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Yours Cruelly, Elvira
Memoirs of the Mistress of the Dark
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- Trade Paperback $17.99 $22.99 CAD
- ebook $11.99 $15.99 CAD
- Hardcover $29.00 $37.00 CAD
- Audiobook Download (Unabridged)
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The woman behind the icon known as the undisputed Queen of Halloween, reveals her full story, filled with intimate bombshells, told by the bombshell herself. The paperback includes 32 new images and an original poem composed by Cassandra when she was 16, perfect for fans to collect.
At only eighteen months old, Cassandra Peterson reached for a pot on the stove and doused herself in boiling water, resulting in third-degree burns over 35 percent of her body. She miraculously survived, but burned and scarred, the impact would stay with her and become an obstacle she was determined to overcome. Cassandra left home at fourteen and supported herself as a go-go dancer. By age seventeen, she was performing as a showgirl in Las Vegas. Then a chance encounter with the “King” himself, Elvis Presley, inspired her to travel to Europe where she worked in film and toured Italy as lead singer of a band. She eventually made her way to Los Angeles, where she joined the famed comedy improv group, The Groundlings.
In 1981, as a struggling actress considered past her prime, Cassandra auditioned for a local LA station as hostess for their late-night horror movies. She got the job as “Elvira,” never imagining it would lead to fame and a forty-year career. Yours Cruelly, Elvira is an unforgettably wild memoir. Cassandra doesn’t shy away from revealing exactly who she is and how she overcame seemingly insurmountable odds. Always original and sometimes outrageous, her story is loaded with twists, travails, revelry, and downright shocking experiences. It is the candid, often hilarious, and sometimes heartbreaking tale of a Midwest farm girl’s long, strange trip to become the world’s sexiest, sassiest Halloween icon.
Instant New York Times Bestseller, Los Angeles Times Bestseller, USA Today Bestseller, and Publishers Weekly Bestseller.
A New York Times Best Books to Give This Season selection.
Magic is believing in yourself; if you can do that, you can make anything happen.
—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”
I nearly died when I was a baby. According to a palm reader I met when I was seventeen, I did. The lifeline on my right hand is severed by a short, deep crease that cuts across it at an angle, just after it begins. Then the line starts up again, ending in a star on each palm.
The fortune-teller held my right hand, bringing my palm closer to his face in the dim light. Silence. He lifted my left hand, which was resting on the table, to within inches of his eyes and squinted. “You, my dear,” he murmured in a deep, almost hypnotic voice, “are destined for stardom.”
If only he’d foreseen what a long, strange trip it would be.
It was the summer of 1981. A B-list movie actor had just become the new president of the United States; Raiders of the Lost Ark debuted in theaters across the country; and my favorite record, John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Double Fantasy, won the Grammy for album of the year.
I lay in bed on the 5th of July, gazing out the window at the piercing, azure-blue Aspen sky, when an even more piercing sound jolted me from my reverie: the shrill ringing of the phone on my bedside table. Mark, my husband of just twenty-four hours, managed to pry himself off me just long enough for me to answer it.
“Mrs. Pierson?” the hotel receptionist asked. For a split second I thought she was looking for my new mother-in-law, then I realized she meant me. “You’ve just received a call from a Dawna Kaufmann asking you to call her back right away. She said it’s urgent.” With great fear and trepidation, not because I was afraid of what my friend Dawna had to say, but because I worried we couldn’t afford the long distance call, I had the front desk transfer me to Dawna’s apartment in Los Angeles.
“This better be good, Dawna-ski.” I sighed.
“Cassandra-ski, you’ve got to get back to LA right now!” she babbled into the phone. “A friend of mine is holding auditions for a TV horror host and you’d be perfect for it!” I’m not sure why we referred to each other with our version of Russian names, but we’d done it ever since our days working together as assistants on the ’70s musical variety TV show Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert. I imagine the names had something to do with the term “brewskis.”
