Kitsch Fix: A Pre-Halloween Catch-Up with Elvira

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Published October 29, 2010

ELVIRA, MISTRESS OF THE DARK. PHOTO COURTESY OF AUSTIN YOUNG.

 

We know you’re as sick of “how slutty is too slutty” and “five-minute costume” Halloween stories as we are. So on this spookiest of workdays, we’re happy to bring you something altogether different: a little chat with Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.

Elvira (whose real name is Cassandra Peterson, but you didn’t hear it from us) has been many things in her time—the youngest showgirl in the history of Vegas, the lead singer of an Italian rock band, a radio host—but we know and love her better as the buxom Gothic host of the funny, campy B-movie show Elvira’s Movie Macabre in the ’80s (and the Elvira, Mistress of the Dark feature film in 1988). Elvira’s officially back in action this year, with all-new episodes of Elvira’s Movie Macabre appearing on nationally syndicated television.

ELVIRA’S PLANS FOR HALLOWEEN (AND HOW SHE CAME TO MEET JACK WHITE): I’m leaving tomorrow morning for Nashville, where I’m hosting a Halloween party for Jack White and his label Third Man Records. It’s me and the Greenhornes and the Black Belles, who did the theme song for my new TV show which Jack produced. I actually met Jack through my friend Pee-Wee Herman, of all people, a few years ago and we’ve kept in touch ever since. We’re pen pals and we have a mutual admiration thing going on. I have to say, it’s turned into something pretty cool. He also helped me with art and animation for my show. Jack really appreciates women. He always tells me that if he comes back as a woman, he wants to wear his hair like mine. THE INSPIRATION FOR HER ICONIC VAMP ‘DO: The name of the hairstyle… and I’m not kidding, this is the real name. This is not something I made up. The hairstyle is called “a knowledge bump.” And the style comes from the Ronettes. My best friend, at the time when I was creating Elvira, he was a total freak over Ronnie Spector of the Ronettes. And she referred to it as “a knowledge bump.” So, she was the primary inspiration, and ’60s girl groups. And this was around ’81, so of course punk rock was out and people assume punk was a major influence, but no one was really doing the beehive look at that point. It’s funny, because I can immediately tell the difference between my shows from over the years, because originally my hair was really flat and then it kept growing and growing and growing. In the mid-’80s, it was so high I looked like a freakin’ Conehead. And then, after that, my hair comes down and finds a happy medium. And in my new show, I punked it out more. I don’t want to look like Snooki or something! You know, it would be flattering if she… Never mind! I won’t say that! But Snooki does a poor man’s version of Elvira. I don’t screw with the dress. Why screw with something that’s working for you. 

WHERE DOES ELVIRA SUMMER? I’ve never ever been asked that question. Hey. Wow! Elvira doesn’t summer. HORROR FILMS SHE’S CURRENTLY INTO: One I really like is called Manos: The Hands of Fate, which is right up there with Plan 9 From Outer Space as the biggest piece of crap ever made. It’s so great, though. Just brilliant. And I happen to love The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, where this girl gets her head lopped off and they stick it on a baking pan. And it’s alive! Oh. My. God. To me, it’s a classic. I really like Teenagers from Outer Space, which is so damn funny! I mean, you can hardly believe your eyes. I mean I have watched these films like 800 times a piece, so I know them by heart.

THE HUNT FOR THE DISAPPEARING CELLULOID: I went searching all over the place—seriously forever—hunting for a print of [1988’s] Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. I looked everywhere. And they were seemingly all gone. I may even have the only one still in existence. And now, I drive around the country to screen it and present it. It makes a pretty big bang.

SURELY, QUENTIN TARANTINO OR HARRY KNOWLES HAS ONE OR KNOWS WHERE TO FIND IT: I would be surprised if they did. I’ve had fans, collectors who contact me who have been searching for a print for the last 10 years.

HOW ELVIRA’S 16-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER FEELS ABOUT HORROR MOVIES: [Elvira asks her daughter, “Are you into horror films, baby?”] She just shrugged. Anything I’m into, she’s pretty much not right now.

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT ELVIRA AND FIND LOCAL LISTINGS FOR ELVIRA’S MOVIE MACABRE, PLEASE VISIT HER WEBSITE.