The woman behind the icon known as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, the undisputed Queen of Halloween, reveals her full story, filled with intimate bombshells—and told by the bombshell herself.
On Good Friday in 1953, at only 18 months old, 25 miles from the nearest hospital in Manhattan, Kansas, Cassandra Peterson reached for a pot on the stove and doused herself in boiling water. Third-degree burns covered 35% of her body, and the prognosis wasn't good. But she survived. Burned and scarred, the impact stayed with her and became an obstacle she was determined to overcome. Feeling like a misfit led to her love of horror. While her sisters played with Barbie dolls, Cassandra played with model kits of Frankenstein and Dracula, and idolized Vincent Price.
Due to a complicated relationship with her mother, Cassandra left home at 14, and by age 17 she was performing at the famed Dunes Hotel in Las Vegas. Run-ins with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and Tom Jones helped her grow up fast. Then a chance encounter with her idol Elvis Presley, changed the course of her life forever, and led her to Europe where she worked in film and traveled Italy as lead singer of an Italian pop band. She eventually made her way to Los Angeles, where she joined the famed comedy improv troupe, The Groundlings, and worked alongside Phil Hartman and Paul "Pee-wee" Reubens, honing her comedic skills.
Nearing age 30, a struggling actress considered past her prime, she auditioned at local LA channel KHJ as hostess for the late night vintage horror movies. Cassandra improvised, made the role her own, and got the job on the spot. Yours Cruelly, Elvira is an unforgettably wild memoir. Cassandra doesn't shy away from revealing exactly who she is and how she overcame seemingly insurmountable odds. Always original and sometimes outrageous, her story is loaded with twists, travails, revelry, and downright shocking experiences. It is the candid, often funny, and sometimes heart-breaking tale of a Midwest farm girl's long strange trip to become the world's sexiest, sassiest Halloween icon.
Cassandra Peterson was born in Manhattan, Kansas. At age seventeen she became the youngest showgirl in Las Vegas history. After receiving advice from the “King” himself, Elvis Presley, she traveled to Europe where she pursued a career as a singer and actor. Upon returning to the states, Peterson toured America as star of her own musical-comedy show, Mama’s Boys. She eventually settled in Hollywood, where she spent four years with L.A.’s foremost improvisational comedy group, The Groundlings.
In 1981 she auditioned for the part of “horror hostess” on a local Los Angeles Television station. Her show, Movie Macabre, and her newly created character, Elvira, became an overnight sensation. In addition to her nationally syndicated television show, Movie Macabre, Peterson co-wrote, produced, and starred in two feature length films: Elvira, Mistress of the Dark and Elvira’s Haunted Hills. Peterson has spent four decades solidifying the Elvira brand and building it into an international cult icon that has become synonymous with Halloween and the horror genre.