Still kooky after all these years, Cassandra Peterson, a.k.a. Elvira, is back this Halloween with Hulu’s “13 Nights of Elvira.” I had the distinct privilege of speaking with your favorite horror hostess about her new show, her new single from Third Man Records, and her live show at Knott’s Scary Farm. You know her, you love her, you still want her. Admit it.
DC: Is this still your favorite time of year even though it’s when you’re working the hardest? Do you even have time to go to a haunted house or sit back and drink a pumpkin beer?
Elvira: No, none of that stuff. I look forward to a time to maybe get eight hours of sleep, but that doesn’t really happen; I think I got four last night. I’m shooting and doing interviews during the day and then doing the shows at night. Crazy.
DC: Do you usually go on a big vacation come November?
Elvira: Usually I try to; this year I’ve got Comikaze going on the next day which, you know, I own with Stan Lee, which is a big pop culture con here in L.A. and it’s really gotten huge. I have that starting November 1st, and then I leave shortly after that for Rio de Janeiro in Brazil – which is my second largest market, it’s so bizarre – for another con and I plan to take a few days off there so I hope that’s going to work out.
DC: Yeah, I hope for your sake too! Speaking of beer, I remember drinking Elvira’s Night Brew back when it was $2.99 a six-pack and it was a perfect complement while watching B-horror movies. How did you get started with your very own beer and have you considered starting it up again for a limited Halloween supply?
Elvira: (laughs) Yeah, I have a wine that I’m involved in now so I’ve moved on from beer to wine.
DC: So you’ve gotten a little classier.
Elvira: Yeah, yeah, we’re getting super classy over here. I wish I could do tequila or something; that would be awesome. Yeah… no, I don’t think I have any class; it just worked out that way.
DC: If we could go back in time for a second, I know you started off as a dancer and comedian, but was it the KHJ-TV Channel 9 open casting call for a horror host that started it all? The Elvira character was something you were doing in sketch comedy, right?
Elvira: Yeah, exactly. It was a giant open casting call, a cattle call, for everybody and their mother. I mean, they put it in the L.A. Times so, honestly, they had everything imaginable showing up; homeless people were in there waiting. It was crazy! I didn’t go in the first time, I was on my honeymoon, and I came back from my honeymoon and apparently they still hadn’t found anybody so I went in. It was the comedy improv background that got me the gig because I think the director of the show at the time – a guy named Larry Thomas – had a really funny, hokey sense of humor, and it kind of jived with my sense of humor. I was doing kind of a very Shecky Greene thing so he just honed in on it, really liked it, and told me to come up with a look. I was replacing their former horror host that had been on the station for many years, a horror host called Sinister Seymour, who had just passed away.
DC: Of course, then that suddenly leads to you being on Johnny Carson. Do you remember how they approached you to first be on “The Tonight Show”?
Elvira: Yeah, it was unbelievable. It was only a few weeks into the show and I had gotten all kinds of signals that this thing was really taking off. It was like, ‘What? Are you kidding?’ I was attacked by a mob of construction workers walking down the street and they were like, ‘Oh my God, you’re Elvira!’ They were like a bunch of little giggling girls, I couldn’t believe it. I had to take my name out of the phone book, which back in the day you had to put your name in the phone book, because people were calling me morning, noon and night. So I was getting these signals that this thing was really happening, people were calling me asking me to show up at their grocery store, their barber shop, everything you can mention. We got a call from “The Tonight Show” asking me to come on. I couldn’t believe it; back then “The Tonight Show” was the gigantic show to be on. There weren’t a hundred different ones like there are today. There was just one and it was the place to be. That was absolutely shocking; it was amazing I made it through that interview without fainting, I swear to God.
DC: How do you usually pick the films you’re lampooning, and why these particular films for “13 Nights of Elvira”? I definitely watched a lot of them growing up, but I think maybe Night of the Living Dead, which is showing Halloween night, might be the only film you’ve featured on the show before, does that sound right?
Elvira: Night of the Living Dead I’ve done at least three times, maybe four. I don’t use any of the same material though when I’m talking about it. It’s public domain and it also happens to be one of my favorite movies ever, but the rest of the movies we got from Charles Band this year. The way I picked them, and there’s really no picking, it’s like, ‘What can I get?’ You have to approach whoever owns them and beg to get them for no money. There’s not hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for these films. You just catch what you can and hope it’ll be good. Luckily, I love these movies from Charles Band; there are some really awesome and campy ones. We also got Hobgoblins because Hobgoblins is listed as one of the worst movies ever.
DC: It’s a little bit of Bettie Page meets Gremlins
Elvira: It’s like a student film or something; I loved it because of that. But the other films… there’s Puppet Master, and I’ve always loved Puppet Master; there’s Evil Bong, which is hilarious with Tommy Chong, who’s a friend, so it was cool to see that. Some of these movies like Oblivion were actually forerunners to other films that came out that actually had a budget. Oblivion is definitely the precursor to Cowboys & Aliens; it’s all there. And it’s directed by Sam Irvin – one of my favorite people in the world – who also directed Elvira’s Haunted Hills. So that’s actually a decent movie and it’s got George Takei and a few people in it. We were able to get these movies from Charles Band, and they’re good and bad at the same time so they’re perfect for Elvira.
DC: Since new films are now available in the public domain since you’ve been doing it so long, maybe that keeps things fresh. How many bad movies have you actually seen?
Elvira: Ugh, billions. I mean they’ve all run together into one big bad, horrible movie. I’ve seen probably everything there is to watch. The one I really need to see that everybody keeps telling me about and I haven’t seen is, it’s not a horror movie, but The Room. Have you seen that?
