Cassandra Peterson is the person behind pop culture icon Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. And as the horror hostess, she’s known for her gothic, all-black and rather risqué look. But Peterson’s got quite a different aesthetic from Elvira, as it happens, meaning Elvira’s appearance had to be created from scratch. And, in fact, the story of how the actress came to embody her role is a fascinating one.
Even so, Elvira was never intended to become an enduring character; it was all a matter of fate. In 1981 a revival of the ’50s The Vampira Show was in progress, but its original hostess Maila Nurmi quit the project after producers rejected her suggestion for the lead role. So, the showmakers sent out a casting call for their leading lady – and among the hopefuls vying for a shot was Peterson.
And the rest, as they say, is history, as Peterson landed the part and began hosting Elvira’s Movie Macabre in her alter ego. The contrast between her gothic look and Valley girl personality was hilarious, and her sex appeal was a major draw too. Plus, Elvira herself would become a hit, with her name and likeness ultimately popping up on everything from calendars to pinball machines.