LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS Exclusive interview with Cassandra Peterson aka Elvira
By James Whittington, Thursday 20th November 2008
She’s the Queen of the horror entertainment scene and has been for over 25 years! Yes folks I’m talking about Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. We caught up with her alter ego, the charming and utterly gorgeous Cassandra Peterson and asked her a few questions about her cult character.
Zone Horror: First of all, can you tell us why you went into show business in the first place?
Cassandra Peterson: I think I got my first taste of audience adulation in Grand Junction, Kansas when I was two years old and my Dad ran out and stuck me on top of a horse with Hop-a-Long Cassidy, the BIGGEST TV star at the time. I heard the crowd applaud as we made our way down a parade route and I was hooked. I took up dancing when I was five and then became obsessed with becoming Ann-Margret when I was hitting puberty. Specifically Ann-Margret’s character in Viva Las Vegas with Elvis. Being the center of attention was all I ever really wanted to do.
ZH: Who were your idols or heroes when you were young?
CP: Elvis was one of my first idols. I got his record ‘You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound Dog’ for my 5th birthday and played it until it wore out. I had every record and saw every movie he ever did. As I mentioned, Ann-Margret became my idol when she starred along with Elvis in Viva Las Vegas. I also had a love/hate relationship with Vincent Price. I loved to see every movie he was in but then I suffered for weeks afterwards with nightmares. While in puberty, I switched from Elvis to the Beatles and became their biggest fan….especially John Lennon.
ZH: Have you always been a horror fan?
CP: As a child I was very much into scary movies, particularly the Roger Corman series of low-budget rip-off…uh, I mean tributes to Edgar Allen Poe stories: Pit and the Pendulum, The Raven, etc. When other girls my age were collecting Barbie dolls I was collecting monster kits. My favourite TV shows were The Twilight Zone and later the Addams Family.
ZH: Can you tell us about your time in Italy?
CP: I fell in love with Italy when I went then obstensively to study art history in 11th grade. I went back the minute I could get enough money for a ticket and knocked around looking for work for some time. I literally ran into Fellini on a street corner when he was shooting his movie Roma, and he offered me a job. I got a few small acting parts in some Spaghetti Westerns and Italian horror flicks.
ZH: Is it a place you have great affection for as you can speak fluent Italian?
CP: LOVE Italy and I do speak Italian although it’s fading fast.
ZH: You formed the night club review “Mama’s Boys” and toured the circuit in the late 1970’s. What was that like?
CP: It was 7 gay men and myself (I was ‘Mama’) and we toured major gay/straight discos all over the country. It was at the height of the Disco Era and pre-AIDS so it was pretty damn wild!
ZH: Is it true that your first movie role was in Diamonds Are Forever, if so what was that like?
CP: Yes…..They actually filmed a scene of the show I appeared in Las Vegas, Vive Les Girls at the Dunes Hotel. I was on stage as a showgirl doing the show. I’m not even sure if I ended up in the final cut, but I did get to go to London later, worked a day on the film as an extra (think the scene was cut) but had a very memorable day at Pinewood studios seeing what goes on behind the scenes in a ‘Bond’ film and having lunch in the commissary with Cubby Broccoli, Sean Connery, Michael Caine and Tony Curtis (?!)
ZH: Elvira came to life on Public Service TV in 1981, was she been a character you’d been developing for a long time?
CP: No. I developed the character after I got the job.
ZH: Is she based on anyone you knew or was she an amalgam of a few people or possibly an extension of your own character?
CP: I recently came to realize Elvira is ME when I was a teenager! Scary!
ZH: Where did her revealing costume come from? Did you ever have problems with the censor as it was pretty revealing?
CP: I once got a few complaints about how low cut it was. I raised the neckline slightly and got HUNDREDS of complaints, so went back to the original!
ZH: You’ve attended a number of conventions. What’s it like meeting fans and have you ever had any weird experiences?
CP: I’ve had a LOT of weird experiences with fans
ZH: Last year was Elvira’s 25th Anniversary, how did you celebrate?
CP: I slept!
ZH: Cassandra Peterson, thank you very much.
Don’t forget that the movies Elvira, Mistress of the Dark and Elvira's Haunted Hills can be seen right here on Zone Horror so keep checking the listings for transmission dates.
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