FEARnet hit the ‘Elvira Mistress of the Art Show’ show and signing this past Saturday in Hollywood, CA, and while there sat down for a chat with horror icon and celebrity Cassandra Peterson, better known to genre fans as ‘Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.’ Held at the retail store Monster-A-Gogo (7361 Melrose Avenue), the showing consisted of Elvira-inspired art pieces by such notable artists as Elizabeth McGrath, Queenie, Lucky Hellcat, Allan Graves, Tim Polecat and Gris Grimly, among others, and a long and unwavering queue of black-clad fans eager for an autograph from and photo-op with the star.
For those unfamiliar (although I highly doubt that there’s a FEARnet reader unaware of Elvira’s genre pedigree), Cassandra Peterson’s alter ego entered the public’s conscious in the early 80’s as the host of the Los Angeles weekend KHJ-TV horror show Movie Macabre, in which her risqué double entendres, ample décolletage and spooky and comedic shtick quickly garnered a local following.
Guest television appearances followed, as did films (the 1988 Peterson-co-written feature Elvira: Mistress of the Dark and 2001’s Elvira’s Haunted Hills), a national beer ad campaign, and a lengthy stint as the ‘face’ of Knott’s Scary Farm's Halloween Haunt, among others, all of which elevated Peterson’s Elvira persona from cult figure to international star. Now synonymous with Halloween, one would be hard-pressed to not encounter her visage during the fall season via costumes, calendars, comic books, trading cards, décor….the list goes delightfully on.
Sitting down with the 62-year old Peterson, this writer was taken by her openness and self-deprecating wit, as well as the fact that she’s seemingly ageless (at 62, Peterson looks not a day over 40).
“It was a great turnout!” she stated of the throngs of fans who had descended upon Monster-A-Gogo for the signing. “I thought really after being at Knott’s for the month of October and then Stan Lee’s Comikaze convention last weekend that I’d already signed something for every single person in L.A., so I didn’t think that anyone would be here.”
Having returned this year to Knott’s Scary Farm with her amazingly popular ‘Sinema Séance’ show (see it below) after an extended hiatus from the event (in 2001 the park’s then-new owners had parted ways with her in an effort to deliver a more ‘family friendly’ attraction), Peterson stated, “It was phenomenal. I guess they had the biggest crowds they’ve had in twelve years, since I left. It was huge, with two big audiences every night, around 1,800 people a show, and it was just fantastic! It was a really good show. I had new writers and a lot of new special effects, and a great team of dancers [called] ‘The Academy of Villains,’ and I think altogether it was the best show I’ve ever done. I was happy with it anyway.”
With Elvira's “Movie Macabre” series revived by NBC in 2010 with Peterson in the title role, and the 26-episode season now available on DVD, we asked her if fans may expect a follow-up season of tongue-in-cheek commentary on the B-films the series hosts.
“That’s probably the first and last season we’ll do,” she stated.
“The difficulty is getting the rights to the films,” Peterson expounded. “It’s very tough to sell and to syndicate. The best thing is that there are public domain horror films out there that we could do, but some of them are such poor quality that we simply couldn’t [do them]. I did have all of the films in the series re-mastered though, at such a tremendous expense I can’t even tell you! It seems like it’s a cheap show [to produce], but when it gets to those old films, it’s not cheap.”
Far from resting on her laurels, the savvy businesswoman and entertainer has her hands in many other ventures, however, one being her Demeter Fragrance Library perfume line The Dark Collection, which features the scents ‘Elvira’s Zombie,’ ‘Elvira’s Black Roses’ and ‘Elvira’s Vamp.’
“It’s going really great, and next year it will be in the stores,” Peterson offered of the line, which is currently available via her website. “This year it was too late (to appear in stores), as retailers order a year in advance, but next year for Halloween it will be!”
Her main focus, however, is penning her long-awaited autobiography.
“I’m really concentrating on writing now,” she effused. “I’ve been starting and stopping [work on the autobiography] for the last twenty-five years, but I started out as a writer, and I don’t want to farm it out to somebody else and have it not be in my own voice. There are some great ghost writers out there, but I’m a writer, and I want to write it myself.”
“It’s kind of creepy writing about yourself,” she continued of the introspection inherent to such a tome, “but for me the hardest part is just finding the time, because it is so time-consuming, and I don’t have a lot of time, so I try to fit it in when I can. My problem is I’m always doing a little bit of this and a little bit of that. The thing is I’m running my business all of time, and even though I have people that work for me, my merchandising and licensing business is my bread and butter, and I’m kind of the overseer, and that is really time consuming.”
As for how much of the book she’s actually got down, Peterson stated, “Not that much. I think I’ve gotten up to [my life at] fifteen years old! It’s so sad. So I need to focus on that.”
One of the other things competing for Peterson’s focus is a new show which she’s actively developing, in which her character of Elvira will appear as the central figure.
“It’s an animation project which I’ve been working on for a long time, and I’m really going for that, too,” she concluded. “I’ve always toyed with the idea of an [animated] show, and I’ve taken it out a few times. In the past, I’ve had six different animated projects in development with other companies, but they never reached the air. Now that I’m doing one, I’m going to get it on the air somewhere. I’m really excited about it, and I have some really big people working on it with me!”