Cassandra Peterson Talks Vampire Cruise, Elvira Fandom, And Upcoming Memoir
January 4th, 2012 4:15pm EST
Who says you need to wait until Halloween 2012 just to experience one of the spookiest nights of your life? Elvira, famously crowned as “Mistress of the Dark,” is set to deliver the frightening festivities a few months early with a special treat: a summertime Vamps at Sea Cruise to Alaska, taking place June 23rd-30th. For an entire week, fans will get to spend their days and nights with the buxom brunette. It’s a first for the sinfully seductive vamp, but fortunately, she has more tricks up her sleeve for the New Year. Her alter ego, Cassandra Peterson, is finally going to work on her highly sought after memoir. While her character Elvira is a pop culture icon, few people actually know about Peterson’s wild ride to success, including a steamy encounter with Jimi Hendrix, becoming a Las Vegas showgirl before turning 18, getting life-changing advice from Elvis Presley, and transforming into one of the most recognizable women in the world. In time for the New Year, we chatted with Peterson from a secret location about her upcoming cruise, the book everyone has been waiting for, and why she thanks drag queens for teaching her everything.
What made you want to embark on a journey to Alaska with fans?
Cassandra Peterson: I’m still wondering about that! I wanted to go out to Alaska and I’ve never been on a cruise. But trapped on a boat with my fans? I don’t know (laughs). I thought about it for a long time and I actually think it will be lots of fun because I have some of the best fans ever. I meet them all the time and they’re fantastic. I think it’s going to be smooth sailing.
How do you plan on making this trip the most unforgettable and ghoulish experience they’ll ever have?
Cassandra Peterson: Well…I’m going to be hosting some horror movies, signing lots of autographs, and when I get thirsty I’ll be sucking their blood. Just kidding, I won’t be doing that. Well I might, you never know, depends on how they look. I think it will be a really fun trip. There will be other celebrities on the boat, including Nelsan Ellis from ‘True Blood’ and Bram Stoker’s great grand-nephew, Dacre Stoker. There’s also going to be a great selection of other people who are involved in the vampire genre. However, Elvira is not exactly a vampire. I’m definitely in the vampire world. I certainly have hosted enough vampire movies and I know a great deal about them, but there’s going to be a lot of different activities for everyone to do, including auctions, talent shows, scary karaoke, trivia contests, and a week-long scavenger hunt, which I love. It’s going to be all around the macabre, strange, and what you call bizarre. I think my fans in particular will like it.
Elvira’s popularly among men and women seems to get bigger every year. In your opinion, why do you think this is the case?
Cassandra Peterson: I don’t know exactly! It’s been great though (laughs). I think I’ve had a lot more visibility in the last couple of years in doing appearances, a recent television show, and releasing a lot of products for people. The longer time goes on, the more she becomes a legend. Not so much a person, but something that’s been around for many people. She’s become the Santa Claus of Halloween.
Who happens to have a nice set of boobs.
Cassandra Peterson: Yeah! There you go. They’re a big bonus. Elvira is a sexy image people have grown up with, like Bettie Page. I like to say Elvira is a combination of spooky, sexy, and fun. Each one of those brings in a different group of people. You obviously get your horny ol’ men and gay men who love the character for her sexiness and humor. You also get kids and teenagers for the goth aspect. Then there are women who love the character and view her as somewhat of a role model. Even though Elvira’s pretty wacky, she’s also a strong female who doesn’t take crap from anybody, especially men. A lot of my female fans who grew up with Elvira love that aspect about her.
I read that you learned everything you needed to know from Elvis and drag queens.
Cassandra Peterson: I don’t know if I learned everything from Elvis, but I definitely got great advice from him. At the time I was the youngest showgirl in Vegas and if it weren’t for Elvis, I would now be the oldest showgirl in Vegas history. I thought I had made it. It went all downhill from there (laughs). Elvis was the one who convinced me I could go further, instead of just staying in Vegas and dancing. It made a big impact on my life, obviously. Coming from Elvis you’re going to take his advice, right?
Cassandra Peterson: And drag queens. They really did teach me everything I know, honestly. I was hanging out with drag queens since I was about 14 and learned so much about dressing, makeup, walking, just everything. Look at my hair for God’s sake. It’s drag queen hair. My best friend at the time, who has since passed away, designed the whole Elvira look. He drew a picture of how I should look. He was a gay man and all of his idols growing up were combined to create Elvira. He loved Ronnie Spector from the Ronettes and her hairdo. I used to think she couldn’t have worn her hair that big. Then I saw a couple of pictures of her online and she made my hair look flat on top. So yeah, Elvira is a bit of a drag queen. I was influenced by drag queens all my life and now I’m influencing them.
