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September 30, 2014

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Dita Von Teese brings passion, point of view to return to Crazy Horse Paris

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Antoine Poupel

Dita Von Teese.

Click to enlarge photo

Dita Von Teese.

Click to enlarge photo

Dita Von Teese.

Calendar

  • What: "Crazy Horse Paris" featuring Dita Von Teese
  • When: Thursday-Monday, 8 p.m., 10:30 p.m.
  • Where: Crazy Horse Theatre, MGM Grand.
  • Cost: $75; $125 with meet and greet (plus taxes and fees) MGM Grand Crazy Horse Web site
  • For more information: 866-740-7711

Before the Crazy Horse revue, there was Crazy Horse Too, which Dita Von Teese bid a hasty adieu.

It was 1991. Von Teese had been working as a stripper in Orange County. Where men celebrating bachelor parties saw the chance to cavort with topless dancers, Von Teese saw dollar signs.

"At the time, all the girls were saying, 'Hey, let's go to Vegas and make a ton of money!'" Von Teese, who is returning to Crazy Horse Paris at MGM Grand this week, said during a phone interview today. "I was there one night and I hated it. It was less than one night, actually. I remember later, going to Crazy Horse in Paris and saying, 'Did you know there's a club in Las Vegas that's also named Crazy Horse? And they said, 'Yeah, we're working on it.'"

The FBI eventually took care of Crazy Horse Too, the infamous "gentlemen's" club on Industrial Road just north of Circus Circus (the club's greatest gift to the city remains former greeter Robert "Bubbles" Ubriaco, who since has found more dignified employment at Rao's at Caesars). Von Teese never returned, but was interested in the rather upscale Club Paradise on Paradise Road, across the street from the Hard Rock Hotel, which in the late 1990s (reportedly) became a favorite hotspot for rising golf star Tiger Woods.

"This was probably 1993, 1994, and I'd already been in Playboy 10 times," Von Teese said. "I was already a featured dancer on the strip-club circuit, and they wanted to audition me. Audition? I said, 'No, thanks,' and then afterward they tried over and over to book me."

Today, the 37-year-old Von Teese is making a return appearance as a featured performer in Crazy Horse Paris at MGM Grand. Three years ago she was the first guest performer in the history of the production, which dates to 1951 with the original Paris revue. Von Teese is showcased in 14 shows (or 15, counting Monday night's unannounced run-through) with the troupe. Her premiere is set for Wednesday night.

Von Teese has brought three new segments from the Paris production to Las Vegas, including an update on the famous and oft-copied bathtub scene that was her signature piece back in 2007. Unlike performers who have simply been booked to perform in the show and asked, "What do you want me to do?" Von Teese has been in control of all elements of the scenes that feature her onstage. She estimates she has spent about $100,000 of her own money (catching a break with two gowns loaned to her that are valued at $125,000 apiece) to appear in the show.

She is passionate about the art, is why. As Von Teese surveys the entertainment climate in Las Vegas, she sees a lot of Cirque and not a lot of her brand of inventive, sophisticated adult entertainment.

"I love Cirque, but it would be a tragedy if it were all Cirque du Soleil," she said, and mentioned a few big revues — including "Moulin Rouge" — she has observed over the years. "In general, I'm far more interested in figuring out how to do a show that doesn't appeal to the lowest common denominator. Any time you see these big revues, you see moments that go so wrong and can't figure out why someone spent all this money on these and can't figure out how to do a glamorous, sophisticated show from start to finish.

"Crazy Horse has a definite vision. It is a super-sexy, beautiful, racy show."

Von Teese says she understands why the production in Las Vegas, and even the one in Paris, has invited guest stars into the performance. In Las Vegas, Carmen Electra twice has appeared at MGM Grand, and Holly Madison had been interested in guest starring, too, before "Peepshow" launched.

"I think Crazy Horse has been great at bringing people who are relevant into the show," Von Teese said. "Carmen Electra is sexy and is known for taking off her clothes, for Playboy. Holly, in the same way, is relevant, and so is Pam Anderson (who appeared in the Paris version of the show)."

Yet, of course, there are levels of "relevance" in this art form.

"I live and breathe striptease and burlesque, I know what it is all about. I have no reality show. I'm not an actress. This is what I do," Von Teese said. "So if the question is, 'Do I think that I'm even more relevant?' The answer is, yeah, I do."

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnnyKats.

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