Just as Santa Claus with his white beard and red suit is synonymous with Christmas, so is Elvira’s beehive hairdo and cleavage-baring slinky black dress with Halloween. As the self-described, “girl who put the boob back in boob tube,” actress Cassandra Peterson has been seducing and shocking audiences as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, for over 30 years. In the new film, First Period (currently playing in film festivals around the country), she takes on perhaps her scariest role to date, playing… a mom! The veteran performer chatted with Queerty about her character’s enduring appeal and making the the transition to mom roles.
Elvira is as synonymous with Halloween as skeleton costumes and razor blades in apples. Where will you be and what will you be doing this Halloween?
I’m appearing throughout October in an all-new live multimedia show, Elvira’s Sinema Séance, at Knott’s Scary Farm, the country’s largest and best Halloween event!
The Elvira image can be seen on merchandise ranging from perfume bottles to pinball machines. What product are you most proud of and what is on your wish list? I think it’s time for a US postage stamp, don’t you?
Yeah, I love the stamp idea! I’m happy to say I have over 500 Elvira products out there, including my latest product — three new perfumes: Black Roses, Vamp and Zombie. I’ve done everything from pillowcases and smelly things to hang in your car, to slot machines. But I think I might be proudest of my pinball machines since I was so into pinball when I was younger. One of the Scared Stiff games sold for the highest price of any pinball machine ever! On my wish list? Probably a major video game.
You are as equally known for your gravity defying cleavage as for your valley girl delivery of devilish one-liners. Your film, Elvira-Mistress of the Dark, is full of them. Do you have a favorite line and do fans quote them back to you?
Fans quote them back to me all the time! Probably the most popular line is, “How’s you head?” Answer: “I haven’t had any complaints lately.”
The one that I use most often is, “When I want your opinion, I’ll beat it outta ya!”
Like your one-named contemporaries Madonna and Cher, Elvira impersonations are popular among drag queens, especially this time of year. Did you think you would become a gay icon when you created Elvira over 30 years ago?
No, I had no idea, but it turned out to be divine justice. Growing up I learned everything I knew from drag queens and now I am influencing them.
Is putting on Elvira like doing drag for you?
Very much like doing drag. The only thing different is I don’t have to tuck.
In the last couple of years you have ventured beyond playing Elvira. You played Thomas Dekker’s mom in the horror comedy All About Evil. You’re playing the mom role again in the ’80s-inspired high school comedy, First Period. (Currently playing in film festivals). After playing the decidedly non-maternal Elvira for so long, is it strange for you to be playing the “mom” roles?
It’s odd that these parts started coming in for me since I’ve never been asked to play a mom before. I did another one recently which you can find on Youtube, a short film called, Written by a Kid — Valentimes Day. I’m actually a real life mom of a teenager so I guess it’s art imitating life.
To quote your First Period character, Ms. Glenn, “There isn’t anything that you do in high school that’s gonna have anything to do with your future whatsoever.” Is that true for you? What did you imagine for your future when you were in high school?
I’d have to say for me, personally, it’s true. [Laughs] Don’t tell my daughter! I hardly remember attending high school but I know I did because I have a diploma! Only one good thing came out of high school for me and that was the encouragement and courage I got from my art teacher to pursue my dream of a show biz career. Without his advice I would probably have stayed in my hometown and worked as a waitress at Hooters. So I’d guess I’d have to say high school was worth it in a roundabout way.
Well, Ms. Glenn may dress like June Cleaver, but she is certainly no sitcom mom. Her beaver advice to “totally rockin’ superstar” daughter Cassie seems tailor-made for your satirical style of comedy. How did you get involved with First Period?
I was contacted by the First Period producers but usually turn down this sort of low-budget project because of time constraints. But when I read the script I was blown away. I thought it was the funniest script ever, and I really wanted to be a part of it.
What’s the best compliment you ever received from a straight man?
I love your eyes.
What’s the best compliment you ever received from a gay man?
I love your boobs.
What are three essential spooktacular films everyone should see before Halloween?
Only two: Elvira, Mistress of the Dark and Elvira’s Haunted Hills!
Watch the trailer for First Period below.