Cassandra Peterson is celebrating 35 years of Elvira in a big way. October 5th sees the release of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, a coffee-table-style book from Tweeterhead that includes photos and sketches from her career, including a significant number of never-before-seen images.
Ahead of the book's release, I had a chance to catch up with Cassandra to talk about how this project came together, a photo that foretold her "Queen of Halloween" status at an early age, and much more:
I know that you've worked with Tweeterhead on those wonderful Elvira statues, and they are known more for their maquettes. How did developing a book with them come about?
Cassandra Peterson: Chad [Colebank], who runs Tweeterhead, has done my various maquettes, which have been amazingly good and my favorite so far. I talked to him about how I was thinking about doing a coffee-table book. Chad is just such a go-getter, and he made up his mind that we should do it, and he started researching it and finding the people to do it.
We went out and got boxes of photos and he started combing through them and, along with my assistant, pulled the ones we thought would be the best and then got them printed.
It's been about a year since we started that project, and I wrote the commentary and okayed all the [photos]. It was a big job to put this together, and it is something I wanted to do all my life and just never had the time [to do].
I really have to pinch myself sometimes. I've been doing this for 35 years... that can't be possible. It really seems like I've only been doing it a couple of years. It's crazy. I just count myself really lucky to have a career that I love and that continues to pay my rent.
From what I understand, there's a significant amount of previously unreleased photos, even the Queen of Halloween picture on the intro page from when you were a kid.
Cassandra Peterson: Yeah, that picture in particular was really odd because my mom sent me that picture while we were working on the book. I said to her, "You know I've never even seen the picture. Where did this come from?" She said, "When you were five years old, we made you this crepe paper dress, black and orange, and we asked you what you wanted to go for as Halloween, and you said you wanted to be the Queen of Halloween." I'm like, “You've got to be kidding.” There are no coincidences, right?
What was the most challenging part of going through those boxes of photos? Were there any that you had to restore due to them being stored away for years?
Cassandra Peterson: The trickiest part was that there was no Photoshop when many of these photos were taken. There was only photo retouching, which cost a fortune, because somebody had to do it by hand with a little brush. It was just incredibly expensive, so every time we did a photo session, we just had to pick a picture that was already perfect. When trying to find other pictures, they had pieces of hair out of place, or I was making a goofy face or whatever.
We wanted to include those, and I was in a big dilemma of whether or not we should retouch them, but I was finally convinced to leave them the way they were originally taken. We wanted to keep it looking like the original pictures did back in the day.
When looking over the pictures that made the cut for the book, what are some standout moments that you look back on fondly?
Cassandra Peterson: One of the things that was really a big deal, and that I think fans will enjoy, is the actual creating of the character. I got the part based on a ditsy Valley Girl actress character that I was doing, and the director of the TV show that was going to host horror movies saw me doing that character. He really wanted me to keep the same character, but then come up with a spooky look. Those two things did not go together at all. I didn't have a lot of hope for this show.
People enjoy seeing the original sketches that my best friend, who was an artist, created for the character. I wanted to look like Sharon Tate from The Fearless Vampire Killers in a long, sheer, tattered dress, and use my regular red hair. The station was leaning towards black, and I thought that it was so typical to have the boring black dress, black hair, and black nails... but as you can see, it turned out.
My friend Robert, who was very talented, actually put an ’80s spin on it, and it went through several incarnations, so you'll be able to see that in the book. And, as you can see throughout the book, it morphed as the years went on, but it finally reached a point where it pretty much stayed the same from maybe the late ’80s until now.
Is your time at Knott's Berry Farm covered in the book as well?
Cassandra Peterson: Yeah, I have several sketches in there from the various costumes that I had over the years, and photos of me in the costume. I've been doing Knott's on and off for the last 25 years and it's been a big part of the character. Even though the rest of the country and the world don't really know about Knott's, it is the oldest and largest Halloween haunt venue in the world. Being associated with it has been great for me and the character, and I'm back there this year singing, dancing, and telling jokes all the way from now through October 31st.
For people who are attending your show at Knott's Berry Farm, what can they expect that may be different from previous years?
Cassandra Peterson: Every year, there's dancing, singing, comedy, and audience participation, which is really fun, but it's just a little edgier this year. I'm dancing more than I normally do and there are a couple of great acts in between. It seems more like a Vegas show this year, but of course with a Halloween theme.
Aside from this book, I know that you've been wanting to release an autobiography. With the photo book out this month, are you turning your attention to that as your next book?
Cassandra Peterson: I am. It's so hard getting the time to write this book because it takes so much dedicated time and concentration to sit down and write it. I keep taking these vacations in Hawaii for a month, which has been awesome, and trying to write the book for a concentrated period of time, but I only get a few chapters. I keep thinking I'm going to have to cut out some of my extracurricular activities and get down on this book and get it going before I'm too damned old to type any more.
Aside from the book, what else is coming up that you'd like Daily Dead readers to keep an eye out for?
Cassandra Peterson: I have a new Elvira cosmetic palette coming out. I also have my little Funko Pop! figure coming out, which is really cool. I always wanted to be a Funko figure. I have an awesome state-of-the-art slot machine that's going to be coming out in October at casinos near you. It's super fun and if you hit a jackpot, you get to see this clip of a horror movie that I host, and I make little quips about it.
My main focus right now is the book, because I'm going to be going around the country doing book-signing appearances, which is really exciting for me. I like meeting the fans at bookstores and I’m really looking forward to promoting this book.
With this being the month of October, more horror fans than ever are playing their favorite horror movies. What are some of your go-to Halloween movies?
Cassandra Peterson: Of course, I like to watch Elvira, Mistress of the Dark—doesn't everyone? I had to plug that. Oh my God, this interview's going to have more plugs than John Travolta's hairline... Anyway, one of my favorite movies to watch over and over, that I never get tired of, is Night of the Living Dead. I also like to put on Netflix and go to The Twilight Zone.
I love the old movies from my past, when I was growing up. I just have a special place in my heart for them. They kind of feel like comfort food to me, so watching them is just cozy and warm.
For more from Cassandra Peterson, make sure to check out Heather's exclusive interview with her from Comic-Con 2016. To keep up with the latest on Elvira and Cassandra Peterson's new book, visit: