Dita Von Teese Talks Music and Marilyn

Burlesque queen and beauty maven Dita Von Teese has just released her first album, Soundtrack for Seduction. “I’m not a singer,” she tells PAPER magazine. “I am not looking to break into music. I’m not even used to talking about my music and my voice. Still, I’ve always had this fantasy about recording some songs. I remember when I was 18 or 19 and first started posing for vintage style pin-ups, I discovered a compilation record with all of these bombshells on it: Brigitte Bardot, Jayne Mansfield and Marilyn Monroe. I loved the idea of doing something like that too. I remember hearing that Marilyn Monroe used to record just one line at a time, that she couldn’t really sing either … That kind of gave me the idea that maybe I could do that too.”

This 2011 compilation from Not Now Music features songs by Marilyn and others

“I’m more attracted to glamour than natural beauty,” Dita told The Guardian in 2007. “The young Marilyn Monroe was a pretty girl in a sea of pretty girls. Then she had her hair bleached, fake eyelashes, and that’s when she became extraordinary. It’s that idea of what you’re not born with, you can create.” Dita has also expressed her admiration for Marilyn on Twitter.

However, I don’t agree with Dita that Marilyn ‘couldn’t really sing.’ Unlike many other movie stars of her day (such as Rita Hayworth, Ava Gardner, Kim Novak and Natalie Wood), Marilyn performed her own songs. Her vocal talents were highly rated by leading musicians, including Lionel Newman and Hal Schaefer. But her range was technically limited, and for the most part, her singing was an extension of her acting. In fact, a lot of her movies were made in much the same way – line by line – a process that evolved more from her innate perfectionism than any default in her abilities.

Marilyn in the Saturday Evening Post

Marilyn graces the cover of The Golden Age of Hollywood, a  new one-off special from the Saturday Evening Post. It costs $12.99 and can be ordered directly here. (Unfortunately I don’t yet know if it ships outside the US, but I’ll update you if I find out.)

Marilyn has a long history with the Post, as one of her most revealing interviews with Pete Martin, ‘The New Marilyn Monroe’, was serialised over three weeks in 1956, and later published in book form with the playful title, Will Acting Spoil Marilyn Monroe?

On Marilyn’s birthday this year, the Post paid tribute with a blog about the sex symbols who preceded her – including Lillian Russell, Theda Bara and Clara Bow, all of whom she impersonated in her extraordinary ‘Fabled Enchantresses’ shoot with Richard Avedon. But she turned down the chance to play showgirl Evelyn Nesbit in The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing (the role went to Joan Collins.) And of Mae West, she told W.J. Weatherby, ‘I learned a few tricks from her – that impression of laughing at, or mocking, her own sexuality.’ Jean Harlow, perhaps Marilyn’s greatest influence, is a surprising omission.

You can read Marilyn’s Post interview here.