Strip Teese

Burlesque icon Dita Von Teese adds innovative touches to the Crazy Horse routine

When she returns for the first time since 2007 to share the stage with the unfathomably beautiful dancers of MGM Grand’s Crazy Horse Paris revue this week, Dita Von Teese will bring a new bag of creatively sensual tricks. First debuted at the Paris location last year, her goodies include elaborate props, innovative choreography and dazzling costumes—the last of which audiences won’t see for long, of course.

“I put about a year’s worth of work into these shows and tens of thousands of dollars into each number,” Von Teese says. “It’s a labor of love for me that I’ve really wanted to do because I believe in the place and I really want people to know about the place. The Crazy Horse is just a place that I love to be involved with.”

The international burlesque superstar, fashion icon and AIDS activist was the first guest star to be invited to join the Crazy Horse troupe in its nearly six decades of existence, debuting first at the iconic Paris location in 2006 with her now-famous bathtub show. It was so successful that not only was Von Teese invited back multiple times to both the Paris and Las Vegas shows, but it also opened the doors for other guests to the Crazy Horse stage, including Arielle Dombasle, Pamela Anderson and Carmen Electra. But Von Teese retains a special connection with the internationally renowned cabaret.

“I’m pretty close to the girls,” she says. “The first time I came in, they wanted to give me a separate dressing room, but I wanted to be with the girls and be treated the same way as they were. It made me get closer to them. I have a real respect and admiration for their talent, beauty and dedication. They work hard—it’s something I look up to them for.”

The new show includes an updated take on the bathtub act, called “Le Bain Noir,” and Von Teese’s own version of one of the Crazy Horse’s most iconic acts, “Teasing”—turned upside down by the star as “Teese’ing.” In addition to what she calls a “big ’40s musical striptease number with all the girls,” audiences will hear Von Teese’s voice for the first time, in two songs she recorded for the Crazy Horse. As if that weren’t enough, Von Teese is bringing in an element from another facet of her life to the cabaret: high fashion.

“I had Christian Dior make a lot of the clothes, Christian Louboutin made custom shoes, Stephen Jones did the hats,” says Von Teese of the costumes featured in the show. “It’s a big fashion moment for anyone interested in seeing all this haute couture in action, up close.”

For Von Teese, performing with the Crazy Horse is more than just a means to an end. What many Americans may not realize is the prestige and acclaim afforded to the original Crazy Horse in Paris. Here in Las Vegas, it may be presumed that the MGM Grand’s topless revue is just another late-night flesh fest. But as Von Teese will attest, its origins lie in a grander tradition.

“When you’re in Paris, and you’re at this historic place that’s been there since 1951, it’s a really different feeling,” Von Teese says. “It’s a very magical and mysterious place. It has to do with the prestige of the Crazy Horse that Europeans understand. This isn’t any ordinary cabaret. This isn’t a showgirl revue. It’s an institution, and it’s highly respected by the French people and its government.”

Which isn’t to say Von Teese doesn’t see the potential of such institutions in Las Vegas—especially if she has anything to say about it.

“I keep wondering if the showgirl revues are slowly going to disappear,” Von Teese says. “A lot of those [shows] are outdated, but they could keep the spirit alive by bringing it to a different place and letting it evolve in a beautiful way. My dream would be to reinvent one of those shows and make it modern and new, but keep the glamour of the past in a way.”

$75 for two tickets, $125 for tickets plus meet-and-greet; 891-7777; 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., March 31-April 7 (Dark April 6)

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