Champagne is one of them. The show usually starts at 8 or 8:30 [p.m.], depending on the venue and I like to get there really early. Sometimes at 3 o’clock because the time just goes by really fast. I like to be able to hang out, take my time and not have to be rushed at all so I can get ready in a leisurely way, stretch, talk to people and listen to music. I like to take forever. I don’t take that long to get ready really, but it’s just better to be calm and because you never know what’s going to happen either.

What is the craziest, most unexpected thing that has happened pre-show?

We could be missing a costume piece and it’s like, “What am I going to do without the skirt?” or, “Underwear is gone, what am I going to do now?” Things like that. You want to have all of your ducks in a row and be ready.

Dita Von TeeseDita Von Teese

 

I love that you do your own hair and makeup and that you don’t need a glam squad.

I like working with a glam squad occasionally for certain photo shoots, but backstage I’ve tried working with people… even people who are friends that do hair and makeup and it always ends up being a rush. Also, I don’t want to hear somebody’s cellphone. It’s just me, painting. It’s a process. I like the quiet time. I just have my dresser who I’ve known for 30 years. We’ve known each other forever, since we were teenagers. It’s just perfect. When you have too many people in the mix they get really into what they are doing and they forget that there are all of these other things that have to happen. Before I’ve been like, “Hurry, you’ve got to finish this hair. I gotta go on stage.” I don’t want to feel like that. I’d rather blame myself if I’m running late, not someone else.

Did you ever imagine your life would be this big?

No, never, never. I was just, you know, working in a strip club. I was doing striptease – pin-up style – and taking photos and I was doing it for fun. I was 19 years old and having a good time, I felt like I was documenting the height of my beauty. [Laughs] It’s really funny, when you’re young you don’t really realize how much further you have to go and how you can evolve in your sensuality, sexuality and your wit and wisdom and how all of that goes into what makes you sexy. When you’re 20 you just think, “Oh, my butt looks good! That means I’m the sexiest girl in the world.” … Take care of yourself. I got some good advice once from someone who said, “Just don’t ever let it go. Don’t stop exercising, don’t stop eating well, don’t stop using sunscreen, just be consistent.” You can have fun, but be consistent in what you do. I like discipline.

Was there any part of you that had dreams of being a star?

I just wanted to be like my idols. I wanted to do something cool that nobody else was doing. I wanted to be different, I wanted to be glamorous because I grew up very plain Jane, blond from a farming town in Michigan with sisters that were prettier and more outgoing than me. I just wanted to have power and I think glamour did that for me. The art of creation and morphing myself into what I always wanted to be gave me confidence that I didn’t have before. I didn’t really think, “I’m going to be famous one day.” I never said that. I just wanted to be my best at what I was doing in the moment and I thought I was doing something cool that nobody was doing.

Dita Von TeeseDita Von Teese

Did you feel like you fit in in high school?

I had one really good friend and we both worked in the same store; we were both dressed in vintage. We weren’t hugely popular. We just kind of kept to ourselves. People thought we were cool, but I wasn’t very social in high school. I had my boyfriend that went to another school and she had her boyfriend who was like 24 or something and she was 16. [Laughs] Just [the two of us] in our lives, working retail and our boyfriends.

Are you two still friends?

Yeah! I have a lot of long-term friends.

You’ve talked about how when you exit a relationship you should leave with dignity. Can you tell us how to do that?

Yeah! [Laughs] I mean I’ve had a lot of big breakups. Like big, crazy ones because I’ve had a lot of long-term relationships. The longer you are in it, the harder it is, right? My tips… no calls, no texting, zero contact for 30 days, like none. I would go to great lengths: deleting the number, making sure there was no trail of it on my computer or phone. Writing it down though and giving it to a friend and saying, “Don’t give this to me until after 30 days and we’ll see,” because being in love is a little bit like being on drugs. You think, “This is so great,” and you’re used to all of these things and as soon as it’s taken away it’s like withdrawal. You think, “What am I going to do now? Everyone is going to think I’m worthless because I don’t have a partner.” It’s easy to feel like that. I think that when you let some of the withdrawal symptoms go away you can make smart decisions about whether you should be with that person or not but you have to let time pass before you can make those decisions because those feelings are really intense. There is a great book that I learned that from that I really liked and it’s called “It’s Called a Breakup Because It’s Broken.” It’s really funny. It’s clever and there is some solid advice in there. It got me through a couple of big breakups.

Dita Von Teese

What is breakup tip number two?

The other thing I would do is learn a new hobby. After my last big breakup, I decided I was going to ride a horse because I had never ridden a horse [before]. I thought, “Okay, I get to get a cool outfit.” I was really excited. I got the great pants and the boots and I’d look hot leaving the stable in my custom-made boots and pants in English attire. For that hour and a half, it required total focus because I was scared too. I was scared of getting kicked, scared of falling off and it just required the physical focus, the mental focus and learning about horses and how to groom them and everything. It helped me a lot. I thought, “Wow for two hours I wasn’t thinking at all about that drama that I have.” You come out a better person. You think, “I’m superhuman. I learned a new craft.” Every time that happens I’m going to just learn something new and make myself better and focus on things that make me a better person and also take stock of the things that I would do differently in the next relationship because it’s all a learning experience. No matter who might seem to be at fault there is still something to learn and take in a new relationship that makes you better at it.

