From Manhattan (KS) to the Macabre: A Conversation with Elvira, Mistress of the Dark

When I was offered to interview Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, I was a bit speechless. Being a fan of the legendary actress, it was a moment that made me stop in my tracks.

The woman has worked with Federico Fellini, had her own comic book, her own video games, her own pinball machines, her own reality TV show: “The Search for the Next Elvira” - and oh yeah, dated Elvis.

What Elvira is most known for is hosting “Elvira's Movie Macabre” which aired B grade horror movies while she lounged on a sofa – looking dead sexy - cracking jokes with her trademark Valley Girl delivery.

Cassandra Peterson 1
One of her most legendary feature movies, Elvira Mistress of the Dark is an 80's movie classic and has more gag-able one-liners than a Justin Bieber roast. Elvira – whose real name is Cassandra Peterson – will be making appearances all three days of the St. Louis Comic Con held May 22-24 at the America's Center.

You are coming to St. Louis for our annual Comic Con, what has your experiences been like at previous Comi Cons?

I've done these things for a lot of years. I think the only Comic Con at one time was the one in San Diego and it was in the basement of a hotel. I was the only woman. There were hundreds and hundreds of men and all their fans and me. Before Comic Con's there were car shows – I actually came to St. Louis one time for a car show. They would have celebrities come and sign autographs.

What is the strangest thing you have witnessed at one of these events?

There are some pretty strange things – people dressed up in some crazy costumes. Some of the nicer things I see are people with tattoos of me which is really awesome and still kind of startles me. There is one guy I see fairly often at Comic Cons and he has five or six tattoos of me on one arm.

The love from the fans must be overwhelming. Has there ever been a time you got emotional at a Comic Con?

Yea, a lot - just the last one I did: A girl came up to me and she had a really beautiful Elvira tattoo on her forearm and I asked her about it. She burst into tears because she said she got it the day after her dad died in remembrance of her dad because their favorite thing to do together when she was little was watch my show. They would always say, “It's Elvira time!” She started sobbing and I started sobbing and it was weird how I couldn't get over it for the next several people. I had to keep apologizing. So it does get Elvira7emotional. Many people (mainly women), but also sometimes men (mainly gay men) say to me I was the inspiration for them when they were growing up because they felt different, odd - and when they saw my movie, Mistress of the Dark - to them it made them feel like it was OK to be weird. They say it gave them self-esteem and helped them grow up and feel good about themselves. Every time I hear that – which is surprisingly often – that is the best thing about being this character.

Does your gay fan base turn out for the events?

Oh, they do – yes! Even in towns where I didn't know they had gay people [laughs]. Just kidding - I know they are everywhere. They come out in droves for sure – it always make me feel good for sure.

Has there ever been a celebrity at a Comic Con that flipped your wig?

I was always impressed by Stan Lee. Now we have been good friends for many years. I was always blown away by him since he is such a pillar of the industry. Recently I'm flipping out over Norman Reedus. I'm a huge, huge Walking Dead fan and Norman Reedus is going to be at one of my upcoming shows and I'm getting pretty flipped out by that. There's a lot of people at these shows that I love - people from older movies like John Waters – I am a huge John Waters fan; Herschell Gordon Lewis – the king of gore. People like that I am always blown away with since I am a huge horror movie fan.

Manhattan, Kansas is only a short 5 1/2 hour trip from St. Louis – any chance you might haunt your old stomping grounds?

Probably not this time around. Actually, last year I went there with my mom. I took her to - I don't know which one - her like 65th high school reunion. It was crazy. I actually saw a lot of people who knew me as a baby. It's a nice little town.

In Colorado, you worked as a go-go dancer in a gay bar? How did that work out for you?

Well, it was really weird. I hung out at this bar called The Purple Cow and I was actually go-go dancing as a girl – don't ask me why. I Cassandra Peterson as Elvirathink it was because it was on the border of Fort Carson Army Base so I guess I was there to entertain the straights that happened to wander in there. There were drag queens and they were doing a show and the third drag queen that was supposed to be there couldn't make it. They asked me if I could put on her drag and be the third person in The Supremes seeing how they did a Supremes type show and the next thing I know is I am a girl dressed as a girl being a guy. I don't know what in the hell I was, but the worst thing was I had to put on black face – it was all very odd. I did it for awhile because she never came back. Some people did think I was a fantastic drag queen.

