Interview by EDWARD LEWINE Published: March 30, 2008
Biggest misconception about burlesque: That it’s about dancing around in hot pants with feather boas. Burlesque was about the striptease. The stars of burlesque took their clothes off, end of story, period.
Hardest thing about stripping: To make it look effortless and natural.
Her first corset: It was out of my life for a little while. It was stolen, by a friend of mine’s daughter. One day she returned it and said she was sorry. I was happy. I have hundreds of corsets, but that is the most important one.
Worst moment onstage: My hair caught on fire. I do an act where I sit on a vanity table that has candelabras on it. Well, there was a lot of hair spray going on. I realized what was happening and put my hair out. The show went on.
Next big purchase: I’m getting ready to make a new show, and that is always a big expense. It will involve $80,000 worth of costumes and props. This one is going to be especially rhinestone heavy.
Personal hero: Mae West. There hasn’t been another actress in the world who wrote every line she ever said in a film.
Morning routine: My waking time always changes, because sometimes I am really jet lagged. When I’m home, I am up around 9 o’clock. First, I check my BlackBerry, which is next to me in bed. Then I let my dogs outside and get everybody breakfast.
Best thing about divorce from Marilyn Manson: There’s a long list. I am happy to have the drugs out of my life.
Fear about new love: That I’ll fall for a man who wants a modern, minimalist interior.
Prized possession: I took my engagement diamond and had it transformed at Christian Dior in Paris into a beautiful ring. It’s nice; it’s big. I feel like I suffered greatly for that diamond, and it needed to be reborn into something better.
Performance piece: Yes, I do perform in a giant martini glass, but I don’t keep it at home. All my props are kept in storage, a really big storage space, because I have a lot of things even bigger than that glass. I have never been where they are stored, to be honest. It’s somewhere in Los Angeles.
Animal friends: I have various taxidermied animals. I have a peacock, swans and birds in large glass domes. They’re beautiful.
Rainy-day activities: Sitting in front of the fire with my pets, two dachshunds and three Devon Rex cats, which is a breed that has unusually large ears and wide-set eyes.
Indispensable gadget: A 1940s phone station. It’s a stand that holds the phone, and you sit in it. You can’t move around. I used to have a cordless phone and I hated it.
Waistline: I’m not technically a tight lacer. It’s a fetish, in which you wear extremely tight corsets all the time. I don’t sleep in my corsets, and I’m not obsessed with obtaining the world’s smallest waist. My waist is around 18 inches.
Velvet painting: A painting of me by an artist named Olivia, who specializes in pinups.
Burlesque memento: I have an artifact of the famed burlesque star Sally Rand, from 1939. It’s a box that says “Winter Underwear for Men” on it. Inside is a crocheted warmer for a man’s equipment. It’s hysterical.
Guilty pleasure: Eating foie gras in Paris. That has gotten me into a lot of trouble with PETA. But it is a guilty pleasure; I feel guilty and horrible about it.
Extra bedrooms: I turned one of them into a dark, jewel box of a bedroom. Another is a wardrobe with my dresses, shoes and vintage clothes. The third is devoted to my hat collection and vanity. It’s a real powder room.
Collections: I collect in a crazy way. I have at least 15 collections. I collect vintage hair combs; vintage clothes; vintage lingerie; hats; jewelry; cigarette holders.
Favorite collection: My hats. When I look at them I can’t believe these are things that women wore on the street every day. They are dramatic and distinctive.
Treasured eras: For taxidermy, Victorian; for furniture, Art Deco; for lingerie, 1940s stockings and Victorian corsets; hats I like mid-1940s, when they wore the little tilted hats, like men’s hats.
What she drives: I have two classic cars, a 1939 Chrysler New Yorker and a 1965 Jaguar S-Type. I drove a Chrysler 300. But I just got a new car, a BMW Z4.
Fanciest corset: It’s by Mr. Pearl, without a doubt the world’s most-sought-after corset maker. He lives in Paris, and all the couturiers go to him. He has an unmatched talent for creating the perfect wasp waist. Each corset requires between 6 and 20 fittings.
Evening routine: I have no routine. I am happy if I am in bed by 1 a.m. It’s a great victory for me if I can sleep eight hours or more.
By her bed: A beautiful Art Deco box with a condom in it. I’m a single girl.
Favorite chore: Grocery shopping. I wasn’t always able to afford food, so I love putting things in my cart and realizing I can afford them.
Always in fridge: Eggs and truffle sauce. I order the sauce online. It is called Truffle Gatherers sauce. It is so good with eggs. It is very precious to me.
What she misses about America when abroad: More value to the dollar.
Fitness routine: About 20 minutes jumping on the trampoline and an hour of Pilates. I often take Sundays off.
What she wanted to be when she grew up: A ballerina.
Obsession: Ballet shoes. I have a collection dyed in every color of the rainbow.
Belief system: There are superstitions in burlesque. You aren’t supposed to put your shoes on the table. I try to pay attention to that, but I really like looking at my shoes, so I put them on the table all the time.
Perfect kitchen: One of my big extravagances when I moved out of my former husband’s house was a matching pink stove and refrigerator in ’50s style. Unlike real vintage items, they work. Obsolete item she can’t bear to part with: Everything I have is obsolete. That’s the point.