I love that you are able to stay friends with exes. 

Well, I think it takes time sometimes. I wasn’t friends with my ex-husband. It took us three years and then we could be around each other and talk to each other and then it’s like all of those feelings go away. They totally go away. And not everybody. I don’t want to be friends with all of my exes. I’m only friends with my exes that I feel like are people that I would want to hang around regardless. The people I think are clever, talented or funny. People that have attributes, because the ones I just liked having sex with… why do I want to [stay friends]? There are a few that were just pretty boys that were great for their purpose but I don’t have any reason to hang out with them.

How many times have you been in love?

Well, it’s hard to say. I’ve definitely felt like I was in love but it was just infatuation. When you step out of it, actually, when I’m in it I can recognize the infatuation phase… which I love. It’s, again, that drug feeling. You’re not in love, you’re infatuated. I read this whole amazing story about birth control pills and how they affect our ability to choose the right mate and that’s why I thought, “No birth control ever again.” It was some “Time” article and I was stunned. It struck a chord with me because I thought, “This is why I keep going back and forth with this guy,” because I’d go on the pill and off the pill and I’d be into him and then not into him. It was really real. They did a big study about that and how it affects your ability to choose the right mate.

Dita Von Teese

What are some of your biggest turnoffs?

Narcissism or trash talking, especially with girls. When I hear girls talk about how ugly some other girl is or just trash talking people… I love the refusal of engagement and watching people realize I won’t engage and then they feel stupid. I see that a lot with younger girls.  It doesn’t make you prettier or more interesting if you trash someone. Listen, I’ve got my enemies as much as anybody else, but I have a real purpose behind why I don’t like a person.

Would you say Valentine’s Day is a Hallmark holiday?

I don’t know. I think romance every day matters more.

What was the most romantic moment in your life?

There are a whole bunch of them that I can think of. Different men in my life where I thought, “Wow, that was really romantic.” Songs written about me, that’s nice and romantic. I’ve had someone write my name in the snow, that’s romantic. The most romantic thing ever I can’t really say because I look at the relationship instead of those moments, you know? There are cute little things that men have done for me that I would never want to be with again, but it was a real romantic moment in the moment.

Dita Von Teese

What is the most fun or memorable drink you’ve had?

The first thing that came to mind… I was having a drink with my friend Christian Louboutin. This is an amazing moment and I’ll never forget it. I always have a great time having a drink with him, but we were talking and we are in New York and suddenly I spot Lauren Bacall across the room. I was really like a deer in headlights. Christian was like, “What is wrong? What is wrong?” And then he said, “Oh, you just saw Lauren Bacall.” He said, “Listen, she is going to come over here, do not talk to her, she does not like young women, she is very old Hollywood like that, just don’t talk to her.” I thought, “Okay! Okay!” While she is on her way over Karl Lagerfeld is crossing her and he clips her shoulder, doesn’t see who she is or doesn’t realize and she is like, “Excuse you.” She [gets to our table and] puts her hands down on our table and looks me dead in the eye like this… she goes, “Pardon me for interrupting your cocktail hour,” or something like that and then looks over to Christian and starts talking to him. It was amazing. I’ll never forget that. Because for me that is one of my idols, the last threads of classic 1940s Hollywood. That was her. It was astonishing, the fact that she looked me right in the eye and apologized. That was a moment.

How did you become friends with Christian Louboutin?

I was performing in London at the Natural History Museum of all places. He was there and he wanted to meet me. I met him and he designed a shoe after me after that. Then we met in Paris and had kind of a blind date set up. I was really nervous. We were both kind of quiet and shy and then suddenly I don’t remember what happened but we realized we were birds of a feather and we’ve been super close friends ever since. He’s a really funny, engaging, wonderful and obviously talented person. Really one of these great people that won’t suffer fools. He doesn’t care how famous or rich you are. He will not suffer fools which I love. I’ve watched him shoot down people, because he just likes who he likes. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or famous or who you are, he likes people that are funny or engaging. 

How was working with Richard Branson when you helped Virgin Atlantic celebrate 10 years of flying to Las Vegas?

He was so amazing, really, don’t you agree? I did two things with Virgin and then I had dinner with him one night in London. He was so great. The advice he gave me was, “Never meet your idols. You’ll be so disappointed!” I thought, “I’ve never been disappointed by meeting my idols.” Even when your idols are total assholes it’s kind of great because then you have a story. You want it to be a little bit difficult, otherwise what is the fun in it? I have a couple of friends who have stories about meeting their idols and how their idol like pushed them out of the way or whatever. You just have to have a sense of humor about it. 

Dita Von Teese

How was meeting your idol Madonna?

