The showbiz name of Cassandra Peterson who played Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, the raven-haired hostess of KHJ-TV Channel 9’s weekend horror show “Movie Macabre” from 1981-1993.
This “Mistress of the Dark,” described by film critic Robert Ebert as a “cross between Mae West and Vampirella,” hosted the worst in “B” minus horror movies and the best in female anatomy…namely Elvira’s.
Elvira wore a skintight black dress reminiscent of the one worn by Morticia (Carolyn Jones) of THE ADDAMS FAMILY/ABC/1964-66 but with more cleavage and leg showing — a true public relations device which no doubt accounted for her many bug-eyed viewers (Psst! she wears a metal-framed push-up bra).
Describing herself as a cross between Vincent Price and Mae West (or Ann Margaret and E.T.) Elvira delighted in poking fun at her weekly horror movies and attacking everything from the abilities of the actors, directors, low budget scripts, and scenery.
Additional members of her cast included Breather (John Paragon) as a greasy fellow who telephoned Elvira during her show and carried on bizarre conversations; Auntie Virus, Elvira’s grey-haired relative (Eve Smith), a spunky little old lady from Pasadena who tried to steal the spotlight from her attractive niece; and Attilla, the program director who threaded up such cinematic gems as Beware! The Blob (1972), and The Werewolf of Washington (1973).
To start off the program Elvira would say something like:
- “Hello, Darling. It’s me Elvira, the girl with the zonkers that will drive you bonkers”
- “The girl with the curves that will rattle your nerves”
- “The girl who put the “bra” back in the word bravo”
- “Hello Darling, it’s me Elvira, the Mistress of the Dark, the couch potato’s favorite tomato and I’m ripe and ready for a good time.”
At program’s end, Elvira signed off by looking seductively at the camera and saying “Unpleasant Dreams.” In the 1982 edition of her fan newsletter, The Elvira Examiner we discovered that Elvira was born near her mother; her sign was “Stop”; she was tall enough to reach the floor; heavy enough to fill her costume; and when a fan asked her if “They were real?” she responded “Of course, they’re real, Darling, these are my real nails. Did you think they were made of silicone?” Her turn offs included dwarves in bad moods and scientists with hatchets.
Cassandra Peterson, the gorgeous redhead, who played Elvira, was a former rock singer, Las Vegas Showgirl, and member of the Los Angeles comedy troupe, The Groundlings (which spawned the likes of Pee Wee Herman and Saturday Night Live’s Laraine Newman). Peterson was hired as Elvira for her T & A…talent and ability.
Elvira was the successor of another Channel 9 horror show host from the 1970s known as “Seymour, the epitome of evil, the most sinister man to crawl the face of the earth.” and “Grimsley,” the lovable vampire-mortician. Elvira debuted in Los Angeles in the fall of 1981 and has since been featured in the 1984 FALL GUY Halloween Special on ABC and displayed her wax likeness in the Movieland Wax Museum.
On March 9, 1984 Mayor Tom Bradley of Los Angeles proclaimed Elvira Day. In 1987, Elvira became the first woman to be spokesperson for Coors beer company.
Peterson’s Elvira character has spun-off numerous merchandising including a line of cosmetics featuring black fingernail polish; a perfume named “Evil”; and florescent-green hair spray; a line of horror videocassettes; her own comic series “Elvira’s House of Mystery”; a line of Elvira greeting cards (one sample card with a snake at Elvira’s cleavage read: “Fangs for the mammaries”); an “Elvira and the Party Monsters” pinball machine; the fantasy role playing adventure computer game “Elvira: Accolade”; and starring roles in her own theatrical motion pictures Elvira Mistress of the Dark (1988) and Elvira’s Haunted Hills (2001).
On September 2, 1995, Elvira hosted “Attack of the Killer B Movies” on NBC which spoofed edited versions of classic sci-fi movies The Wasp Woman (1960), Killers From Space (1954), Monster from Green Hell (1957) and The Navy Verses the Night Monsters (1966).
In 1997, Peterson opened Elvira’s Nightmare Haunted House in Atlanta.
In 2006, Peterson announced her intent to retire her role which inspired the FOX network reality original series THE SEARCH FOR THE NEXT ELVIRA (2007).
In September 2010, ELVIRA’S MOVIE MACABRE returned to television syndication. In October 2014, a new series of thirteen episodes had been produced, 13 NIGHTS OF ELVIRA for Hulu Network. The shows aired from October 19, 2014 through Halloween.
Still in popular demand, Elvira travels the world promoting the horror movie venue in places like the Cannes Film Festival and hosting Knott’s Scary Farm Halloween spectaculars at Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, California where she is known as “The Queen of Halloween.”