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Gayming geeks out with Cassandra Peterson aka Elvira, Mistress of the Dark

There are a lot of iconic female characters in the horror genre like Laurie Strode, Sidney Prescott, the Bride of Frankenstein, and Lady Dimitrescu; but one looms larger than the rest, especially as Halloween draws near. I’m of course talking about the Queen of Halloween herself, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, as portrayed by the brilliant Cassandra Peterson.

Elvira is the most famous horror host of all time, getting her start at KHJ-TV in Los Angeles in September of 1981 with Movie Macabre. From there, the show would become nationally syndicated, which in conjunction with guest spots on late night TV talk shows, appearances on MTV and several national beer campaigns, made Elvira a pop culture icon of the 1980’s. The character would then go on to become immortalized in the feature film Elvira: Mistress of the Dark in 1988, cementing her place in horror history.

After the film, Elvira would remain in heavy rotation, guest starring on loads of television shows from Counting Cars to RuPaul’s Drag Race, appearing in various national ad campaigns, rebooting Movie Macabre, and lending her image to an incredible variety of merchandise and products- including games and comic books.

Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Photo courtesy of Cassandra Peterson

Gaymers might recall that Elvira was a secret, unlockable character featured in 2016’s Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Zombies map “Attack of the Radioactive Thing”. Cassandra Peterson herself voiced the character to the delight of fans everywhere. The character had also been previously featured in two computer games from Horror Soft in the early 1990’s: Elvira: Mistress of the Dark and Elvira II: The Jaws of Cerebus and Elvira: The Arcade Game from Flair Software.

In addition to video games, Elvira has long been a featured guest in arcades around the world as the star of multiple incredibly successful pinball games including: “Elvira and the Party Monsters” (1989), “Scared Stiff” (1996) and most recently “Elvira’s House of Horrors” from Stern Pinball which was updated last year for Elvira’s 40th anniversary.

With respect to comic books, the adventures of Elvira have been brought to life by several major comic book companies. DC comics was the first in 1986 with Elvira’s House of Mystery. Then Marvel did an adaptation of the Mistress of the Dark movie. This was followed up by Claypool comics’ collection entitled Elvira: Mistress of the Dark which debuted in 1993 and ran for an impressive 166 issues. The latest iteration of Elvira comics has come from Dynamite who since 2018 have run the following titles: Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, The Shape of Elvira, Elvira Meets Vincent Price and the currently running Elvira in Horrorland series which is on newsstands now.

With such a pedigree its clear why Elvira and Cassandra Peterson have been such a staple in both horror and geek culture for over four decades. She has also enjoyed queer icon status since the 80’s thanks to her character’s sassy and campy sense of humor and her personal relationship to the gay community. We fell even deeper in love with Cassandra last year when she boldly came out of the closet, revealing her 19-year relationship with her partner Teresa “T” Wierson in her bestselling autobiography Yours Cruelly, Elvira: Memoirs of the Mistress of the Dark, which is out in paperback this week.

We recently had the tremendous honor to sit down with this living legend to discuss her book, her life and her thoughts on gaming and horror.

Photo Credit: Pamela Littky

Gayming: Hello Cassandra! Thank you so much for joining me. I’ve read Yours Cruelly and can say, in all honesty, that it was amazing. It’s got everything- drama, intrigue, vulnerability and a whole lotta laughs! Can you tell me about the new material that will be included in the paperback release?

Cassandra Peterson: Yeah! It was a lot of fun because we got to add more photos, which I really wanted to do. I had millions of photos I wanted to put in at the beginning, and I had to narrow them down to just the top 30 or whatever it was.

We added 32 images, not just photos, but things like a poem that I wrote in junior high that happened to be about spiders– so it’s kind of appropriate. And a few other things.

Gayming: Fabulous! And I hear there are two versions of the paperback being released with different covers?

Cassandra Peterson: Yes, one is for independent booksellers, with cover art that my fans voted for. I put three photos out on my social media, and it was the one fans liked the best, so we made it the cover for the limited-edition version of the book available exclusively at independent bookstores. The other paperback cover will be similar to the hardback.

Gayming: Very cool. Now, one of the biggest revelations to come out of your book was your nearly 20-year relationship with your assistant Teresa “T” Wierson. What has changed for you since coming out last year and how has the reaction been from your fans and the public?

Cassandra Peterson: The reaction from my fans has been fantastic. In the very beginning a lot of people on my social media, I think something around 11,000 people dropped me because they said I was disingenuous, hypocritical, things like that. So, they said goodbye, but I gained 60,000 new people. And that was just in the span of about a week!  It was funny, my child said that would probably happen and it was true.

