Dita Von Teese :
"What I miss the most is traveling!"
Dream / Fantasize
She’s a glamour icon inspired by Betty Page, the queen of burlesque and the art of the striptease, creator of an eponymous lingerie line and a model. Dita von Teese’s name has become synonymous with fantasy across the world. A cautious traveler and adventurer in her spare time, Dita shares her love for Paris, her passion for her home in Los Angeles and her dreams of crossing the Atlantic once again soon.
High Life: What do you remember about your first visit to Los Angeles?
Dita von Teese: The first time I came to LA, I remember the palm trees and Rodeo Drive, the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Hollywood sign… All those touristy things. But getting to know more of Los Angeles is really something. I have such a love for old Hollywood, the history, and the way this city was built. California gets bashed a lot here in America these days, but you cant deny that it’s a stunning state, where you can be in the snow-capped mountains, the sunny beach or a desert with prehistoric looking trees, like Joshua Tree, all within a couple hours of each other.
HL: How did your love story with the city begin?
Dita von Teese: I went to high school in Orange County, 45 miles south of Los Angeles, but I used to visit a lot. I’d drive up on the weekends to the hot swing dance spots in the early 90s, placed like The Brown Derby, The Palladium etc and we’d love dressing in vintage, with our 40s cars, and we’d dine at the historic restaurants like Musso & Franks, Canters and The Tam O’Shanter before or after going dancing where the big bands would play. I loved that time in my life! Another thing I love, besides it being the birthplace of Silver Screen glamour and all the influence that has had on me, I also love that we have all these incredible architecture styles, especially with houses. In the 1920s and 30’s, there were so many whimsical homes built that emulated things like French Chateaux, English Tudors, Mediterranean style homes….and many types of storybook and fairytale houses. This is something you dont see as concentrated anywhere else.
HL: I hear that you own a “cabin in the woods” near L.A, can you tell me more about this secret spot?
Dita von Teese: Yes, I have a little 1924 log cabin in the mountains about an hour and half drive from Los Angeles. I’ve decorated it in antiques, mostly flea market finds and such. It’s nice to have a getaway that’s driving distance. I lend it to friends that need a little break, and I’ve thought about renting it to people that appreciate vintage spaces. Its very special and particular… a truly vintage experience! It’s drafty and smells like smoky woods, which I personally love, but it’s not for everyone. It’s a time-capsule.
HL: Has this time of COVID with limited travel been challenging for you or has it sparked your creativity?
Dita von Teese: I havent been “grounded” for this long since I was in high school! I can’t really say it’s a creative moment. I spent much of 2020 with the wind let out of my sails. It’s a challenge for many of us showbiz folks. I am fortunate that I have my lingerie line, perfumes and candles and things to focus on during this time. But it wasnt easy because we had to cancel all the tours, after investing a lot into them. The tours will be up again eventually, it’s looking like 2022, but I think things are going to look a bit different. We have had to adapt to a new way of making a living, and many of us have. What I miss the most is traveling…. not necessarily just sightseeing and things like that, but really just things like having a cup of tea in a cozy bar somewhere. I miss restaurants. But the upside is, Ive had a chance to spend more time at home, and also seeing how it feels to be retired from performing… um, I hate it, but I CAN do it!
HL: Do you think your approach to traveling will change in any ways in the future?
Dita von Teese: Well, I have to tell you, I’d been wearing a mask and sanitizing my airplane seat way before the pandemic, and I’ve always been an incessant hand-washer. When you travel for work a lot and meet/shake hands with people all the time, and it’s so miserable to get sick on tour, because you don’t get to cancel shows because you’re sick. So I’m always wearing gloves and armed with sanitizing wipes. I am sure we will all be even more extreme when traveling in the future, but it’s not that unusual for me to be super conscientious about these things.
HL: Train or plane- what do you prefer?
Dita von Teese: I wish we had a glamorous train in the US! I’d LOVE that. I love the experience of being on a train, but living in LA, I think I have to fly to Europe for the good train experiences. I dream of being on the Orient Express again! I suppose I wouldn’t mind a fabulously old-fashioned cruise as well!
HL: Have you ever taken the Orient-Express?
Dita von Teese: Yes, I did the Paris to Venice trip a few years ago, and it was one of the most glamorous things I’ve ever experienced! I LOVED dressing up for it. I hope to do another one someday.
HL: Who is your favorite travel partner?
Dita von Teese: I love traveling with my friend Fiona Leahy. Not every good friend is a good traveling companion. The other person I LOVE traveling with is Christian Louboutin. He always knows the good, fun places, and it’s never too fussy or fancy. I find myself in the most exquisite places with him, but then suddenly you’re someplace thinking “…my mother would never approve of this”. He’s fearless. I remember being on the wildest, fastest taxi ride through Cairo in a car that seemed like the wheels were about to fall off any second. You have to be ready for anything with Christian. He’s hilariously fun and the best adventurer I have ever known.
HL: What are your tips for fighting jet lag?
Dita von Teese: I’m the worst, I have a very strong body-clock, so it’s hard for me. I live in California where cannabis is legal, so coming home is easy. I quit taking anything pharmaceutical years ago, thanks to our very advanced cannabis situation here that allows you to get just the right dose and strain for what ails you. But when I’m going to other states or countries, I just take a bit of melatonin and and also meditation helps. If all else fails I just get up and answer email and just get through a few days of erratic sleeping.
HL: If you could travel back in time, which era would you have loved living in?
Dita von Teese: I’d like to have a time machine and be able to spend a bit of time in each of my favorite eras, with different outfits, in different parts of the world. 1930s Hollywood. 1890s Paris. 1940s New York City. All these times and places appeal to me.
HL: You have a long history in Paris. What about Paris makes it such a particular destination for you?
Dita von Teese: When I was a little girl, I always fantasized about Paris… maybe seeing a film like Gigi or An American in Paris did it to me. In the early 2000s, I was really embraced there for burlesque, especially when I was the first guest star in the history of The Crazy Horse. It was a huge moment for me, and for the Crazy Horse. It changed my life in Paris, and soon I found myself living there, with a French boyfriend, and with lots of very artistic friends there. It was amazing for a girl from a small midwestern town (she was born in Rochester, Michigan) to be the toast of Paris for a spell. I’m always grateful for the experience of spending a lot of time there, fortunate that so many French people embraced me there, when in the US, striptease was, and still is, considered too risqué for the mainstream media to understand.
HL: What was the longest trip you’ve ever taken?
Dita von Teese: Ah, I once traveled to the Maldives from Los Angeles… only to stay one night, and come back home because my 17 year old little dachshund was dying. I can’t recall how long the travel was, but it was MAJOR.
HL: Do you take photos when you travel?
Dita von Teese: Yes, I take some for mementos, but no one really wants to see a bunch of pictures of landmarks and things. It’’s really for my own memories, and of course I always take a few for my social media, and I also use my Instagram Close Friends List as a members club….so I take pictures and videos for them too.
HL: How would you imagine the last travel of your life?
Dita von Teese: It should be very fancy, first class all the way! Beautiful historic hotels, delicious food and wine….
HL: In the year 2089, how do you imagine people will travel?
Dita von Teese: To space, I am sure. And definitely with their own air supplies, because who knows what new deadly airborne viruses will be around then, not to mention the pollution we should be on track to have by then. I am sure humans will adapt!
HL: Where are you off to next? I heard you had projects in Europe…
Dita von Teese: Well, I have been booked for some private parties this year. I think one of the parties is in Gstaad, doesn’t that sound lovely? One of my fondest travel memories is of being in a cozy traditional fondue restaurant in the Swiss Alps in the snow.