What Most People Don’t Know About Elvira

Elvira is instantly recognizable by her enormous
black bouffant hairstyle and the plunging neckline of her skin-tight vampiress gown. But behind the vamp-camp drag image is a real
woman with a storied history of her own. Here’s the untold truth of Elvira. “Hi, this is Cassandra Peterson, better known
as Elvira, Mistress of the dark!” As a child, young Cassandra Peterson suffered
scalding burns over 35% of her body, resulting in the need to have a host of skin graft surgeries. This incident later caused her to feel marked,
both physically and otherwise, as different, and began her fascination with monsters and
outcasts. Growing up, Peterson developed a love of dancing
and decided to become a showgirl. Before she was even legally allowed to drink,
she had auditioned to be a professional dancer and made the cut, traveling all around the
country dancing in bars and hotels. Because of this, she spent a great deal of
her teen years surrounded by gay men and drag queens, an experience she credits wth giving
her the foundation for the enduring camp persona that became Elvira. She also credits no less than Elvis himself
for advising her to leave her Las Vegas dancing job and look for something bigger. “He is 100% responsible for me getting out
of Vegas and going on with my career. Elvis said to me, you don’t want to stay here,
this is not a town you should be in.” After appearing in small roles in several
films and TV shows throughout the 1970s, Peteron put the final piece of the puzzle together
in 1979 when she joined the famed Groundlings theater troupe, whose alumni include such
luminaries as Kathy Griffin, Phil Hartman, and Jon Lovitz. Part of what makes Elvira so appealing is
the fact that she’s a parody. But as always with parody, the person being
parodied didn’t necessarily like it, leading to a major lawsuit that almost derailed Elvira’s
career before it began. In 1981, television producers looking to start
a weekly horror show hired 1950s horror host Maila Nurmi to revive her character Vampira. After they parted ways due to creative differences,
however, the producers instead turned to Peterson to host the show; she created Elvira for the
role, and an instant icon was born. Nurmi, however, thought Elvira’s schtick was
way, way too close to Vampira and sued. In 1988 she made a rare appearance on a cable
talk show to discuss the case. “Cassandra Peterson claims that she has never
seen your show. Do you believe that?” “I don’t know for sure she saw them, except,
in February ’82 she proceeded to emulate my performance exactly.” “There are at least 80 similarities. It’s identical, it’s my show.” The judges ruled in Elvira’s favor, in part
because Vampira herself was modeled after Morticia from The Addams Family, but Nurmi
reportedly held a grudge for the rest of her life. “Did anyone ever tell you you look like…” “Vampira?” “Yeah!” “No.” To some viewers, Elvira is thoroughly all
about her sex appeal. For many others particularly young women and
gay men she is the marriage of sexiness, intelligence, and campy humor. Some of that is Peterson’s performance, but
a lot of it is Peterson’s writing. Besides performing on screen, Peterson has
writing credits on most of her projects, including the feature film Elvira: Mistress of the Dark. Along with her writing partner, fellow Groundlings
alum John Paragon, Peterson also authored three novels credited to Elvira. And Peterson currently has an autobiography
slated to come out for Halloween 2020, which she reportedly has been working on for 15
years! Obviously, Peterson is best-known and best-loved
for her portrayal of the hilarious scream queen, but she has also appeared in non-Elvira
roles, even after the character’s debut. In Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, starring fellow
Groundlings alum Paul Reubens, Peterson played a small but memorable role as “Biker Mama”
in a scene where Pee-Wee endears himself to a seedy bar full of rough-and-tumble bikers. She’s also done appropriately weird things
like the 2006 film Red Riding Hood, and the absurd 2010 gorefest. 2010 All About Evil. Those aren’t her only non-Elvira roles, though. She also has a successful side gig as a voice
actor, working on everything from Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go! to Teenage Mutant
Ninja Turtles, where she voiced the alien Utrom Queen for six episodes. As Peterson approaches 70 years old, it is
remarkable how ageless she seems. She continues to don the Elvira costume with
grace, crediting her slim figure and youthful appearance not on draining the blood of the
innocent as one might guess, but on good clean living including yoga, regular running, and
maintaining a vegetarian diet. Her diet isn’t just about keeping trim, however. She has publicly advocated for a vegetarian
diet for animal rights, even filming multiple ads on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment
of Animals. “You know, Bunny, I think you should give
back that leather coat you got for your birthday.” “Why, Elvira?” “Because it looked better on the first cow!” . These days, it seems she does eat some meat,
but she’s still focused on keeping it primarily fruit and veggies. It’s just the latest unexpected life and career
twist for Peterson. All we can say is, we can’t wait to see what
Elvira comes up with next. “Well, that’s our show! I hope you enjoyed watching it as much as
I did.” Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Looper videos about your favorite
stars are coming soon. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit the
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100 thoughts on “What Most People Don’t Know About Elvira

  1. weird…when you look up all the nude pictures out there of Cassandra Peterson, see if you can find any with 35% of her body covered in burns…because she shows about 100% of her body, and I see no skin grafts…. Outstanding nudes btw….

  2. She is ageless and has always been the most beautiful Mistress of the dark. Her added talent has to always be so funny, her comedic ability has been not given the respect she deserves.


  4. Blink and you'll miss it: Cassandra Peterson standing next to the great Phil Hartman in that pic of the Groundlings. I wonder who influenced who more regarding comic timing.

  5. Many years ago, Genesis, the men's magazine, did a story about her. In addition, in 1975, the magazine did a pictorial of her that was very classy. There aren't many women like that around anymore.

  6. Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Imagine being introduced to the English language with that sentence

  7. This is how you can tell a real vampire. There seems to be a lot of them in the film industry. So be wary of the actors/ actresses that never age.

  8. To this DAY if I mention Elvira in front of my folks my mother will lose her SHIT because my dad has a crush on her lol

  9. First off I'm sorry but there's only one word that comes to mind while I was watching this video and that's boobs! 😂😂😂

  10. Wow 70!! My mistress (if the wife would allow me = NOT!!)! Cassandra is still stunning, I have seen her on Counts Customs on Discovery and I thought she was hot then. I thought her Elvira was a brilliant role and she portrayed it very well both in looks and the parody she portrayed, was fun to watch, even now years and years later. Well good on you Cassandra and we still love (watching) you!

  11. I did not realize that Cassandra Peterson was so attractive when not being Elivra… and that sexy voice. GREAT. I hope to see more of her in the future.

  12. Good God, Mira Nurmi, is butt-ugly! Bad teeth, weird eyebrows – couldn't imagine anyone want to watch her on TV. At least Cassanda Peterson was a very attractive, well-built vixen that had a most titilating persona. I also heard she starred in adult movies back in the 1970s, but I won't that against a working girl trying to get ahead in life. I had no idea about her burn accident when she was young nor did I realize she was a talented writer. All of which impresses the hell out me. What an amazing person.

  13. I love Elvira! "Mistress of the dark" was a classic I grew up with👌👍 one of my favourite lines was "if I want your opinion? I'll beat it out of ya!"

  14. She still looks great! I don’t know much about her, but I’ve seen her as I was passing by many television sets over the years.

  15. Heres one thing that they forgot to say Shes the absolute best kind hearted and a super person and will go out of her way to say hi to a fan and take a photo or sign an autograph. Simply the best Love you Elvira.

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