Cassandra Peterson is best known for her iconic role as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. However, her journey in the entertainment industry began long before she donned the black dress and towering wig. From her start as a Las Vegas showgirl to becoming one of the most famous characters in the horror industry, Peterson’s career has been nothing short of fascinating. Here are six intriguing facts about the woman behind the legendary Elvira persona.
1. A Childhood Fascination with Horror Toys
As a child, Peterson’s interests were quite different from those of her peers. While other kids played with Barbies and dolls, she was drawn to the macabre. Her fascination with horror toys foreshadowed her future as one of the most recognized horror hostesses in the entertainment industry.
2. Ann-Margret: The Inspiration Behind Peterson’s Acting Career
A teenage trip to Las Vegas with her parents led Peterson to discover her passion for acting. After watching Ann-Margret in Viva Las Vegas, she was captivated by the actress’s performance and decided to pursue an acting career herself. At 17, she convinced her parents to let her attend a live show in Vegas, where she was discovered and signed her first acting contract.
3. A Date with the King of Rock and Roll
After signing her first acting contract and graduating from high school, Peterson moved to Las Vegas to begin her career as a showgirl. While working on the production Vive Les Girls, she met none other than Elvis Presley, one of the world’s most famous musicians. The two went on a single date, creating a memory that would last a lifetime.
4. A Painful Regret: The Penthouse Scam
In her 2021 memoir, Yours Cruelly, Elvira, Peterson reveals her biggest regret: falling for a scam by a husband-and-wife photography duo. They convinced her to pose nude for a Penthouse test shoot, promising that the photos would never be made public. However, they went back on their word in the early ’80s, publishing her nude photos in various men’s magazines without her consent.
5. Almost Cast in a Gilligan’s Island Movie
In 1981, Peterson was seriously considered for the role of Ginger Grant in the third Gilligan’s Island television movie. Although she ultimately didn’t land the part, it was an honor to make it so far in the casting process.
6. Elvira: A Character Based on Peterson’s Teenage Self
Elvira, the character that catapulted Peterson to fame, is actually based on her own teenage personality. Unfiltered, self-deprecating, and irresistibly charming, Elvira quickly evolved from a horror host to a cult classic and an entire brand. Today, Elvira is not just a host but also a comic book character, a popular Halloween costume, and even has her own trading cards.
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