Elvira, Mistress Of The Dark And Movie Macabre Hostess, Then And Now
By | July 14, 2019
Anyone who was living in Los Angeles in the 1980s remembers the big black hair, gratuitous puns, and the late-night b-movies of Elvira’s Movie Macabre. As one of the all-time great horror hosts, Elvira turned a kitschy character from a campy local program into one of the most iconic roles of the 20th century.
Even if you weren’t in Los Angeles during the heyday of Elvira’s KHJ-TV show you definitely saw her in convenience stores and on commercials every Halloween. She was a whip-smart comedic presence who brought camp culture to the mainstream while zapping teenage brains with b-movies so bad they should be illegal. She’s the one, the only, Elvira.
Before there was Elvira, there was Cassandra
From a young age -- too young, let's be clear -- Cassandra Peterson was an impressive physical specimen. She worked as a professional dancer in her early teens, then, immediately after graduating high school, she drove from her hometown of Colorado Springs to Las Vegas. There, she became a showgirl in Frederic Apcar's pioneering "Vive Les Girls!" at The Dunes. Peterson told the Huffington Post about her job as a go-go dancer:
I started out as a go-go dancer when I was 14 years old and I did that until I was 17 and I moved to Las Vegas and became the youngest showgirl in Las Vegas history. I think I still hold that record. I started at a club in downtown Colorado Springs called Club A Go Go and then I danced at EM [enlisted members] clubs at Fort Carson and NORAD Air Force Base and all the different Army bases.
While working as a dancer she had a brief dalliance with Elvis Presley, although she says that their friendship was mostly platonic. She explained:
[Elvis] was very innocent. He was surrounded by all of his handlers every second ― he was never alone. We talked all night. He played the piano and we sang together. He had just gotten this belt from the president of the United States, so he was showing me that. We were talking about numerology and astrology and psychic stuff ― he was really into it. I have a bunch of notes that he wrote for me on the back of an envelope that’s addressed to Vernon Presley ― his father.
Following her go-go dancing career in Vegas, she went to Europe where she sang with the bands Latins 80 and The Snails before appearing in the Federico Fellini film Roma in 1972. She continued acting in Europe until she moved to Los Angeles in 1979.