There’s an old unspoken showbiz superstition that whenever you leave LA, you’re sure to get the call for that audition of a lifetime. I’d dragged my sorry ass back to Los Angeles one too many times, cutting short a multitude of pleasure trips, and had I ever aced the part? What do you think? If I had, Mark and I would be honeymooning at the Four Seasons in Bali instead of near my hometown in the Colorado Rockies.
“Are you out of your mind?” I sputtered into the receiver. My husband rolled off me, groaning like Frankenstein’s monster.
“First of all, what’s a horror host?” I asked. “You know damn well I just got married yesterday. There’s no way I’m coming home for another stupid audition that I won’t—”
“Listen! Just listen a minute,” Dawna interrupted.
I sighed and leaned back in bed, prepared for a huge long-distance bill.
“This guy I know, Larry Thomas, is a director at a local TV station in LA and he’s reviving their late-night horror movie show,” she rambled. “They’ve got tons of scary films they want to air but need someone to host them. The last guy they had was Sinister Seymour, but he died. Larry really likes the idea of replacing him with a sexy Morticia Addams type.”
KHJ Channel 9 had a long-standing tradition of showing late-night horror movies book-ended by a ghoulishly gruesome “horror host.” It began in the local Los Angeles market in 1954 with The Vampira Show, the very first horror host on TV. Her show lasted only a few months on KABC in LA but was later picked up by Channel 9. Again, it was short-lived, but marked the beginning of the horror-movie host, a tradition that would endure for decades. Vampira was followed in 1972 by Fright Night, hosted by Moona Lisa in her tight, black catsuit. The most recent KHJ horror host had been Sinister Seymour, played by Larry Vincent, who entertained the LA market until his demise in 1974. Since then, KHJ had remained horror host–less.
Now they were looking to fill two hours of late-night programming by bringing back their library of B-movie horror films.
“Dawna-ski, I really can’t,” I protested.
Dawna ignored me and barreled ahead. “I told him all about you and it turns out he’s seen you perform at the Groundlings. Small world, huh? He loved that valley-girl thing you do!” Dawna paused to catch her breath. “Anyway, he really wants an actress who can play both sexy and funny and he hasn’t been able to find one. You’d be perfect!”
Dawna was right about one thing: finding a woman who was both sexy and funny was a tall order in those days. Women were allowed to be sexy or funny, but not both. If you were the least bit attractive it was impossible to have a sense of humor. If you were funny, you needed to look like Phyllis Diller, Totie Fields, or Joan Rivers (with their original faces). I loved old horror movies and I’d been working in LA’s top comedy improvisational group, the Groundlings, for a little more than four years, so had the timing been better, horror host actually seemed like a bill I could have filled. Damn.
Dawna began to whine. “Cassandra-ski, please, please, please! You’ve gotta come back and try out!”
But at that time, I was very serious about performing my wifely duties. “I appreciate you thinking of me, Dawna-ski. I really, really do. Thanks soooo much,” I said. “But, seriously, no thanks.”
A week later, the happy couple returned home to our little one-bedroom love nest in the Hollywood hills. The first ten messages on my answering machine were from Dawna.
“Larry’s been posting audition ads in the papers and running commercials on TV and they still haven’t found anyone. Call him now!”
Beginning my new married life with both of us unemployed was a little daunting, so we were excited and hopeful about the possibility of me landing the gig.
“Hi Larry. I’m Dawna’s friend, Cassandra Peterson,” I said, trying to sound cool and vaguely uninterested.
“Oh hey, thanks for calling me! I don’t know if Dawna told you, but we’ve seen literally hundreds of girls for this part and still haven’t found anyone,” he explained. “We’re holding the final auditions here at KHJ tomorrow. I’d love it if you’d come in and read.”
When I hung up the phone, I threw my arms around Mark’s neck and squealed, “I can’t believe they still haven’t found anyone!”
“It’s a sign,” he beamed. “This part is meant for you.”
