Good Clean Dirty Fun...Dita Von Teese at the Yost!
I’m not really that into strip clubs. Aside from how demeaning the male patrons can be, I really am not a fan of the music of Nelly and Motley Crue. It’s really not getting that hot in here. I don't know why I would "pour some sugar" on you. I need that sugar for my coffee. And if I’m spending $15 on a drink, it had better be served by a bearded hipster who aged his bitters in oak he salvaged from a shipwreck in Lake Baikal.
But I love burlesque shows. The atmosphere is so fun, and silly, and old-fashioned. Burlesque dancers are almost never nude and they often tell cheesy jokes about their ex-husbands.
The modern resurgence of burlesque can mostly be attributed to the success of Irvine girl Dita Von Teese,who went from being a stripper at Captain Cream's to an international fashion icon.
She’s written several bestselling books including her current Your Beauty Mark, launched makeup lines with MAC, runs a lingerie company, partners with Home Shopping Network - she is the quintessential "multiple income stream" entrepreneur. She doesn’t perform very often - and when she does she sells out residencies at venues like the Crazy Horse in Paris - I remember when she was in Paris the popular headline was "Not Since Josephine Baker..."
So I was really excited that she chose the historic Yost Theater in downtown Santa Ana to close out her touring production this year and that her dates would coincide with my trip to visit family. When I FaceTimed my husband who was deployed, I had a great time listening to him talk about how excited he was about the new omelet station before I gleefully told him I would be spending the evening watching Ms Von Teese. Suddenly, those sundried tomatoes weren’t as exotic!
The best thing about modern burlesque is that unlike strip clubs, it celebrates all of women’s bodies from gymnast-muscular to Mae West voluptuous, and unlike the objectified sexuality you often see in strip clubs, this is all about individuality and fun. It reinforces that women’s sexuality is theirs, and if they want to be outlandish, or modest, or “lady in the streets, freak in the sheets” then all of it is fine and worthy of celebration. Burlesque audiences are usually 80% women and there are no hecklers or body-shamers. It's one of the most feminist places I've ever been.
Dita herself performs four acts - the opening act in her trademark Martini glass bubble bath - her costumes are so full of rhinestones it's almost like a spotlight being shone back at the audience.
The kitschiest routine was a cowgirl scene with a pink upholstered mechanical bull and I could think of is "Wow! What core! What balance! I should go back to yoga..."
The traditional fan dance had a bird-in-a-cage routine, complete with swing and man-bird attendants. If you've seen Magic Flute, it's like the world's most inappropriate Papageno.
The finale was apparently the most controversial - it was her most "sexy" act and had a chinoiserie "Dragon Lady" opium-den theme. There was a lot of "cultural appropriation" and "painful stereotypes" talk. Personally, I really can't believe that people would bring angry politics into a burlesque show when the whole point is to offer a safe space from our normal social mores.
Some critics even pointed out that glamorizing opium dens is hurtful to the "many" Chinese people whose families were ravaged by opium addiction (which peaked in the 1850s). I'm pretty sure my Sinaloan great-great-great grandpas were smoking marijuana in the desert, and if somebody wants to make a nudie-show based on weed, well, I'm sure my grandpas would be stoked. Actually, that's basically a Miley Cyrus concert.
Dita also received some criticism on this tour for having a style is not as engaging or interactive as the other acts. She doesn’t honk her boobs or shimmy around for applause (there are plenty of acts that did, though!) She is demure, ladylike, and carries herself with unearthly poise. I think the variety is the best part.
The Orange County crowd was almost as fun as the performers - her fans are next-level dedicated and many showed up dressed in Dita's most famous outfits and regardless of their race (it was mostly Mexican this night) they contoured their faces into her exact features, beauty mark and all. The OC Rockabilly/Psychobilly contingent was in full effect - and man, I've never been so sure that a woman wearing 7" stilettos and a corset could beat me up, hotwire my car, and steal my husband. It was like two hundred Angelina Jolies, albeit with green hair and Hunger Games eyeshadow.
As the emcee, the ever-fabulous drag king comedian Murray Hill, proclaimed, “I love Santa Ana because I can walk down the street and nobody even notices me. Nobody cares.”
That’s why I love it, too.