Cassandra Peterson in a witch costume

Cassandra Peterson, better known as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, has written a revealing new memoir.

(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)


Cassandra Peterson swears no one will recognize her. She’s out of drag on a recent week night, free of the towering black beehive wig, garish eye makeup and that snug dress with a slit up to here. She has the regal air of a celebrity, but who is she?

“I almost got into an accident as I was looking at your billboard on Beverly trying to read the description,” a stranger says suddenly as he approaches Peterson’s table at a cafe in Larchmont Village. “And I almost hit somebody. Thanks a lot.”

“Well, I’m very happy you’re OK,” Peterson says, smiling and lowering her sunglasses. “And that you didn’t sue me for that.”

You know her as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, the campy, vampy horror host who premiered on local television — KHJ-TV, Channel 9 — in 1981 with her own TV show, “Elvira’s Movie Macabre.” Everything about Elvira is over the top, designed as a sendup of Valley Girl stereotypes with a gothic aesthetic pitched somewhere between punk rock and “The Addams Family.”

At 70, Peterson is finally lifting the veil on Elvira and putting herself in the spotlight as an L.A. icon with “Yours Cruelly, Elvira: Memoirs of the Mistress of the Dark.” The irresistible tell-all digs deeper than Hollywood dirt to examine Peterson’s circuitous path to stardom and reveal how private she has been. READ FULL STORY

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