The next afternoon when I arrived at KHJ-TV, a brusque receptionist signed me in, shoved a page of copy into my hands, and escorted me to the morning-news team’s makeup area. The tiny room contained only a long countertop and a large chair in the center that looked like something you’d see in a dentist’s office. Fluorescent lights glared overhead and a large makeup mirror reflected a few metal folding chairs lined up against the wall. Until that moment, I thought I looked pretty hot in my summery turquoise minidress and white high-heeled sandals. But when I got a look at the girls crammed into that claustrophobic cubbyhole, my confidence took a nosedive. All six of the finalists were dressed in their full-on fiendish finery: pasty white makeup, skin-tight black leotards, and Bride of Frankenstein silver-streaked hair. A gaunt-looking girl wearing a Cher wig glared back at me like I was the freak. With my strawberry-blonde 1979 Farrah Fawcett do, I felt like one.
“Are you auditioning?” she asked, squinting her black-rimmed eyes and looking me up and down.
“Uh, I think so,” I mumbled.
“You were supposed to come in costume.” Oops. The room suddenly smelled like a funeral home. A combination of face powder and cheap perfume made me want to sneeze. “No shit,” I thought, but instead chirped a perky, “Oh right, thanks!”
A black leather–clad woman gazed up at me and attempted a sympathetic smile, but because she was wearing permanently affixed fangs on her incisor teeth, it came off more like a vicious snarl.
I wanted to melt into the woodwork, and because of the heat coming from the dozens of lightbulbs surrounding the makeup mirror, I almost did. Flop-sweat trickling from my armpits down the sides of my rib cage, I squeezed into a seat next to a busty vixen and buried my face in the copy.
Oh, did I mention the script they gave me sucked? It was full of tired, old, hackneyed horror-host-of-days-gone-by lines like, “Come in, darling, drink a glass of bloooood.” Considering myself a comedian—granted, an out-of-work comedian, but still—I couldn’t imagine delivering those lines and trying to sell them to an audience. One by one, the other girls left the room and took their turns reading for the station bigwigs. I thanked God that I was last to be seen, because it gave me time to fool around with the script, adding a few improvised lines in an attempt to make it my own, or at least, to get a laugh.
“I’m your hostess with the mostest, the toast of Tinseltown! Y’know why they call me the toast of Tinseltown? ’Cause I’m always workin’ for crumbs!”
“What’s this movie about, you ask? It’s about an hour and a half too long. This flick’s so bad, I’d walk out on it even if it was playing on a plane!”
“I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but hey, some of us got brains, and some of us just got a couple of nice consolation prizes.”
My ad-libs must have worked because I’d barely made it off the stage floor and out to the lobby before Larry Thomas ran up behind me and clapped a hand on my shoulder. I turned around to see him grinning from ear to ear. “Congratulations, you’ve got the job!”
Okay. Let me just get this out of the way. I’m seventy years old. There’s no hiding it from Wikipedia. My age is always announced in the first sentence of any interview I do. I’m going to do my absolute best to remember as much of my life as humanly possible even though nowadays I can barely remember what I did last night. I’ll try to recall every gory detail and be as factual as possible because I sure as hell don’t want to end up like that James Frey dude who got reamed by Oprah after she found out his autobiography was bogus. The bottom line is, this story is the truth. My truth.
My life has taken a lot of unusual twists and turns, to say the least. If I had a dime for every time someone told me I should write my life story, I’d be able to support my ex-husband in the style to which he’s become accustomed.
I’ve never come anywhere close to being what you’d call an A-lister. I’m more of a B- or even C-lister, not an actress as much as an underground-pop-culture thingy. Mine is a story of the tortoise and the hare. I eluded the short, hot burst of fame and fortune that many stars enjoy, in exchange for a long, slow, productive career that’s stretched for forty years and counting. And in the business of “show,” that’s a damn long time. I once read that the average successful Screen Actors Guild performer’s career is five years, so I’m pleased that I’ve made a pretty good living for myself and my family, doing what I love, for four decades. And I’ve got to admit, it still gives me goose pimples to hear Elvira referred to as an icon or a legend. Love her or hate her, if you’ve heard of Halloween, you’ve probably heard of Elvira.
