Dita Von Teese

Va-va-va-voom! Burlesque performer Dita Von Teese reveals herself as an actress, taking on three personas in tonight's film noir-inspired CSI (9/8c, CBS).

We meet her character — Ellen Whitebridge, a shy schoolteacher with a fascination for forensics — when she brings her students on a field trip to CSI headquarters. Greg (Teese's real-life pal Eric Szmanda) is intrigued by the brainy beauty and asks her out on a date. That's before he finds out about Ellen's naughty nightclub alter ego, Rita Von Squeeze. Then, in a series of flashbacks, Teese plays Ellen's murdered grandmother, who was also a burlesque performer back in the day.

The episode represents Von Teese's small-screen dramatic debut. "The acting world is something I don't even pretend to know anything about," says Von Teese, who was inspired by her idol, late stripping great Gypsy Rose Lee. "I think it's important to try new things, and I hope my efforts come off well. This was a much bigger role than I originally thought."

Playing Ellen required Von Teese to shed her signature scarlet lipstick and nail polish. While going au naturel helped her get into character, the 38-year-old Michigan native admits, "Without the glamorous tricks I rely on, I felt very stripped down." And for her, that's saying a lot.

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