DC: I knew you were going to say The Room. Yeah, I actually saw that in Vancouver for the first time at this place called the Rio Theatre.
Elvira: I’ve got to actually finally sit down and watch that thing. But yeah, I’ve seen all the movies, of course, that I use on any of my shows, in any of the video libraries that I’ve done; I’ve done a million different productions for various video releases. I think for the original Movie Macabre there were 230 movies that I did, and I don’t think there’s one I haven’t seen, I swear.
DC: Are there any plans to have a DVD release of the entire Movie Macabre series?
Elvira: There’s an awesome DVD collection that just came out this week; it’s called Elvira’s Coffin Collection from Entertainment One; and it’s all the movies that I just did for syndication, 26 films all in one coffin-shaped little package. It just came out and (whispering) I have it at Elvira.com. It’s very cool.
DC: Can we talk about the music video for “Two Big Pumpkins”? How did you get involved with Third Man Records for the single? I know you were just seen at Knott’s Scary Farm with Jack White, Josh Homme, and Paul Reubens – all you guys together could possibly be the greatest supergroup of all time.
Elvira: I know, it was so fun that they all came out the same night. I’ve known Jack for a long time now. I go out and stay at his house in Nashville sometimes; we got to be really good friends. He’s just a big Elvira fan. He always says that if he was ever a woman, he would be me. Quite a compliment. So, Jack I’ve known for years and he helped me out with my last vinyl; he’s really been a huge help for me with all kinds of work-related stuff. Obviously, Pee-wee and I have been friends for 35 years, more than that. Oh my God, I hate to say how long because we were in The Groundlings together way before he was Pee-wee or I was Elvira. We are still very close. It was just a fantastic night! And they really had a good time, my dream come true.
DC: It’s incredible to me that you’ve been at Knott’s Scary Farm for so long. Have you considered ever doing a kind of four-wall tour around the country? I know that something like the Alamo Drafthouse, for example, would be a great place to have you perform. Or is it just easier to stay in one place for a month and have all the freaks come to you?
Elvira: Probably to stay at one place. I mean, this is a huge production if you’ve never seen it. They bring in the Cirque du Soleil people to do all of the lights and there are a dozen dancers and there are acts I have this year because it’s circus-themed – it’s called Elvira’s Big Top. I’ve got freak show sideshow acts. It’s just tons of rehearsals; I could never do this on the road. I guess that’s why Cher and Britney Spears go to Vegas.
DC: You could always go back to Vegas; you spent some time there once before.
Elvira: That’s true; it’d be like full circle, right? I could wind up in Vegas. First I’m the youngest showgirl of all time, then I end up being the oldest.
“13 Nights of Elvira” premieres this Sunday, October 19th, with 1989’s Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death. Check out the full schedule below the trailer.
- Cannibal Women In The Avocado Jungle of Death (1989) – Holy guacamole, this movie is the pits! Elvira is no stranger to “man-eating women,” but she may have bit off more than she can chew in this indigestible entrée, starring Adrienne Barbeau, Shannon Tweed, and a young Bill Maher, who’s still trying to live this turkey down. (Premieres Sunday, October 19)
- Puppet Master (1989) – The cult classic gets the hook when Elvira’s pulling the strings. There’s more Punch than Judy in this cinematrocity. (Premieres Monday, October 20)
- Demonic Toys (1992) – No one likes playthings more than the Mistress of the Dark. But these toys are straight out of Hell’s toy box. Playtime is over! (Premieres Tuesday, October 21)
- Hobgoblins (1988) – Elvira’s couch is infested with pesky little critters who are clearly Gremlin rejects. The only way she’s gonna get rid of them is to endure this flick. (Premieres Wednesday, October 22)
- The Gingerdead Man (2005) – Elvira’s holiday gift is this awful lump of coal, straight off the naughty list. Gary Busey stars as the voice of this psychotic cookie made from the ashes of a serial killer and a few drops of blood. This is a recipe for disaster in this creepy clas-sick. (Premieres Thursday, October 23)
- Dollman (1991) – Elvira is playing with a guy who’s got 13 inches!!! Actually, that’s all he’s got. He’s 13 inches high! Tim Thomerson stars in this knee-high nightmare. (Premieres Friday, October 24)
- Trancers (1985) – Elvira sets her sights on the far-off future, and 1985, in this high-tech time travel chase through the minds of killers! (Premieres Saturday, October 25)
- Oblivion (1994) – Fly the “fiendish” skies with Elvira as your host on a devilish trip to Oblivion. It’s cowboys and aliens as a bizarre gang of futuristic desperados, including cult faves Julie Newmar and George Takei, attempt to turn this tumbleweed town into their own private playground. (Premieres Sunday, October 26)
- Shrunken Heads (1994) – Elvira is put through the ringer and hung out to dry after sitting through this movie. She should have quit while she was a head! (Premieres Monday, October 27)
- Hideous (1997) – Elvira always says, when you can’t say something nice about a movie, come sit by her. And with this movie, she’s got plenty to say! (Premieres Tuesday, October 28)
- Evil Bong (2006) – Potheads Beware: You may enjoy this trip so much you’ll DIE! Join Elvira as she gets a whiff of this “High Art” and gets high with a little help from her friend Tommy Chong. (Premieres Wednesday, October 29)
- Seedpeople (1992) – Elvira is often mistaken for someone else, but this time even the alien creatures crawling out from inside these unsuspecting townspeople don’t want to be mistaken for her. (Premieres Thursday, October 30)
- Night of the Living Dead (1968) – Elvira resurrects the original zombie classic and devours it with raw energy! Elvira loves George A. Romero’s masterpiece so much, she’s takin it to the grave! (Premieres Friday, October 31)