Elvira’s family ran a costume shop. Her mom and aunt used to dress her in elaborate costumes for Halloween. She also liked to dress as popular TV characters from her youth, like Miss Kitty from Gunsmoke.
Elvira started her career as a teenage Vegas showgirl at The Dunes (the current site of the Bellagio).
Elvira got her start hosting horror films on local TV in LA. Her best friend Robert Redding came up with the iconic Elvira costume, which the actress originally wanted to model after Sharon Tate’s character in The Fearless Vampire Killers.
It takes Elvira around an hour and a half to get dressed in her full costume, including her wig (of which she owns many).
Elvira’s Macabre Mobile was created for her 1988 film Elvira: Mistress of the Dark. It’s a 1958 T-Bird hard top, which she bought for $2,500 and altered to the max. It appears in her Knott’s stage show.
The Mistress of the Dark has appeared in multiple feature films as Cassandra Peterson, including the James Bond film Diamonds are Forever (she played a dancer) and Federico Fellini’s Roma.
She considers Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, Plan 9 from Outer Space, Manos: The Hands of Fate, and Night of the Living Dead some of her favorite horror films.
Elvira’s famous beaus include Tom Jones and Elvis. The King encouraged her to take vocal lessons and pursue a music career instead of sticking with the showgirl routine.
She appears (maybe) on a Tom Waits album cover, the 1976 release Small Change. It features the singer in a young dancer’s dressing room. The actress and performer doesn’t remember taking the photo. Elvira told the AV Club:
That is a giant mystery to me. [Laughs.] I don’t remember having done it. But of course, I don’t remember a lot of stuff I did in the ’70s. I went straight from the ’60s to the ’80s; I don’t know what happened to that decade. But it looks like me! I’ve stared at it really, really hard, and I’m pretty sure it’s me. I modeled for a lot of album covers, book covers, romance novels with Fabio kind of guys—I did all that stuff in the ’70s. But I don’t remember that one. It’s how I met Jack White from The White Stripes. He brought that album for me to sign, and I said, “I’m gonna tell you something really depressing—I don’t think it’s me.” Could be, though.
Elvira has been in several bands, including an Italian rock group. She’s also been a DJ for KROQ in LA and worked with Rodney Bingenheimer scouting bands.