As an actor, landing any job in Hollywood other than a temporary secretary gig sounded really good to me, so that day I walked out of KHJ happy as the proverbial clam. Sure, they were paying me only $350 a week, before taxes, but at that point in my career it felt like a fortune. It meant I would finally be able to cut down on the number of brain-numbing, data-entering temp jobs I’d been forced to suffer through between acting gigs, which was the majority of my time. Also, just by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin (Ew. Remind me to pluck that!) I’d managed to avoid the dreaded, self-imposed, arbitrarily set date of my thirtieth birthday, when—dun-dun-DUNNNN—I’d give up my showbiz aspirations for good. Yes, in a few short weeks I would hit the big three-O, stop this crazy showbiz shit, and get a “real” job for the first time in my life.
It was harder to come to this conclusion than you might imagine. I was throwing away a lifetime of working toward my goal—endless interviews, dance classes, voice lessons, and acting workshops—and felt like I’d be flushing all that time and money down the toilet. The thought of starting over at the age of thirty terrified me. I had no experience in anything except some form of show business. Now I’d go back to square one with no one to blame but myself.
I’d made a meager living going from one brief TV or movie appearance to the next while living in a run-down apartment and driving a cruddy, orange ’69 Volkswagen Beetle. In between auditions, I worked part-time as a secretary, a hatcheck girl, a restaurant hostess, and a model for Hugh Hefner’s agency, Playboy Models. I also sold a little weed on the side and used my ex-boyfriend’s old Nikon to take topless photos of my girlfriends, which I sold to Japanese men’s magazines. All this was going on while I performed two to four nights a week with the Groundlings. I was nothing if not enterprising.
But as you may have already guessed—because after all, you’re reading this book—it turned out I was one of the lucky ones. I happened to be in the right place at the right time and ready when the chance presented itself. As Elvira always says, “Opportunity only gives you knockers once!”
The decision to call it a day, as far as continuing to bang my head against the showbiz wall was concerned, had come just a few months earlier, when I lost my dream job (cue dreamy, trance-inducing flashback music).…
Yes, I’d miraculously landed the role of Ginger in the remake of one of my all-time favorite childhood TV shows, Gilligan’s Island. Every day after school, I’d rush my prepubescent self home to wade through another episode, just to see my favorite character, the sultry, sexy Ginger Grant. Then I’d spend hours in front of the mirror practicing everything she did and said—from her poor-man’s Marilyn Monroe breathy whisper to her slinky walk. I wanted to be the redheaded bombshell so bad that—okay, I know you won’t believe this, but I swear to God—I somehow grew the very same beauty mark that she had in exactly the same spot, next to the same eye!
Incredibly, I was one of two finalists for the new Ginger—my childhood dream was coming true! The one-hour special that would serve as the season opener for the revamped sitcom was called The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island. Catchy, right? In addition to playing one of my favorite characters, I was thrilled out of my mind at the possibility of being in a made-for-TV movie and then, if the show was a success, on an actual, honest-to-God weekly network TV series! After three separate, anxiety-inducing auditions—one for acting, one for singing, and one for dancing—the number of Ginger wannabes dwindled down to me and one other actress: coincidentally, my next-door neighbor, Judy Baldwin. Judy had played Ginger in a previous incarnation of the role, in a TV movie called The Castaways on Gilligan’s Island, but I’d privately been assured that the producers were looking for someone “fresh.” I was going to be the new Ginger Grant! The days that followed were a flurry of activity. I went to CBS Studios for wardrobe fittings, received my script to study, and made plans to pack up my apartment because—icing on the cake—we were shooting in Hawaii! As far as I was concerned, my days of pounding the pavement, poring through Variety, and attending humiliating cattle calls were over. I was going to star on a network television show—almost too good to be true!
