With more than 25 years as the undisputed “Queen of Halloween” under her belt, Elvira is showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, she is looking to expand her reign of terror with an entire army of Elvira clones. Sounds like a horror movie, right? Well, actually it is reality TV. The Mistress of the Dark is set to star in her own Fox series, ‘Search for the Next Elvira’. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently spoke to Elvira’s alter-ego Cassandra Peterson about the new series, her strangest moments through the years and the many exciting new projects she has up her spooky sleeves.
How did the idea of Search for the Next Elvira come about?
I thought of this idea a couple of years ago and my main goal was to find another Elvira, and then we came up with the brilliant idea to make it a television show. We thought it would be an interesting process to find another Elvira, kind of an “Elvira’s Evil Handmaiden.” So we shopped it around and Fox really liked the idea and decided to do a miniseries during the month of Halloween, and that is how it ended up there.
You have played the role of Elvira for so long. What will it be like for you to let someone else step into the role?
Well, I think it will be a big relief at this point! [laughs] I have looked at Santa Claus for many years now with a lot of envy in my eyes. He gets to pick up all the gigs. The character becomes such a pop culture icon and so closely related with Halloween that I just can’t get the character out there enough. So at this point I think it would be fantastic to see another Elvira out there. Actually, during the process of the show it was fantastic to see some of these young girls who have watched me since they were little girls who really get it, who love it and have the Elvira thing down. For me it is flattering and I love the fact that there will be someone else who young and quirky and gets it.
What are you looking for in the contestants looking to be the next Elvira?
There is certain body type that you have to have. If you’re gonna play Santa Claus, you have to be fat, and if you play Spiderman you have to have a few muscles on your chest, and to play Elvira you have to have a few special assets [laughs]. So there was the body thing, but that is only a third of the equation. The more important parts are if they got the humor behind it, if they have a sense of humor and if there were kinda sassy and had the whole Elvira feeling down. And thirdly, were they into horror and the whole spooky side. Those are the three elements that comprise Elvira and make her unique in the horror genre and that is sexy, funny and spooky. They had to have all of those things, so it wasn’t as as easy as finding some girl with big boobs! We saw a few girls that I loved and they looked so perfect, but they just did not get the humor thing. There is the fear factor, too. In my career, I have had to do things like lay around on the ground covered by 150 snakes for photo sessions. I have had to be buried in a coffin for hours on end. So the girls have to be able to do a little bit of that stuff, too.
What will the winning handmaiden’s purpose be?
She will be doing some of the overflow that I get for Halloween. Every Halloween, I get hundreds of requests to appear at people’s haunted houses, shopping malls and theme parks, and obviously there is only one of me, so I am not able to get to very many of them. I take the ones for all the big bucks! All these other venues go begging, so I thought if I had another Elvira or ideally an entire army of Elvira clones, they could go make these appearances where they pose with fans, sign autographs and take pictures. So that is basically what she will be doing.
I would really eventually love to have 10, 20, 30 Elviras to go around to shopping malls and sit on a throne and get photos taken with everyone during the month of October, leading up to Halloween. Just like the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus!
Now that you will have another Elvira, will you have the opportunity to explore new projects?
I am working on a lot of really great projects right now and they are big, long-term projects that I have to get going in the next year. You would think that things would calm down with more Elviras, but they are actually speeding up. I am getting a Miss Teen Elvira together for Elvira Inc. and eventually see Elvira being the Martha Stewart of the macabre and having a web site that sells all things spooky! I am also working on a very large project that is just beginning, which would be an animated Elvira feature. So, having more Elviras is going to slow it down. I will be busy training the at boob camp, I mean boot camp!
Would this animated Elvira feature be the third installment in an “unholy trilogy” or can we look forward to another live-action feature as well?
I don’t know. I am going to be going out after Halloween and pitching a live-action movie that I sold at one time. I wrote this movie and sold it to them and got paid for it, thank god, but they went out of business. So I have this complete finished script and see about getting a deal with that again. It is separate and doesn’t really have the storyline from the first two films. My main goal is to get this animated feature going and that can be years out because animation takes so much time to put together and first I have to go out and make a deal. I am working on all that stuff!
What has been your most memorable moment as Elvira throughout the years?
That is really hard to say, wow. Most memorable moment, hmmm.
Strangest, well, meeting Michael Jackson was pretty damn memorable and strange! He said [in Michael Jackson-esque voice], “Elvira, I should have hired you instead of Vincent Price to do the voiceover for Thriller.” And I was like, “Yeah, Thaaaaankkks!” I don’t know, being in the Rose Parade was pretty damn strange and I had my own float for the Post Office. It is the biggest and most televised parade in the world, pretty bizarre. Ringing the closing bell at the New York stock market was pretty weird. Introducing Bono at the Zoo TV Tour was also pretty cool and bizarre. I have had a lot of really strange moments, like the first time somebody asked me to autograph their arm and then went and tattooed it in and came back the next day with a bloody old patch on their arm, I was like, “Oh my God, that is the sincerest form of flattery!” Now that is like old hat, there are hundreds and hundreds of people with Elvira images tattooed on their body which I see all the time.
What other projects do you have in the works that your fans may want to check out?
I am representing Hot Topic this year for Halloween. I am having a whole new line of different T-shirts this year in the stores, along with doing their ads. I have a Barbie! Mattel is making a one-of-a-kind Elvira Barbie that will be unveiled at Dream Halloween (www.caaf4kids.org), which is a big fundraiser for the Children Affected by AIDS Foundation [CAAF]. So I am pretty happy to become a Barbie! We also have a lot of new merchandise coming out, we even have Elvira checks! Just in case you want your checks to have Elvira on them! [laughs]
Why do you think that the Elvira character has endured throughout the years?
I think that it has endured because of the Halloween season and that Elvira has become so closely tied to a holiday. Every year Halloween comes back and so does Elvira, and I am all over the airwaves. I took a sabbatical for about 10 years to raise my daughter and not to be working constantly. So I went into a bit of a lull there, but I never stopped. Another reason is that the horror never goes away, the genre never goes away and I have become a maven of horror and even though some of the greats like Vincent Price and John Carradine have passed on and left kind of a hole there and Elvira is one of these endearing kind of characters that is still around.
You mentioned your daughter, has she ever showed interest in possibly taking over the reigns for Elvira in the future?
Well, not so far, man! [laughs] Right now she couldn’t be more embarrassed about what I do! She says, “Oh my God! Can’t you act like a normal person ever!” She is into playing the bass and so into the Sex Pistols. She just wrote a song and I love it. I have really long black finger nails, so she wrote this song and the first part goes “My mother has claws! She’s not a person, she’s a thiiiiiiiiiinnng!!!” [laughs] So that is what my daughter thinks of me right now! That is pretty much her assessment of me and thinks the whole Elvira thing is incredibly, incredibly embarrassing. So that can change over time, but right now she is 12 years old and is at that embarrassing stage where your parents embarrass you no matter who you are. But right now, she would rather die than be Elvira!
Thank you very much for your time and Happy Halloween!