Elvira -- A Character Perfected
You can get all the background on Elvira (Cassandra Peterson) via Wiki and IMDb, so I'm not going to repeat what is already available to those interested in the subject. This is more of a personal impression of the actress and her effect upon me. Perhaps you shared some of these impressions.
My sister and I had a bad habit of staying up late to watch horror films. The narrator of these "B" movie thrillers was none other than Elvira... at least I thought so. Now, something doesn't mesh up with the Wiki data. In Wiki it states that Cassandra Peterson was born in 1951. Wiki goes on to state:
In the late spring of 1981, six years after the death of Larry Vincent, who starred as host Sinister Seymour of a local Los Angeles weekend horror show called Fright Night, show producers began the task of bringing the show back.
If the Elvira show began in 1981, I would have been 28 years old, and this is an impossibility. By the time I hit 28, I was already married and divorced yet I distinctly remember watching Elvira as a kid or young teen.
The producers decided to use a female host. They asked 1950s horror hostess Maila Nurmi to revive The Vampira Show. Nurmi worked on the project for a short time, but eventually quit when the producers would not hire Lola Falana to play Vampira. The station sent out a casting call, and Peterson auditioned and won the role.
Perhaps I never made the huge mental leap from horror hostess Maila Nurmi to Elvira. Simple facts would have to support some kind of conclusion as this.
Anyway, eventually there she was (Elvira, that is), sexy as hell and just as funny.
Although Cassandra Peterson did some other parts, her career really revolved around the Elvira role -- even when the TV series was long cancelled. She created a kind of "afterlife" for herself by putting out a series of "B" movies under her own logo. In 1988 Cassandra came out with her first movie, which was brilliant comedy. In or around 2003 Cassandra came out with a second film, which I thought was equally funny.
Claypool did a long-running comic book series (finely drawn by the way) that kept her image alive through the 90's. Cassandra also did a lot of personal appearances and even a few recordings. (Yes, she can sing.) In the late 90's, I caught a holographic portrayal of Cassandra doing a song and dance routine, and it wowed me -- not just because of the technical achievement but by how svelte and alluring the actress was at this stage in her career. She just didn't seem to age.
Cassandra was gifted with a dream figure and a naturally impressive bust, and none of this hurt when she wore her revealing Elvira costume. I can't think of any other actress who built an entire career on a single character like Cassandra -- not one with the same longevity and fan devotion.
You have to give her unlimited appreciation because not many actresses could have pulled off this stunt for so long. You have to give her credit for knowing and recognizing an iconic figure and sticking with it through thick and thin. Above all you have to give Cassandra credit for being a talented comedian. She could play the sexy vamp but also a kind of Valley Girl kind of bimbo, and mix the two together seamlessly. Throughout her years she never resorted to vulgarism to get a laugh. Her humor was wry but always within the bounds.
I don't know if Cassandra still makes personal appearances or not. I suspect she could since she aged gracefully and the Elvira makeup is pretty thick stuff. (I imagine she's overjoyed to be free of it.)
My hat is off to Cassandra because she perfected a truly memorable, lovable character, without stooping to anything illicit or seedy (although some of her humor as Elvira borders on this). She somehow played both ends against the middle and won a lot of admirers -- kids to adults. Her legend lives on in the Goth subculture of young adults. Elvira never got messed up with religious issues (i.e., paganism vs. Christianity), but her mere appearance as the "mistress of the dark" seems to have activated a waiting subculture. In her first movie Elvira is regarded as the misfit -- and she is but has no realization of it thus making all those she offends by her mere presence seem even more out of touch because they don't possess the wherewithal to display their sexuality, wit or sarcasm. By contrast Elvira wins over the youngsters (first the males, of course, but then the young women as well) -- all of whom are more open about an odd intrusion into their quaint, secluded community.
It's time for Cassandra to do an autobiography because there must be mountains of material of which the public is unaware. I'd read it -- especially if it were unadulterated and mixed with the same brand of humor that brought Elvira to life for so many years. I'd enjoy reading about her double life. Cassandra bears no resemblance to Elvira, so I imagine she was able to go to the local grocery store without being hounded by fans or journalists. To this extent she must have been at least somewhat thankful for the theatrical makeup, wigs, and costumes. Not many celebrities can completely shed a skin and get back to their normal existence.
Cassandra's earlier career certainly did not impede her advancement toward Elvira. If anything, it gave her a very good sense of how to move in an artful/sexual manner. Elvira doesn't do much dancing but her every movement seems to require a requisite amount of sensuality. This early clip of Cassandra gives you the idea of why she landed to role of Elvira.
Cassandra Peterson (Elvira) In The Working Girls (1974) [HD]
Wiki makes reference to Cassandra's "replacement," and I kind of inwardly shudder. I suppose the figure of Elvira is more important than the actress who portrays her, but it's sort of like finding a replacement for Superman once Christopher Reeve met with his riding accident. Brandon Routh showed that a talented actor could fill in the big shoes. And Henry Cavill is showing that it's possible to move beyond the Reeve model into an unexpected kind of Superman. So, I suppose I shouldn't shudder at the idea of someone replacing Cassandra. I suppose it's inevitable, and maybe this new actress will bring admirable attributes to the character -- just as Routh and Cavill have done for Superman. But just as there will always only be one Christopher Reeve interpretation of Superman, the same will hold true for Cassandra and her perfection of the Elvira character.