By Jon Waterhouse
Actress Cassandra Peterson single handedly changed the horror host world forever with the character Elvira, the queen of TV horror hostesses. Add to that a career that continues to be filled with amazing experiences. She’s worked alongside everyone from Federico Fellini to Pee-wee Herman to Cheech & Chong. And when she was a young Las Vegas showgirl, she even stole a kiss from Elvis Presley. Peterson is currently hosting the syndicated “Elvira’s Movie Macabre,” which is now on DVD. And she can be caught “in the flesh and not much else,” she says, at DragonCon.
MTV Geek: You’ve been portraying Elvira for 30 years now and you look fantastic. What’s your secret?
Cassandra Peterson: I actually sleep in a jar of vinegar and get pickled. That’s pretty much all you can do. Actually I eat pretty healthy and I exercise a lot, so that’s pretty much my secret.
MTV Geek: You stick to a vegetarian diet, right?
Cassandra Peterson: Yeah, and I got to say it really works out. I’ve slipped from time to time, I must say, but I mainly eat a vegetarian diet. It works for me.
MTV Geek: What sort of exercise regimen do you keep up with?
Cassandra Peterson: You almost said exorcise regimen. I do a lot of head spins and I barf green pea soup. Actually I go about six or seven days a week, and I do lots of spinning, and I do a little weightlifting, and a lot of walking. I just keep really busy working out, because I’ve got to stay in that dress. Let me tell you, one little inch added to your waistline and you’re not getting in that dress.
MTV Geek: And that dress is the number one selling female costume of all time. So what’s the greatest compliment you’ve ever received regarding the character?
Cassandra Peterson: Good heavens, I don’t know. I’ve received a lot of really good compliments from a lot of people. Maybe it would be from Michael Jackson saying, “I just love your character, Elvira.” …I’ve gotten a lot of compliments from celebrities, and that’s always very special, especially when you’re a fan of theirs.
MTV Geek: I also understand you were a close friend of Vincent Price.
Cassandra Peterson: I was. And I was going to say the other best compliment came from Vincent Price really liking and respecting –I don’t know if that’s the right word– my character. That was a big deal for me, because I grew up with him as my idol. I loved Vincent Price as a child. So for a compliment to come from him, I could hardly believe it. …My favorite Price movie without a doubt is “House on Haunted Hill.” That movie scared the living daylights out of me when I was a kid. I loved it and I hated it, and it had a huge impact on me. And later all of the Poe movies he did with Roger Corman; “The Tomb of Ligeia,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” “House of Usher.” Those movies had a big impact on me. And the last movie I did around 2000 was called “Elvira’s Haunted Hills” and it was based on those three movies. So I did a little homage to those films and to Vincent Price.
MTV Geek: You lovingly poke fun at horror movies. But do you have a film that legitimately scares you the most?
Cassandra Peterson: I do. You know, it’s funny. I can’t even sit all the way through this movie. It’s “The Exorcist.” There’s something so insanely creepy about that movie to me. I actually went to a screening of that movie at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre with Linda Blair herself. I sat next to her. And about three-quarters of the way through the movie I said to her, “Linda, I can’t deal with it anymore. I can’t sit next to you. I’ve got to get out of here.” So that’s pretty bad when you have to leave a horror movie and you’re Elvira. But I still count that movie as the scariest one I’ve seen.
MTV Geek: A lot of people dress up for DragonCon. For those who want to come as Elvira, what’s the most important costuming tip you can pass on?
Cassandra Peterson: Well there are two important things: talent and ability. You’ve got to have t and a. And if you don’t have the figure, you can always put the dress on backwards and go as Cher. Or you can just borrow a couple of old gym socks from your brother, stuff them in there and try to get a little cleavage going, because that’s a very, very important part of Elvira. So do your very best, and I will judge you when you get there.
For more information on Cassandra Peterson and Elvira, go to www.elvira.com.