Saturday, October 07, 2006

Dames in the Media the League Once Dug: October Edition
Elvira, Mistress of the Dark

We're creeping up on Halloween once again, Leaguers. And this year, I thought I'd pay tribute to one of the sirens of the Halloween screen who did so much to really screw up my notions of womanhood.

I speak of none other than Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.

Each Halloween I try to find some excuse to post a picture or two of the Elvira, so this year I'm bringing up my favorite cheesy media figure in the context of DITMTLOD.

(It should also be mentioned that for a short while I've been picking up Elvira's Claypool Comics series, and I believe the series will soon be coming to an end.)

On with the show..

Sweet guacamole... if you were a goofy, sci-fi/fantasy/horror/camp movie loving geek-in-the-making, you stumbled upon Elvira at some point. Played by actress Cassandra Peterson, Elvira was somebody's answer as to how to fill those odd hours on a Saturday night with an imminently watchable and often hilarious host for the cheaper creature features.

Elvira's television persona did not just depend upon her wit and agile mind.

Unfortunately, Elvira's program didn't actually air anywhere I lived. Texas in the 80's loved a woman with Elvira's assets, but may not have actually known how to deal with an intentionally campy, funny, vampire-lookin' lady showing really bad movies. At least I never saw her on TV. It's possible I saw a few of her cameos in the 80's on shows as diverse as The Richard Simmons Show or ChiPs (I turned up cameo listings on Cassandra Peterson's IMDB listing that made me both miss and mourn the 1980's).

It's my guess that Elvira was a bit of a local phenomena in LA and that she sort of blew up into a celebrity based by accident. I suspect she was booked for guest appearances on prime time TV based on local LA celebrity, and that mixed with her presence in beer ads had far more folks identifying her than might have been actually watching her program.

I first recall seeing movies for rent back when The Admiral and Karebear broke down and finally bought a VCR (which Karebear had fought tooth and nail, convinced that the VCR would mean a second mortgage) and we would go to Video Station up on 620 and 183 to rent movies. I recall lingering in the horror movie section and trying to figure out who this Elvira lady was, and why she was on the cover of so many movies. I eventually puzzled it out, but I could never work up the courage to bring that box to the counter for Mom's approval.

Would not have received the KareBear's approval for movie rental in 1987. Curse my inability to rent my own movies...

All of this was going on as I was more or less "discovering girls", but wasn't actually terribly interested in the girls around me. Somehow the girls in the brass section of the Canyon Vista Middle School band just didn't hold the same appeal as a buxom lady in a slinky dress hamming it up and who was seemingly interested in intentionally goofy jokes and bad movies. Like all the twirling I wanted to do alongside Wonder Woman when I was 4, I thought Elvira seemed like a decent sort of dame with whom I could watch the endless line of cheesy movies I took in every weekend via USA's "Up All Night" (a program which apparently only bored teenagers and those in our penal system enjoyed).

Receiving the media attention she deserves

And then came Elvira's big screen debut in "Elvira, Mistress of the Dark". Finding no way to actually ask my Mom to drive me to the theatre to see Elvira without suffering the usual endless line of shame and ridicule which accompanied such a bold request, I finally saw the movie on cable. I then predicted there would be no stopping Elvira as she moved from cult-celebrity to media mainstay.

Well, The League was wrong then, and I'm going to be wrong again in the future. So just be prepared for a few of my crystal ball predictions to be a little less than accurate.

I guess at some point paranoid parents decided that Halloween was too scary for kids or that their kids were all going to get snatched away (note to parents: My Dad took me trick or treating every year through fourth grade... what exactly are you doing that you're so busy you can't walk your kid around the neighborhood once a year?). Anyhoo, it all evens out as Halloween has since been embraced as a holiday for adults. Time for Betty in accounting to dress up as a pirate and crack open a bottle of rum, I guess. And who better to embody that spirit than our very own Mistress of the Dark? She seems like someone who might be fun at a party, does she not?

Well, I hope so, because Elivra declared last Spring that it is her new mission to be as identified with Halloween as pumpkins and black cats. I don't know exactly how one lays claim to a holiday, but The League is here to assist Elvira in her madcap scheme. My gosh, we owe her that much after all she's given us.

Looking back, it's now no surprise I had some odd ideas about girls

Some people come and go. Others are created and stick with us.

So this Halloween, raise a glass to Elvira, the hardest working late-night movie host.

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Moby Dick said...

She was hot, back in the day...

The League said...

She continues to be. Alas, she's now hung up the slinky black dress.