I met her three times and every time I was just terrified. The first time my ex-husband and I were invited to one of her parties. He didn’t want to go and said, “Go on your own.” I went on my own because I thought, “I’m not missing this.” Someone said, “Do you want to meet Madonna now?” I went over and she had a martini in her hand and those big eyes. You’re never ready for it. You’re not ready for the beauty of Madonna, first of all. So she had a martini and those huge Madonna eyes and she says to me, “Where’s Manson?” I said, “Oh, he didn’t feel like coming out tonight.” She goes, “Don’t you just hate boys sometimes?” Another time she kind of called me over and started talking to me about babies and she told me not to let motherhood pass me by. I thought that was interesting. Although, I kind of am letting it pass me by because I’m too scared in this day and age. She gave me baby advice and I thought that was kind of amazing. 

Madonna is also from Rochester Hills, Michigan.

There was some “American Bandstand” or something, her first TV appearance ever, and they asked her something about her career and she goes, “I just wanted to get the fuck out of Michigan.” I mean, I get it. But I love some things about Michigan for sure. I love having my picturesque childhood with snow and I love Mackinac Island. I go back there as often as I can… I wish it weren’t so hard to get to because I love that place. I would love to buy a house there. It’s one of my fantasies. It’s just so difficult to get to unless you have a private plane. I went back there recently and talk about romantic. I think it’s one of the most romantic places on earth. I think I could be happy there. I just wish it weren’t so far from California. I always think I’d love to go there during the wintertime and write a book because there is nothing to do. I love the Grand Hotel with the horses with the plumes and the Dorothy Draper Hollywood Regency decor. It’s just magical. It’s my favorite hotel in the world. It was one of the first things I did when I had a little bit of money. I took my mom and my sisters there because we used to go when I was little and we couldn’t afford to stay anywhere nice; we’d just go for the day.

When we had a drink with Richard Branson he said life gets better with age. Do you feel the same?

I definitely agree with that. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately because I’m 44 and I’m starting to feel that ageist mentality, people kind of attacking me for my age. So it’s really interesting, I do think about that a lot. It’s just learning about what it means to be sexy. It’s really about cultivating more than your looks. We live in this wonderful world where being 20 doesn’t mean that you get to steal anybody’s man… you have to beware of the cougar! The cougar is a very dangerous animal because we have this knowledge and you can’t mess with that. I felt it recently, too. I had an altercation with a young 20-something girl. I was calm, smooth and moving in slow motion and she was like jittery, lower lip quivering and bumbling with her words, fumbling and freaking out. I wasn’t freaking out at all. I can have a calm, focused conversation. I couldn’t have done that when I was 20. It’s kind of empowering because when you’re really young you don’t really realize those things. You think you’re on top of the world, but you have so much more to learn about what it is to be a good performer or to be sexy. I almost retired myself because I thought, “Oh I should retire because what if I don’t look as good as I did when I was 30.” I just sort of went, “Wait, that’s not why people are coming to see me.” It’s not just what you look like. It’s really boring to watch someone who is just a pretty pin-up statue. You just gain so much experience and knowledge. It takes time to arrive at that. It’s pretty great, but it is hard as a woman because you’re constantly hit in the face with that. It’s like the ultimate insult. 

Dita Von TeeseDita Von Teese

Do you feel the ageist mentality from the media?

Ten years ago I remember sitting down for an interview and this German TV host said, “What will you do when you lose your beauty?” I thought, “What will I do when I lose my beauty? Well, I don’t know! What is beauty?” There are so many stages of beauty in life and it’s great that we get to go through all of them and experience all of them. I have so many people that I really admire that I think are still great beauties who are in their 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s. Carmen Dell’Orefice. I was reading an article about how that’s the thing that people really go for when they can’t find anything else. The age thing with women. They want to keep us in a place, where we feel concerned about it. It’s a real thing.

Who is another sexy and strong woman you admire?

Sharon Stone is the epitome of someone who just gets more and more sexy and gorgeous. I was talking about this with my boyfriend at a party. I said, “Sharon Stone, she is so sexy,” and he was like, “Eh…” and then she walked in the room. There were all of these supermodels there like the Victoria’s Secret models and Sharon Stone walked in the room and it’s like you’re hit with her sexual wit and wisdom. When she walks in you can’t compare anyone else to her. He said, “I totally get it now.” Maybe 5-10 years ago she said to me, “I haven’t even realized my full potential as a woman yet.” I loved that. And this was when she was in her late 40s and she hadn’t even gotten there yet. Watch out. 

Let’s toast to that. 

Cheers!

If you could have a drink with anyone, who would it be?

Mae West. She was so clever. She didn’t like women either, but she is one of the women that I most admire. She made her first movie at age 40 and she was the biggest sex symbol in Hollywood. She wrote every line she ever said in every movie or play. She didn’t drink, but that is who I would like to have a drink with.

Dita Von Teese

SEE MORE OF THE ACTION AT VIRGIN HOTELS ON “THE VIRGIN VOICE”

KIRSTEN MICCOLI PHOTOGRAPHY / A DRINK WITH in the Shag Room in The Commons Club

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Omi