Written By AL J. Vermette
A mist crawls over the floor as a lone dark figure enters the room. She is
dressed all in black with a plunging neckline that would drive any man wild and
submit to her beckoning. Her hair dark and flawless as she stands before you with
seductive eyes and alluring smile. She is Elvira: Mistress of The Dark, The Queen
of Halloween and the most known female horror icon in the world. When thinking
about this years Halloween Creature Feature, I had a few things in mind but then I
looked up at the photo of Blood Moon Rising #32 with this horror icon adorning its
cover upon my office wall and knew I had my feature subject.
You may not know her birth name Cassandra Peterson but unless you have
been living your life in a cave you sure as hell know her as her alter ego…Elvira.
She is the very essence of Halloween itself and for the past 20 years, she has
made the holiday her own and then some. There is not a Halloween party you can
go to that you don’t see someone donning the black dress and wig of this most
iconic creation of Halloween and horror. Born in Manhattan, Kansas in 1951,
Cassandra grew up with stars in her eyes of making it big someday, little did she
think how big them stars would be. Within days of graduating high school, the
young Cassandra drove to Sin City Las Vegas to become a Show Girl. In 1971 she
won a small role in the James Bond film “Diamonds Are Forever” and posed for the
cover of Tom Waits album “Small Change” in 1 976.
The soon to be Queen of Halloween was once the lead singer of an Italian rock
band called “I Latins Ochanats” when she lived in Italy and even worked with a
comedy group called “The Groundlings.” It was here was when the seeds of what
would be the character of Elvira would to slowly show itself. It was with this cast of
funny people that she came up with a Valley Girl like persona that would one day
be the back-bone of her most famous creation. Along the way Peterson auditioned
for the part of Ginger in the “Gilligan’s Island” 3rd TV movie in 1981 but fell short of
the part. She posed for magazines and also work in radio on the Los Angeles
106.7 KROQ station.
In 1981 the producers of the local TV show “Fright Night” in LA were looking to
bring their show back to the airwaves after five years of being of f the air due to the
shows host Larry Vincent AKA Sinister Seymour passing away. (By the way do you
get the Fight Night connection? Larry Vincent….Peter Vincent from the movie) The
producers wanted to go with a female horror host this time to lead into their movie
night and so a casting call went out. Out of over 200 women, Cassandra got the
part and the airwaves and horror have never been the same since. It was up to
Cassandra to create her on screen character and so dipping back to her days with
the comedy group and her Valley Girl creation and adding the tall black beehive wig
and cleavage enhancing black dress she was complete…. Elvira: Mistress of The
Dark was born.
Elvira hosted the show and lead in and out of B movies each week most often
sprawled atop a red Victorian sofa as she goofed on the films bad action and other
pit falls of B movies of the day. The show and its new sexy horror host was a hit
and soon the world would know and embrace Cassandra’s alter ego. In the years
to follow Elvira could be seen everywhere from guest spots on TV shows like
Fantasy Island, The Fall Guy and Chips. She was even a guest many times on The
Tonight Show where this writer saw her one night when promoting her own film
“Elvira: Mistress of the Dark” in 1988.
The new star of horror was not only restricted to TV only, she was the
spokesgirl for Coors Light beer and Halloween haunted houses bore her name.
She was even hired to promote the Halloween events at the Knotts Theme Parks.
In 1985 she hosted a series of movie videos for Thriller Video where she hand-
picked many of the movies she hosted.
Elvira even has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. There is a wicked roller
coaster ride in the Six Flags Great Adventure park in NJ that bares her name and
In 1988 the horror hostess stepped before the cameras when she stared in the
movie “Elvira: Mistress of The Dark.” The very lovely lady really got to show how
funny she could be besides showing the sexy side. She followed it up years later in
the mid 2000s with “Elvira’s Haunted Hills.” She even shot a pilot for a TV series for
NBC but was never picked up by the network. Still Elvira’s fame marched on and so
did the actress who played her. Stepping out of the black gown and high hair
Cassandra Peterson worked on the movie “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” with friend
Paul Reubens AKA Pee-Wee Herman himself who she worked with years before
with their comedy team The Groundings.
Yes Elvira does rule the world of horror and rightly so. She has become the
very icon of the Halloween season and far beyond with toys, dolls comic books,
post cards, park rides, films, horror and non-horror magazine covers and even the
sales of Halloween costumes matching hers. She was even featured on the cover
of this publication two years ago for Blood Moon Rising #32. If you are lucky you
may catch her at one of her live signings at horror and comic conventions like
Chiller Theater. By the way you can see the photo of her and me below this article
when we met in 2007. I must say that it was one of the most highlights of being a
horror magazine publisher when I met with the one and only Elvira.
Publisher AL Vermette with Elvira