Guess what? It was too good to be true. Days before I was to leave for Hawaii, I got a call from the producer and creator himself, Sherwood Schwartz, telling me that despite his wishes, the network had indeed decided to go with a fresh face. Judy was out—but for some unexplained reason, so was I. The part of Ginger was going to be played by newcomer Constance Forslund. I was beyond devastated. I couldn’t believe my dream job had slipped through my fingers. Many years later, I ran into Sherwood at a party. When I asked him why I didn’t get the part, he confided that one of the network heads had seen me in the comedy improv troupe, the Groundlings, doing a sketch in which I played a patient in a gynecologist’s office. It wasn’t that unusual because, during an improv, audience members are often asked to supply the character that each of the actors play. Other than hooker or stripper, gynecology patient was my number-one request. The network veep reported back to the producers that they didn’t need “that kind of element” in their programming. I, on the other hand, believe the job went south because, years before, I’d lost my shit when I walked in on the same network exec in bed with my boyfriend, Matt. Guess we’ll never know for sure.
Not only had I lost my dream job, but I’d just dropped my agent because he had a problem with his hands. He couldn’t keep ’em off me! I’d spent the previous month going from agent to agent without so much as a return call. The last agent I was unlucky enough to interview with was the appropriately named Edgar Small.
This one-man operation was comprised of a weathered, silver-haired Jewish agent who’d been around for an eternity but came highly recommended as someone who could open Hollywood doors. The walls of his musty office in a posh, older building on the “good” end of Sunset were lined with photos of his clients: the used-to-be-famous and hopefully-soon-to-be-famous. Sitting across from him, his cluttered, gray metal desk between us, I did my best to exude confidence while rattling off my credits. He grunted intermittently, which I took as a sign that he was impressed or at least interested. When I’d said all I could say about how fabulous I was, he sat for a silent moment, seeming to take it all in.
“How old did you say you were?” he asked in his raspy smoker’s voice.
“I didn’t. But I’m, uhhhh… twenty-nine,” I replied, slurring my words so he might miss the “nine” part.
But his hearing was still sharp. “Twenty-nine !?” he spat, before launching into a coughing fit. When he finally stopped hacking, I gave a tentative nod of my head. I’d been in town long enough to know that, by Hollywood standards, I might as well be dead.
“Well, I hate to be the one to break it to you, kiddo, but your days as an actress are over.” He wheezed. “No one, and I mean no one in this town is looking for a thirty-year-old actress. You might as well pack your bags and head back to wherever it is you came from because, and you’ll excuse me for being blunt here, you’re all washed up.” I managed to keep the tears that had welled along my lower lids from spilling over and ruining my mascara before standing up and leaving with what little dignity I still had intact. I think the door actually did hit me in the ass on the way out.
A gratifying postscript, for me anyway: The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island bombed and the series never materialized. In the forty years since, I’ve never hired an agent for acting roles again. I’ll always take solace in the fact that an agent would forever miss out on a sweet chunk of change from the luckiest over-the-hill actress in Hollywood.
I was born on September 17, 1951. This is how long ago that was: Harry Truman was president, Patti Page was kicking record-chart butt with “Tennessee Waltz,” and All About Eve took home the Oscar for best picture. Oh, and the wheel had already been invented.
I was born at a very early age, an age that was too young to have a sense of good judgment, which I understand doesn’t kick in until around thirty. Unfortunately for me, it still hasn’t.
If I’d had better judgment, I wouldn’t have chosen to be born in Manhattan, Kansas. The Little Apple. The city that always sleeps. Not that Manhattan is a bad place; it’s actually a very pleasant small city. It’s just a bad place to be from if you’re destined for a life in show business.
My father, Dale Warren August Peterson, had barely finished high school before he left to join the Merchant Marines toward the end of World War II. Upon returning to his hometown of Randolph, Kansas, he encountered a beautiful eighteen-year-old redhead, Phyllis Schmidt, at the local swimming pool. A senior in high school, Phyllis aspired to become a nurse, and after graduating, she wasted no time in moving to Manhattan to sign up for nurse’s training. Dale followed her, and they married on Groundhog Day, 1951, shortly after Phyllis discovered she was pregnant.