Outside of Elvira you’ve had a wild adventure from being a showgirl to being sought after by Hugh Hefner. Will you ever write a book about your life?
Cassandra Peterson: I was just talking about this with a couple of people yesterday. I’ve got to get on that and start doing it because I’ve been putting it off forever. I’m always thinking I’ll do it when things slow down, but they never do. I have to start writing it sooner than later. I’m just getting asked about doing it too much. It would also be nice to do it while I’m still working and people can see me. It’s just finding the time. I wrote three little novelettes and my God, it’s the most time consuming thing I’ve ever done in my life! Writing takes up a lot of time and I don’t have much of it. I need to find it, so I guess I will.
They say the most important lesson you need to know on writing is to just write.
Cassandra Peterson: Exactly, just sitting down and doing it, I know. I have something blocked in my head about doing it, I guess. I think it’s the thought of my mom and daughter reading it. I think I’ve been waiting for my daughter to grow up and my mom to pass away. I don’t want to kill her (laughs). There’s quite a bit of juicy stuff there. I’m just going to go for it.
Does it ever get tiring being two people, especially when one of them happens to be a pop culture icon?
Cassandra Peterson: I don’t know if tiring is the word. It’s actually the best thing about my job. I get to be two people, one much more outrageous and wacky, and one a lot more normal, a mother and a regular person. When I want attention and excitement, I just put that dress on and get all I can handle. And then when I want to kick back, there’s me. Nobody notices me. I can run around here and there. When I go shopping, nobody pays attention to me. It’s great.
Does your love for music still play some sort of role in the work you do today?
Cassandra Peterson: I love music. I listen to it all day and I check out bands when I can. My 17-year-old daughter is a guitarist and she’s always turning me on to new bands. I’ve met so many musicians over the years who are now friends, like Jack White. He got the theme song for my television show put together for me. It’s funny how the Elvira character falls into the same groove as Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie, and Marilyn Manson. Even though I’m not a musician, I do get invited to do openings for their shows. Music has always been a part of my world and I love it.
Which bands did your daughter introduced you to?
Cassandra Peterson: I don’t know if she’s going to like that I’m pointing this out, but The Strokes. I especially love Queens of the Stone Age. I’ve seen them twice now with her and I’ve even gotten to know Josh Homme, the lead singer. And of course Jack White. I see every concert he does within a 100 mile radius from here. I love his music, the tours, everything he’s done. My daughter turned me on to Jack White, but when he and I became friends she didn’t like him anymore (laughs). I shouldn’t be telling people her bands or they’ll end up her shi-oh, I was going to say her shit list, but (laughs) she won’t like them anymore.
What else do you have in store for us in 2012?
Cassandra Peterson: I thought it was the end of the world or something. Mayan calendar or whatever. But yes, I do have a lot of projects I’m working on. One happens to be the book, which I’m finally going to really start doing something about. I also have a television idea I’m going to be pitching. I have another project that I’m working on with my friend Peaches Christ. She and I have an idea for the Internet, a show we’re going to be working on.
It sounds like you’re all set for 2012.
Cassandra Peterson: Yeah, I think I got my work cut out for me. I don’t want to take on anything else. I’m also going to be doing this cruise, which I hope will be kind of relaxing and maybe give me some time to write while I’m locked in my room with a bar across the door (laughs). I just know that being on this ship is going to be like being on one small island. Things will get intense.
Survival of the fittest.
Cassandra Peterson: Exactly. It will be like that show, you know, when you’re on this island and you have to survive…oh, it’s called ‘Survivor.’ Hello.
There you go.
Cassandra Peterson: Hey, catchy name (laughs). But yes, that’s what I think it’s going to be like, except everyone will be running around trying to drink each other’s blood. We’ll see who survives. I know I will.
What does it take to be a vamp?
Cassandra Peterson: There are a lot of meanings to vamp. If I do say so myself, I think Elvira really fits the word because a vamp is a little bit of a vampire, in the name obviously, duh. I think a vamp is a woman who is not only sexy, but also has a kind of mystery, an allure, not just some blonde, sexy bimbo. I love Marilyn Monroe, but I don’t think she can be categorized as a vamp, at least in my book anyway. She just doesn’t have that dark quality.
Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers over at Starpulse?
Cassandra Peterson: I would love for people to visit my official website. Join my fan club and like me on Facebook. You can also check out what I’m doing there. I have a new wine that just came out and it’s really cool. I used to have a beer back in my white trash days, but now I have class (laughs).
Photo Credits: Photos courtesy of Glenn Harris / PR Photos, Jason LaVeris / PR Photos, and Chris Hatcher / PR Photos.