You have been an advocate for gay rights – the LGBT community had a date with the Supreme Court regarding bans on same-sex marriage. How do you think the LGBT community will fare?

Oh, positively it will go your way – don't you worry. It will be a struggle for awhile like any human rights issue. I am 100% positive it will eventually sort itself out in favor of the LGBT community.

In the web series, RuPaul Drives, RuPaul said that Elvira is a part of Americana. Did that freak you out?

I was flattered for one thing. I certainly am ingrained in the whole pop culture and I have been around for so many friggin years. I'm like covered wagons and saloons or something – I been around for so damn long. So I guess when you are around for that long you are a part of Americana whether people like it or not.

As I was name dropping you to all my friends, it was interesting to see how the younger generation seems to appreciate you as much as us older queens. What is the secret to the timelessness of Elvira?

For a couple of decades everyone knew me, but there was a time period somewhere in the 2000's where I really thought Elvira was going to disappear. There weren’t a lot of things happening and I was worried about my fan base dying off. Then I don't know what happened, it could have been partially shows like RuPaul's Drag Race and a lot of the different reality shows I have been doing but it
bounced back all of a sudden and my fans became younger and younger. Every time I would go to a Comic Con I would keep getting younger fans and I thought, “Oh gosh its back!”

Elvira-1Elvira: Mistress of the Dark
is chockfull of memorable lines. What would you say if your personal favorite?

“If I want your opinion, I'll beat it out of you.” Mainly because I use it so often in my real day to day life. There were a lot of brilliant lines. I wish I could take credit for all of them - I can take credit for some of them – but a lot of them are John Paragon (who played Jambi the Genie in Pee Wee's Playhouse) and Sam Egan, my two co-writers. I did come up with the “How's your head?” line – I did do that.

It has been announced that Netflix will be producing a new movie for Pee-Wee Herman. Any chance of another cameo?

Funny you mention that. I just went on the audition recently. So we'll see – you never know. Even though Paul kindly suggested me for a couple roles, I still had to audition so you never know. It sure would be fun to be in it. I am so glad he finally got this together – he has been working on it for years.

What is a typical Halloween for Elvira like?

It's just kind of work, work, work – I am sort of burning the candle at both ends. I am doing Knott's Berry Farm again, which is the Halloween Haunt here in Southern California. Which, a lot of people don't know, is the largest Halloween venue in the world and the longest and the oldest. I have done it 24 times, I believe. It's a big, big production and I work on it for months. Its super busy; its insanely busy. I have a year's worth of work that I have to cram in about a month and a half. I do work all year round at various things, but that season is ridiculous. Last year I was shooting my Hulu show, 13 Nights of Elvira during the day and then doing the show at night and that was almost too intense.

I am always interested in how celebrities wind down and relax. Once the paint is off and Cassandra re-emerges, what do you to unwind?

Drink! (Laughs) I like cooking – believe it or not. Cooking and drinking at the same time. I learned to cook in Italy when I was still a teenager and I really enjoyed it. It's not very exciting, but I like to listen to music and cook.

So you say you listen to music. What would be the first five songs on your iPod?

elvira-wallpaper-111078Everyone is going to think it is ridiculous, but just like old movies, I am really into old rock and roll. I have this thing for music like Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix. Although I am really into Jack White and Queens of the Stone Age. When I did "Mistress of the Night,” Guns 'N Roses just came out and I listened to them morning, noon, and night. When I was putting on my makeup I was listening to “Welcome to the Jungle.” It's like musical speed. But I do listen to everything, there isn't any kind of music I don't like.

What projects are your currently working on?

I am going to be on a television show I just shot, but I can't talk about it. It's going to be around a Halloween reality show, but I can't talk about it. But I am working on an animated project, so that could take many years. I think Elvira lends herself to animation very well, like an Adult Swim type show. I've been doing a lot of voice-overs lately like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles so hopefully I have a voice that people will recognize.

Cassandra will be at the St. Louis Comic Con May 22nd-24th at the America's Center located at 701 Convention Plaza. For ticket prices and information, visit