After a quick courthouse wedding, they returned to Randolph. The town was too small to support a hospital, so I was born in the nearest “big city,” Manhattan. My parents chose the name Cassandra after one of my mother’s teachers whom my dad had dated. I know, right? Cassandra (pronounced Ka-SAWN-dra, not Ka-SAND-ra) was such a bizarre name for 1951 rural Kansas that I might as well have been called Zor-El. It was one of the things that would later contribute to my feelings of freakishness. For expediency’s sake, my name was shortened to Soni (Sawn-ee), a name everyone in my family could pronounce. Daddy enjoyed telling the story that upon hearing the name Cassandra, my German great grandmother exclaimed, “Accch! Zuch an uk-lee name ver zuch a bee-u-tee-ful baby!”
Broke, newly married, and with their first child, my parents were given the enticing offer of a free place to live. All they had to do was take over the farm Grandma and Grandpa had vacated because, as oldsters, it was becoming too much work. Mother and Daddy packed up their few belongings and their new, bee-u-tee-ful baby and headed to the farm, twenty-five miles away. They tried their hand growing milo, a type of corn used for cattle feed, and when that didn’t pan out, they used what little money they had to buy several calves. Despite being kept in the barn and fed with baby bottles, the poor little things died during the first winter, which was unusually cold. My mother hated every second of living on the farm. She told Daddy in no uncertain terms that if he didn’t find a normal job and get them the hell out of there, she was taking me and leaving.
Miraculously, Daddy found a job as a salesman in the Singer sewing-machine store in Manhattan. On the first day, he showed up for work in his overalls with no shirt and was given the job of vacuuming the store. He vacuumed all day, eight straight hours, which not only made the Singer store’s carpet the cleanest in town but earned Daddy enough to buy a secondhand suit (even though he was afraid it would “make him look like a queer”).
Although he had no experience as a salesman, he took to it as if selling had been in his blood his whole life. It was a perfect fit. He had a fierce competitive streak and had always been able to cajole, beg, or threaten people into doing whatever he wanted.
The drama began only a year and a half into my life.
Good Friday, 1953, seemed no different than any other day on the farm. Daddy took the Singer truck to work in Manhattan and left my mother alone to care for me and Jeannie, my eleven-year-old cousin who was visiting. It was the first warm April afternoon of the year. Crocuses popped their purple heads up through gray patches of snow and the first pink blossoms burst from the crab-apple tree in the yard. Jeannie helped my mother, who was eight and a half months pregnant, spread a blanket on the grass in the sun to color eggs for our Easter Sunday get-together at Grandma and Grandpa Peterson’s.
Meanwhile, I was left alone in the house to explore on my own, which always struck me as a little odd. According to my mother’s account of what happened next, at only eighteen months old, I apparently had the strength and ingenuity to drag a kitchen chair across the linoleum floor to our worn-out O’Keefe and Merritt stove. I climbed up on the chair to check out the sound the eggs made knocking against the sides of the kettle as it bubbled.
Sometimes I have to wonder about what happened next. I must have lost my balance and grabbed on to the closest thing to me, the enormous cast-iron pot of boiling water. When Mother heard my cries, she ran into the house to find me lying on the kitchen floor, bathed in scalding water, going into shock. She slathered me in lard (so much for nurse’s training), trying her best to ignore the skin that kept slipping off in her hands. Wrapping me in a clean sheet, she and Jeannie got me into her old Pontiac station wagon and hauled ass over the deep-rutted dirt roads to the hospital in Manhattan, twenty-five miles away.
