ELVIRA, MISTRESS OF THE DARK Biography - Socialites, celebrities and People in the fashion industry


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Name: Cassandra Peterson                                                                 
Born: 17 September 1951 Manhattan, Kansas, U.S.                                           
Cassandra Peterson (born September 17, 1951) is an American actress best known           
for her on-screen horror host persona "Elvira, Mistress of the Dark". She gained         
fame on Los Angeles television station KHJ wearing a black, gothic, cleavage-enhancing   
gown as host of Movie Macabre, a weekly horror movie presentation. Her wickedly           
vampish appearance was offset by her comical character, quick-witted personality         
and Valley girl-type speech.                                                             
Born in Manhattan, Kansas, Peterson grew up in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and           
graduated from General William J. Palmer High School in 1969. Days after                 
graduating, she drove to Las Vegas, Nevada where she became a showgirl at The             
Dunes. The Guinness Book of World Records cited her as the youngest showgirl in           
Las Vegas history. She had a small role as a showgirl in the 1971 James Bond             
film Diamonds Are Forever, briefly dated Elvis Presley, played a topless dancer           
in Working Girls (1973), and posed (again as a stripper) for the cover of Tom             
Waits' 1976 album, Small Change.                                                         
In the early 1970s, she moved to Italy and became the lead singer of the Italian         
rock band, I Latins Ochanats. During this time, she had a chance encounter with           
director Federico Fellini which led to a small part in Roma (1972). Back in the           
U.S., she toured nightclubs and gay discos around the country with a musical/comedy       
act Mammas Boys. In 1979, she joined the Los Angeles-based improvisational               
troupe The Groundlings, where she created a Valley girl-type character upon whom         
the Elvira persona is largely based.                                                     
Peterson auditioned for the role of "Ginger" for the third Gilligan's Island TV           
movie in 1981, shortly before KHJ-TV offered her the horror-host position.               
Peterson also was a radio show personality on Los Angeles' 106.7 KROQ radio               
station in the early 1980s.                                                               
In the late spring of 1981, five years after Larry Vincent (who starred as host           
Sinister Seymour of a local Los Angeles weekend horror show called Fright Night)         
died, show producers began the task of bringing the show back. Deciding to use a         
female host, producers asked 1950s horror host Maila Nurmi to revive The Vampira         
Show. Nurmi worked on the project for a short time, but eventually quit when the         
producers would not hire Lola Falana to play Vampira. The station continued with         
the project and sent out a casting call. Cassandra auditioned against 200 other           
horror hostess hopefuls, and won the role. Producers left it up to Cassandra to           
create Elvira's image. She and best friend Robert Redding came up with the sexy           
punk/vampire look after producers jeered her original idea to look like Sharon           
Tate in The Fearless Vampire Killers. Shortly before the first taping, producers         
received a cease and desist letter from Nurmi. Unable to continue with the               
Vampira character, the name Elvira was chosen. What followed was Elvira's Movie           
Macabre featuring a quick witted valley-girl type character named Elvira,                 
Mistress of the Dark. With heavily applied drag queen style horror make-up and a         
towering black beehive wig concealing her flame-red hair, the transformation             
from Cassandra Peterson to the sexy Elvira was so drastic that no one ever               
recognized her out of costume.                                                           
The Elvira character rapidly gained notoriety with her tight fitting, low cut             
black gown which showed more cleavage than had ever appeared on local Los                 
Angeles television before. The movies featured on Elvira's Movie Macabre were             
always B grade (or lower). Elvira reclined on a red Victorian couch, introducing         
and often interrupting the movie to lampoon the actors, the script, and the bad           
editing. Adopting the flippant tone of a California valley-girl, she brought a           
satirical, sarcastic edge to her commentary without ever being crass or mean-spirited.   
And like a macabre Mae West, she revelled in dropping risque double entendres as         
well as making frequent jokes about her eye-popping display of cleavage. In an           
AOL Entertainment News interview, Peterson revealed, "I figured out that Elvira           
is me when I was a teenager. She's a spastic girl. I just say what I feel and             
people seem to enjoy it." Her campy humor, obvious sex appeal, and good-natured           
self-mockery endeared her to late-night movie viewers as her popularity soared.           
At the same time Elvira was embraced as an icon of the waning 1980s punk                 
movement as well as the emerging Goth subculture.                                         
The demand for Elvira increased throughout the Eighties. A frequent guest on The         
Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and many other talk shows, she also produced         
a long series of Halloween-themed TV ads for Coors Light Beer and Mug Root Beer.         
She did guest roles on television dramas such as CHiPS, The Fall Guy, and                 
Fantasy Island, and appeared on numerous awards shows as a presenter. However,           
despite the fact that her success is forever linked to her image as Elvira,               
Peterson has never been reluctant to appear in television interviews and                 
specials as herself.                                                                     
In 1982, with the surprising success of Movie Macabre, Knott's Theme Parks hired         
Elvira to replace Seymour as the host of its annual Halloween Haunt during the           
month of October. Elvira would appear nightly at the park, live on stage with a           
Halloween-themed musical comedy revue similar to her Mamma's Boys act from the           
The Elvira character rapidly evolved from obscure cult figure to lucrative brand-name     
and "Mistress of all Media", spawning countless products throughout the 1980s             
and 1990s, including Halloween costumes, model kits, calendars, perfume, and             
dolls. She's appeared on the cover of Femme Fatales magazine five times. Her             
popularity reached its zenith with the release of the feature film, Elvira,               
Mistress of the Dark (cowritten by Peterson) in 1988. She also did many non-Elvira       
character-roles in other films, most notably "Pee-wee's Big Adventure" (1985)             
with friend and fellow Groundling, Pee-wee Herman, aka Paul Reubens.                     
In 1992, CBS filmed the pilot episode for Elvira, a proposed sitcom with                 
Peterson and Katherine Helmond as witches living in a small town. Network                 
executives balked at the ribald humor and decided the series was too risque for           
television. The series was shelved and the pilot was never aired.