The 1980s are renowned for their comedy horror genre and one of the most well-known of these was the 1988 movie, Elvira Mistress of the Dark.
Directed by James Signorelli (Saturday Night Live Producer) the movie tells the tale of Elvira, a horror movie hostess who loses her job after refusing to sleep with her boss. She finds out that an aunt has died leaving her an inheritance, so Elvira goes to her aunt’s small hometown to collect it, not realising the life-changing adventure in store for her.
With her figure hugging dress, drag queen make-up and a cleavage that is actually real (unlike many in the celebrity world of today), Elvira has built a massive cult following that has spanned across four decades.
Actress Cassandra Peterson talks to FTN about her character Elvira Mistress of the dark.
FTN: Hi Cassandra, thank you so much for taking the time to be interviewed by FTN, it’s a real honour. The character of Elvira was first created in 1981, both you and your friend Robert Redding came up with the image for the character, but you originally wanted to base the character’s image on Sharon Tate in the Fearless Vampire Killers. Do you think Elvira’s popularity would have still spanned over four decades if you had gone with that image instead?
CP: Hmmm… It’s honestly kind of hard to say. I think there is one crowd that just appreciates Elvira’s wacky sense of humour and another segment of her fan base that appreciates the horror aspect but I could have possibly lost the dirty old man contingent, which makes up a good 30 per cent of my fans!
Robert and I still would have made sure that the Fearless Vampire Killers look would have been pretty sexy though, trust me, so it may not have affected a thing.
FTN: Elvira Mistress of the Dark has become an extremely successful franchise – you have had everything from perfumes to beers and guitars to books! Was this always the plan for the character or was it a surprise how much people embraced her?
CP: I certainly didn’t start out with the idea to do licensing and merchandising of the character. I was just happy to be getting a weekly pay check. But as time passed, and the fan mail poured in, we saw the possibility of Elvira merchandise become a reality. This was after we were able to acquire the rights to license the image (which we were given in lieu of pay raises).
On Elvira’s original Fearless Vampire Hunters conceived look: ‘I could have possibly lost the dirty old man contingent’
FTN: You have had comic books from three publishers: DC, Marvel and Claypool Comics. A new comic book called Mistress of the Dark was announced for publication in 2013, could you tell us a little bit about that project?
CP: The Marvel comic was a one off comic book of the movie, “Elvira, Mistress of the Dark”.
I’ll be collaborating on the new comic book project with writer Rachael Stavis, who created the backstory for Lara Croft and artist Zarnow
Unfortunately, at this stage its still TOP SECRET so I can’t go into detail.
FTN: It must feel amazing that after all these years Elvira still pulls major crowds at conventions and other public appearances, do you ever get any strange gifts from fans at these PAs?
CP: I have gotten a few strange gifts like pasties and tassels someone knitted especially for me, the world’s tiniest Elvira sculpture made out of chewing gum and even a baby python, but the best thing about going to the conventions besides just meeting my fans, is the Elvira tattoos I get to see! Seeing a tattoo of yourself on someone’s body really is a thrill! Definitely the sincerest form of flattery.
On her convention appearances: ‘Seeing a tattoo of yourself on someone’s body really is a thrill! Definitely the sincerest form of flattery.’
FTN: Thank you again Cassandra for your time, my final question is this: as a child you said that, while other little girls were playing with dolls, you were more interested in horror characters… who was your favourite of these?
CP: Well, not that he was really a horror character, but Vincent Price was “horror” to me.
He personified the genre in my mind, and I never missed a film he was in. The first scary movie I ever saw starred Vincent – House on Haunted Hill – and he became the monster that appeared and reappeared in my nightmares for years.