- -—Winner of the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award's Book of the Year
- “Friggin’ hilarious! Juicy stories and outrageous revelations!”—RuPaul
- “A wicked page turner filled with hilarity and heartbreak—a life full of crazy stories and insane revelations, told as only Cassandra Peterson could tell it.”—Rob Zombie
- "This is the behind-the-wig story we've all been waiting for! It's inspiring, at times harrowing, and consistently hilarious. Be warned though, it's a real 'booby trap' because once you've picked it up you cannot put it down!"—Peaches Christ
- “A hauntingly beautiful memoir of one of the most iconic figures of the macabre. Just when I thought I couldn’t fall in love with Elvira any more, this book took my admiration to a whole other level.”—Kat Von D
- “I knew Cassandra had a colorful and exciting life, but I didn¹t realize what a talented writer she’d become. Her book is beautiful—funny, poignant, outrageous, and full of surprises. Exactly like her. I’m happy I can genuinely recommend it and hope I’ll get to play myself when it becomes a blockbuster movie.”—Paul Reubens AKA Pee-wee Herman
- “Elvira the character is a tantalizing gothic pop icon, a living Halloween costume, a kitschy, clever, comely chanteuse with brains. But Cassandra, the multi-talented woman inside that character, has lived an incredible life full of experiences that make most people's best days sound like dime-store humdrum.”—Jack White
- “Elvira/Cassandra is a glamour ghoul after my own black heart—and a virtuoso tassel-twirler. I value her beauty advice. But most of all, I treasure her showbiz tales—louche, lusty, and sometimes so ludicrous they have to be real! Here they are, and more, delivered with that scintillating wit that makes her a bona fide legend. I savored every single page.”—Dita Von Teese
- “Prepare yourself to enter a rocky, rollicking life, loaded with unexpected twists, turns, and stunning surprises. The Groupie stories alone will leave you jawdropped. Turn off your phones and computers, get to know Cassandra, and settle in for a delicious, un-put-downable read.”—Pamela Des Barres
- "For chilly nights, stay at home and read Yours Cruelly, Elvira, the dishy new memoir from Elvira (a.k.a. Cassandra Peterson), the longtime horror movie hostess and entrepreneur."—New York Times
- "Cassandra Peterson reveals how she became the Mistress of the Dark, and her tale is far more complex than one might expect….Through it all, Peterson maintains the dry sense of humor beloved by viewers since her Movie Macabre days, showing off her affection for corny puns even when she’s recalling painful memories. Her book is a must-read for anyone interested in 1970s Hollywood, horror movies, or just Elvira herself—a pop culture icon of the highest order." —BUST Magazine
- “Yours Cruelly, Elvira is packed with insider details and a few shocking surprises which no one saw coming, except folks closest to her plunging neckline….Peterson's memoir is written in much the same style as her persona and delivers her mildly sardonic yet warmly funny lines easily, but it's not all jokes and sarcasm. There's an honesty that satisfyingly saturates these chapters. Fans will savor personal stories about her rocky upbringing, her determination to make it in Hollywood, and, most touchingly, her deep shock and sadness at losing several close friends to the burgeoning AIDS epidemic while attempting to remain focused on her career. There are a few zingers Peterson elaborates on which will undoubtedly surprise even hardcore fans of this dark enchantress.”—Bay Area Reporter
- "If you've ever wondered if there are 1000 fascinating stories behind the iconic character, the answer is yes....The book is full of a million ways she became that way."—NPR’s “Bullseye”
- “The writing in the memoir is deeply personal and heartfelt, detailing Peterson’s relationships with her parents, her siblings and her partners throughout the years. Seemingly she doesn’t hold back on details, allowing the audience to appreciate a life lived, with many lessons learned along the way….Ostensibly Yours Cruelly, Elvira is a book for horror fans and lovers of this character, and no doubt if a devotee remembers tuning in on Saturday nights to see Elvira introduce the horror flick of the week, there’s a lot of nostalgia within these pages. However, Peterson is after something more profound and revelatory than mere nostalgia. Her stories are meant to teach lessons, bear witness and show just how wild a life’s journey can be from the farms of Kansas to the top of the media world….This is not Elvira’s book, it’s Peterson’s, and that’s a good thing."—Hollywood Soapbox
- On Sale
- Oct 4, 2022
- Page Count
- 304 pages
- Hachette Books