Elvira: Horror Hostess and Gay Icon
Late night horror hostess Elvira is a goth, punk, valley girl, with a huge…uh, sarcastic streak. Though she predates them by over a decade, Elvira is like the Borg of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Resistance is futile, everyone will stare. Her 5′ 7″ frame is wrapped in a form-fitting black dress slit to the upper thigh, and has neckline deeper than the Grand Canyon. Her infamous bust (34 D) looks barely contained. Completing the look is mesmerizing eye makeup, and a massive punked out bouffant.
Given her dimensions and the cut of her wardrobe, how does she stay in that dress? According to a quote found on EW.com, Elvira herself says “There is nothing in there except my major-steel-belted, double-radial bra, which contains a lot of metal. There’s no glue, no staples, no nails involved”.
Whether it is boob tech or magic that keeps her in that famous dress, there is no doubt why Elvira is a gay icon. Various online dictionaries define ‘gay icon’ as a public figure embraced by the LGBT community. Predominately female entertainers (e.g. Judy Garland, Cher, Madonna, and Lady Gaga to name a few), they stand out because of their glamour, flamboyance, and strength through adversity, among other attributes.
With her signature look, cheesy one-liners (“I put the rack in Dracula”), and innuendos (“What’s your favorite ride at Knott’s Scary Farm?” she asks, to which the audience replies “Elvira”), the Queen of Halloween was guaranteed icon status with gay men.
Who is Elvira? Elvira, the Mistress of the Dark first appeared on the ‘boob-tube’ in late September 1981. She was the new hostess (with the mostess) of the L.A. local show ‘Movie Macabre’. By adding her blend of satirical and sarcastic comedic commentary to B-grade horror movies, her campy presentation, gravity defying sex appeal, as well as good-natured self-mockery (boob jokes, big ones), made Elvira a hit with late night viewers.
The ghoul who put the bust back in ghost busters, is the stage/screen persona of actor, singer, and director Cassandra Peterson, who was born in Manhattan; Manhattan Kansas that is. Her family eventually moved to Colorado Springs, CO, which is where she grew up. Unlike most girls of that time, Cassandra preferred horror movie themed toys over Barbie dolls. Combine that with working in her mother’s costume shop, and it is no surprise Halloween is Cassandra’s favorite holiday. Unfortunately it is also the busiest time of year for her.
While working in the costume shop Cassandra started meeting gay men. She was amazed by how many men came into the shop looking for dresses, and thought it was cool.
Soon after she was almost always around gay men. In her own words “I don’t know where I would be without gay men. From the beginning until now, I don’t know what I would do. I would be back in Kansas milking cows right now. I can’t tell you the influence gay men have had on my life and still have. I still surround myself with gay men in every aspect of my life, personally and professionally” (thegayuk.com).
Cassandra’s early career is quite eclectic (go-go dancer, when they wore fringe dresses and knee-high white boots, foreign film star, lead singer of a band etc). It wasn’t until L.A. tv station KHJTV decided to revive “Fright Night” (re-named “Movie Macabre”) that Cassandra’s life would change. With the help of close friend Robert Redding (deceased), the character of Elvira was born. Cassandra credits Redding completely for Elvira’s look, and encouraging her to keep the character alive. Cassandra always viewed the role of Elvira as ‘just a job’, but that changed after appearing on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Suddenly she bust-ed out of the obscure cult-figure shadows.
Since then Elvira has built an ’empire’ with comic books, computer games, pinball machines, calendars, a variety of guest appearances, two of her own movies, six music albums, a Coors beer spokesperson,, and merchandising (costume, cardboard stand up, posters, etc). Elvira and Halloween go together so much so that she’s had to find impersonators to meet the demand for appearances. To date there are only three officially recognized Elvira impersonators. Christian Greenia (aka Cassandra Fever), and Patterson Lundquist (“Elvira’s Twin”) were first. Peterson herself said they were “the best I’d ever seen”.
Together the trio co-judged “The Search For The Next Elvira”. This four episode reality contest whittled out the wannabes and left the breast – er best Elvira impersonator. The winner, April Wahlin, was the first official female Elvira impersonator. During her one year ‘reign’ Ms. Wahlin made appearances as Elvira throughout the country. Greenia and Lundquist still appear as Elvira at various events.
Elvira and Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee were guests of honor at the inaugural Comikaze Expo in 2011. The following year, Ms. Peterson became an investor in Comikaze Expo Inc.; which is one of the largest pop culture conventions in the U.S.
Comikaze Expo isn’t the only convention Elvira has attended. While at Boston ComicCon 2015 Ms. Peterson told fans that she is working on an Elvira animated series, which is supposed to pick up where her cult hit film “Elvira: Mistress of the Dark” ended.
No official dates or details have been released, but fans of the iconic horror Queen will no doubt keep their eyes on the internet. In the mean time the B Queen of Scream can be seen at Knott’s Scary Farm Elvira’s Asylum -Live Stage Show (Knott’s Berry Farm Theme Park, Buena Park, CA) every weekend through Halloween; as well as Comikaze Expo from 10/30 – 11/1 2015 in L.A. For more info on Elvira’s schedule, or for official Elvira merchandise check out elivra.com