Gayming: Well, that’s their loss. I’m glad it’s been a mostly positive experience for you though. Your coming out meant a lot to so many people, myself included.

Speaking of, Elvira is firmly entrenched in the world of horror. Why do you think the queer community has such a fondness for the genre and what drew you, personally, into it in the first place?

Cassandra Peterson: You know, I think about it once in a while and I think people who are really into horror, maybe not all of them, but a large number of them, grew up feeling like I did- feeling like an outcast, feeling like you had to hide the real you, feeling a little bit like a monster, you know?

I remember feeling like I’m not a normal person, I don’t fit in, and I think a lot of a lot of queer people grew up feeling that way, trying to hide who they really were. And that’s how I felt, not because I was gay, because I didn’t consider myself gay, for the first 50 years anyway– but that feeling of just being an outsider or kind of a geek, kind of a loser. I think that’s very common in queer culture, and for horror fans in general.

With horror legend Vincent Price. Photo courtesy of Cassandra Peterson

Gayming: I think you hit the nail on the head there.

So, Elvira’s adventures have continued off the screen for years in the form of comic books. Can you tell us a bit about that and whether we can expect more after Elvira in Horrorland finishes its run?

Cassandra Peterson: There is an awesome awesome comic book project coming up, but I’m not supposed to talk about it. I don’t have an exact date for when it will come out, but when it comes out, maybe we can talk again.

Gayming: Umm I’m available to talk whenever you want!! (Laughs)

Cassandra Peterson: (Laughs) Its with Dynamite Comics who I love working with. I mean, this is my how many titles? Let’s see, I had Marvel and DC Comics. And then I had Claypool for lots and lots of years, and now it’s Dynamite. I really, really like them, they really get the character. And I love my writer, David Avallone, who really gets the Elvira “voice”. He’s not even gay!  He’s like the first writer I’ve ever had in my life who is not gay that I can work with, and he gets it. He gets the voice, gets the character. I keep asking him if he’s sure he’s not gay— He’s not, and he has a girlfriend, so I don’t know. (Laughs)

Gayming: I’m loving the Dynamite titles personally. I love how you guys are weaving horror legends into the stories like Edgar Allen Poe and Vincent Price, to name a few.

Another thing I love are your Funkos! I’m trying to complete my set. By my count there are 9 of them, the most recent ones being the Elvira 40th Anniversay Funko and the new Blacklight Variant.

Cassandra Peterson: Oh yes. In fact, I forgot to mention there’s going to be a third edition of Yours Cruelly with my Funko Pop on the cover. It will debut during my appearance at New York Comic Con and then sold through my website

But yeah, those are my peeps [the people at Funko]. That’s my crowd, you know, when I go to the comic cons. I’m very involved in that.

Gayming: Gaymers still talk about and love the two video games that Elvira had in the early 90s. Is there any possibility of licensing the character to be in anything going forward, like you did with Call of Duty?

Cassandra Peterson: I’m talking about that with people all the time. We do some online gaming that’s like gambling, but you don’t get money. I have another one coming up very soon, but as far as a video game—you never know. I also have a lot of pinball machines out there and slot machines in Vegas. That’s a different type of gaming.

Elvira: The Arcade Game

Gayming: Ya hear that Capcom, Ubisoft, Square Enix? Now’s your chance to add Elvira into your games! (Laughs) So, finally Cassandra, are there any plans to retire Elvira?

Cassandra Peterson: Oh, I was just thinking about that today. (Laughs) I think about it every day. It’s so funny, you know, I started Elvira when I was 30. I said I was gonna retire it when I was 40. Then I said 50, then I said 60, then I said 70. (Laughs) And now I’m really going, OK? This is going too far. I gotta calm down here, you know?

I really have been thinking about, maybe hanging it up, at least the dress and the wig, but I think I’ll still be involved in Elvira as far as doing projects, doing books. I would love to do a documentary based on my book– those types of projects, and of course merchandising and licensing, there’s so many Elvira items out there. I think that could all go on without me dressing up in drag.

Gayming: Phew! You had me nervous there for a minute. My gay little heart is happy that I can look forward to more Elvira for years to come! Thank you so much Cassandra for taking the time to chat with us. Happy Halloween!!!

To order your copy of Yours Cruelly, Elvira: Memoirs of the Mistress of the Dark click here.

To keep up with all things Elvira head over to Elvira.com or follow her on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

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