Queen of the double feature

Pub date June 27, 2006
SectionArts & CultureSectionTrash

HORROR-LARITY If there’s anything better than peaches and cream, it would have to be Peaches and Elvira. Movie maniacs will get a taste of the two great horror hosts this weekend, when Peaches Christ kicks off this year’s tantalizing Midnight Mass series with a pair of prizes — two nights costarring the queen of the double feature, the famous alter ego of Cassandra Peterson.
Peterson sees Elvira as a variation of herself as a teenager: “know-it-all, really sassy, and treats the guys like crap.” She and Pee Wee’s Playhouse writer John Paragon collaborated on the screenplay for the underrated 1988 satire Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, which whips the religious right of the Reagan–Bush Sr. years. Besides featuring a wickedly witty lead performance, Mistress also boasts a great villain in Chastity Pariah, perhaps the best busybody role ever given to feisty Edie McClurg, who along with Peterson and Paul “Pee Wee” Reubens was a member of the Groundlings comedy troupe. “Our relationship was always similar to the movie,” says Peterson. “Edie would always say, ‘Are you wearing that tonight?’ — she was worried I wasn’t covered up enough.”
A poor farm girl from Kansas and Colorado who played with Frankenstein and Dracula dolls while her peers favored Barbie, Peterson brought a love of Vincent Price (“especially his Roger Corman movies loosely — and I mean loosely — based on Edgar Allan Poe”) with her when she first arrived in Hollywood. Her time in the haunted hills has included some strange pit stops, such as a guest appearance on CHiPS (“Erik Estrada was the most egotistical jerk. I hope he’s gotten a little more humble because then he was at the top of his game and he thought he was god’s gift to women”) and televised exercise with Richard Simmons (“He was really fun. He could be a little overly energetic. He kept calling me ‘Ellie,’ and I remember him screaming down the hall: ‘ELLIE!’ It could burst your eardrums”). Her own TV shows, pairing terrible movies with commentary and comedy in the grand style of Ghoulardi and others, will soon be reissued on DVD.
What’s the question that Peterson most often gets regarding Elvira, and what does she wish people would ask? “The most frequently asked question is probably ‘Are they real?'” she says. “I assume they are talking about my fingernails.”
“The question I wish people would ask? … I think they’ve gotten everything. I don’t think there’s anything left they haven’t had.” (Johnny Ray Huston)
Friday/30, 11:59 p.m.
“Uncut Night of the Living Dead Spooktacular with Elvira”
Saturday/1, 11:59 p.m.
“Carrie with Elvira”
(415) 267-4893