In honor of the Halloween season, we thought we’d chat with one of the genre’s most iconic characters, the one and only Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, as portrayed by the lovely Cassandra Peterson. Read on for our ten questions with one of our favorite Scream Queens.
1. How did the Elvira character come about?
Elvira: I was with The Groundlings comedy improv group for four years before Elvira came along. My fellow Groundlings at the time were Paul Reubens (Pee-wee Herman), the late Phil Hartman of “Saturday Night Live” fame, Lorraine Newman, John Lovitz, Julia Sweeny, etc. etc. Many, many working actors have spawned careers at The Groundlings. (If you’re ever in LA, check them out at their theatre on Melrose Avenue.)
As budding actresses tend to do, I auditioned nearly every day so when I heard that a local Hollywood TV station was looking for a horror host, I was all over it, hoping that perhaps the money I would make would cover the cost of tuition at The Groundlings.
The ad for a horror host on KHJ-TV had been placed in the LA Times so needless to say, everyone and their mothers showed up. Unfortunately, I was the only one there out of hundreds of hopefuls who didn’t know they were supposed to wear a costume. Every man, woman and child wore black and had fangs, capes, brooms, you name it.
I think it was my comedy background and love of horror movies that helped me land the part. That and my boobs.
2. Which other horror hosts do you find inspirational?
Elvira: As a child, we were too poor to have our own horror host, but I did LOVE Morticia from “The Addams Family” TV show! The horror host I most admire is probably the East Coast legend Zacherley, the Cool Ghoul, who combined the macabre with a sense of humor so flawlessly.
3. What’s your favorite bad horror flick, and why?
Elvira: There are tons of them that I love, but I’d have to say that the new Elvira’s Movie Macabre (now available on DVD – plug, plug) features many of my faves. Wasp Woman is definitely one of my all-time favorites: a strong, sexy female character runs her own company, searches for a way to stay young forever… Hmmm…Art imitating life? And then there’s Manos: The Hands of Fate; it’s in a category all its own. And I hope it stays there.
4. What are your favorite non-Elvira roles?
Elvira: I have the dubious distinction of playing the first and only stripper on the TV classic “Happy Days” and a deaf-mute Gypsy on “Fantasy Island”, but I’d have to say my favorite role was a brief appearance in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, directed by Tim Burton. I play a biker chick who gets to rough up Pee-wee – every girl’s fantasy!!
5. I grew up listening to Elvira’s Haunted Hits and the music compilations you contributed to. Are you ever planning on another one of those collections or new songs?
Elvira: No, there are no plans currently.
6. What projects are you working on currently?
Elvira: This year I became part owner of a huge new pop culture convention called Comikaze, along with my pal Stan Lee of Spider-Man fame, and also began the first year of Elvira’s Horror Hunt, a film festival for indie horror films. The first of the year I’ll be gearing up to expand both of those projects.
7. What’s the question you’re asked most in interviews?
Elvira: ‘Are those real?’ I assume they’re talking about my fingernails.
8. Do you see yourself in Elvira?
Elvira: I really don’t, but my closest friends tend to differ with me. I’ve finally decided that Elvira is me when I was a teenager… an overly confident, smartass know-it-all.
9. You’ve delved into so many branches of marketing: movies, games, perfume, music, and even beer. What would you like to tackle that you haven’t before?
Elvira: One product I’ve been trying to get out to the world for years is the famous Elvira BRA! For some reason that idea has always been a bust… ha ha. That thing could put cleavage on a dog! It really is an indispensable little item that every gal (and some guys, too) should have in their closets.
10. What has been the most fulfilling part about your role as Elvira over the years?
Elvira: The fact that girls and women actually look up to the character as a role model. You have no idea how many women I have spoken to over the years that have told me Elvira represented a strong, sexy, powerful woman to them growing up and that she has had a positive influence on them. Strange but true.
Well, Cassandra, I’m one of those very women. You’ve been an inspiration not to just me but to all the Dread Central female writers and readers, and we look forward to many more years of your quirky and quick-witted personality!
Our thanks to Elvira and her team for coordinating this interview. Photos credits: Mathu Anderson, Victoria Pearson, and Austin Young.
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