Elvira is the alter-ego of actress Cassandra Peterson. Born September 17, 1949, she has had a long and enviable career in the entertainment industry.
Inspired by Ann-Margret's performance in the movie Viva Las Vegas, young Cassandra set her goal to be a Las Vegas showgirl - a goal she not only met, but surpassed, when she got a job at The Dunes Hotel & Casino at the age of 17, just days after graduating from high school, becoming the youngest showgirl in Las Vegas history. During her run as a showgirl, Elvis Presley saw her in one of her performances, and encouraged her to set her sights higher, and pursue a singing career.
With this inspiration driving her, Cassandra left Las Vegas, and went to Europe, where she toured as the lead singer for an Italian rock band. A lucky encounter with Federico Fellini led to him offering her a small part in his movie, Roma, in 1972. After that, she came back stateside, and starred in the movie Working Girls, which included a brief nude scene for Cassandra (something she has not done often since).
After that, Cassandra spent some time touring the US with her own variety show troupe, Mama's Boys, before joining The Groundlings, an improv troupe that spawned several other well-known comedy careers, including Paul Reubens, Jon Lovitz, and Conan O'Brien, among others. This link proved to be very beneficial, as she went on to appear in numerous television and movie appearances, most notably in Cheech and Chong's Next Movie, Fantasy Island, and Happy Days. Despite that, Cassandra describes herself during these times as a, "typical struggling actress."
In 1981 Cassandra moved back to what she considered her home town, Las Vegas. Shortly after marrying Mark Pierson, she, Mark, and her good friend Robert Redding created a television show called Movie Macabre, creating the now-legendary character Elvira, the, "hostess with the mostess," and launching her to stardom. Movie Macabre debuted in October of 1981 on KHJ-TV in Los Angeles, and featured Cassandra's vampy persona, Elvira. As host, she introduced and mocked bad horror films, and made corny and sometimes bawdy jokes, including many references to her own ample chest. Movie Macabre spawned many imitators, but none had the success of Movie Macabre - it was the first to be syndicated, and Elvira became a big name in Hollywood.
Her success was underscored in 1982, when Maila Nurmi (the actress who had originally played the horror hostess Vampira in the 50's) sued the producers of Elvira's show for copyright infringement, unsuccessfully.
Elvira has featured in two big-screen movies, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark in 1988 (which mildly parodied Cassandra's own history), and Elvira's Haunted Hills in 2001. She has also been prominently featured in many other venues, becoming (among other things) the first female spokesman for a beer company (Coors), the first person to create a 3-D music video (Superstition), and rated #1 of Sci-Fi's Sexiest B-Queens, by Femme Fatales magazine. She has licensed the Elvira persona for several computer games, pinball games, and even an Elvira slot machine. Starting in 1982 and running through 2001, Elvira was the main host for Knott's Berry Farm's Halloween celebration, Knott's Scary Farm.
She has appeared in Playboy Magazine several times as Cassandra Peterson (mostly in the early-to-mid 70's), but has also appeared as Elvira on several occasions. In 2001, Playboy commissioned the reknowned pinup artist Olivia de Berardinis to do a piece in tribute to the lasting sex symbol.
Sadly, all good things must come to an end. On January 13, 2006, Cassandra announced that she was retiring the Elvira persona. However, she also stated that she was looking for a successor to the role, and would be creating a reality TV show to determine who that would be. So, Elvira may return some day in the not-too-distant future!