Horror Hall of Fame: Elvira
Elvira, Mistress of the Dark is known for her plunging necklines and quick wit.
That being said, Elvira (or Cassandra Peterson) wasn’t always so spooky. In fact, her journey to the campy, creepy icon wasn’t a quick one. An instantly recognisable figure in the cult entertainment scene, Elvira rose to fame early on in her life, but in quite a different way than we might expect…
So, buckle up and let’s dance with the Mistress of the Dark, shall we?
- When Cassandra Peterson (the woman behind Elvira) was a baby, she burned 35% of her body, scalding herself in a kitchen accident.
- At 17, Cassandra convinced her parents to let her go to a live show in Las Vegas. It was here that Cassandra was clocked by a producer who offered her a job as soon as she was y’ know, legally able to take it. Right after she graduated high school, she went right back to Las Vegas to take part in the show. While she was there, she dated a pretty famous guy, too – that Elvis Presley fella.
- In the 1970s, Cassandra moved to Italy, where she became a lead singer in different Italian rock bands. While in Italy, director Federico Fellini was creating a documentary on showgirls. Well, who better to lend him a hand? Through this encounter, Cassandra landed herself further film roles, including a small part in Fellini’s
- Upon her return to the USA, Cassandra joined an improv group in LA. It was here that Elvira was born…kinda. Cassandra cooked up the persona of a typical, like, Valley Girl, y’ know? After a while, it was this character that would eventually become the basis for Elvira when she was offered a host position on Fright Night, a late-night horror film show.
- Despite from a desist from the progenitors and representatives of Vampira (Maila Nurmi, specifically), Elvira’s popularity skyrocketed. Self-deprecating, campy, silly, and sexy – she brought a new lease of life to the show and made it her own. In fact, so popular was this kooky queen that in 1988
- Elvira took test shots for Playboy, however, the shots were stolen and then distributed in various men’s magazines without her consent. People can be really terrible.
Mistress of the Dark
- After some time Cassandra and her manager (also her then-husband, Mark Pierson) decided it was time to finance another Elvira movie themselves: Elvira’s Haunted Hills. The majority of the budget went on filming and there was little for promotion. As such, the film was screened across America at AIDS charity fundraisers. Give it a couple of years, and the film would hit Hollywood and the Cannes Film Festival.
- Elvira has permeated popular culture pretty thoroughly. From her own home video B-Movie series to comics, novels, and video games, there isn’t much that the Mistress of the Dark hasn’t done. You gotta respect that spooky hustle.
Elvira; A Horror Heroine
You can’t talk about horror in popular culture without mentioning the Mistress of the Dark. Elvira showed us that horror has a broad appeal. She crossed from dancing to acting to singing into the realms of books, comics, and games. Transcending the late-night barrier to become a household name, Elvira is not only a Horror Heroine but a Queen of Branding, too. Part Morticia Addams, part Vegas showgirl…really, what’s not to love? Unpleasant dreams, y’all.
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