This past Thursday I had a date with Cassandra Peterson. We were in the same room twice and she had no clue who I was, that’s what dating is, right? A picture speaks a thousand words, notice she’s pointing at my crotch with a disinterested look on her face and a polite smile, so in my gay opinion we might actually be going steady. So how’d it come to be that I would be in the Mistress Of The Dark’s divine presence twice in one day?
Let’s go back, way back, to the 80’s when I was just a little faglet in my pleather pants and neon sweat shirts (side note: not a good look when you’re pleasantly plump and those pant seams are barely hanging on by a thread…literally!) laying on the family shag carpet watching our console TV which I was in charge of changing the channels on. When the picture tube would give out and the screen would turn black, I had to hit it with a meat tenderizer until the picture returned. I was the original universal remote. One day, out of nowhere there was Elvira in all her busty, campy, wonderfulness on the screen. It was a time before the internet or DVRs so I would catch her TV shows when I could, laugh at her Coors beer ads, read her comics, and wear out my VHS copy of her movie Elvira Mistress Of The Dark.
Jump ahead 20 years, when fan conventions started to become a thing, and I got to meet her at one called The Chiller Theater Expo. It was held in a big event tent in the middle of a hotel parking lot. Yeah it was as classy as it sounds but it’s since moved up in status and is now held inside the hotel. I remember it was a cold October day in New Jersey and Cassandra was scantily clad as Elvira for her fans. Although probably cold, she was gracious and gave my partner pointers on how to take the photo so her and I would look good. As you can see, she was right. I was thrilled to get a photo with Elvira but I wanted to meet Cassandra Peterson, the comedic genius who created her.
Flash forward another decade to last week when my wish came true. Cassandra was doing a book signing, as herself, in New York City to promote her new photo book, Elvira Mistress Of The Dark. I took the day off from work and planned my trip into the city. A few days before, my plans changed for the better, when Cassandra tweeted that she was doing an interview the same day of the signing for the AOL Build Series. I couldn’t believe the tickets were free, even more unbelievable, I was able to get one.
Thursday came and I got to the AOL headquarters early for the 3:00 interview. Cassandra came out looking fabulous in a black jacket, short dress, stockings and black high heels. She was entertaining and funny. She joked about always being chosen to play the role of saloon girl or stripper instead of the mom. Her advice for wannabe stars was to hook your wagon to a holiday, comparing herself to Santa but I think with a better fashion sense. Cassandra isn’t only talented but she’s a smart business woman. Although she wasn’t making a huge salary on TV, instead of raises, she gradually negotiated the rights to Elvira who became her money maker. Who needs an impressive portfolio when you have Elvira’s assets. One of the interviewer’s final questions was something I’ve always wondered about. When I go to conventions and diva book signings the guys who attend them fall into two categories, The Gays and The Masturbaters. So I wondered, as the interviewer did, how are The Masturbaters handled…so to speak. Without missing a beat she explained she charges them extra.
After the interview Cassandra came into the audience to meet with her fans. Willingly taking selfies and listening to people’s stories. I wasn’t sure if she would take photos at the book signing so I didn’t want to miss my opportunity. Her handlers were trying to usher her out but on the way I asked for a selfie. However unfortunately for me, as this blurry selfie will attest, I am technologically challenged. I should have asked Cassandra to take it.
It was now close to 4:00, so I walked a couple blocks to the subway, took the train uptown and I was at the Barnes & Noble on the Upper West Side two hoursbefore the signing was to begin. Surprisingly many of the seats were already taken. Thankfully I swung by earlier to buy the book because the seating area was sold out but I had a wristband to get in. I wasn’t wearing leather, anything skin tight or something bought at Hot Topic; talk about being under dressed. I slunk off to the side in the front row, but boy was I in the wrong row. I couldn’t talk to The Gays behind me who were talking about hot guys because I was in The Masturbaters section where they were discussing comics and the music group Kiss. So I just put my head down and buried myself in Cassandra’s 240 page photo book. As much as I love all the photos spanning her career, it’s the stories I enjoy most. She writes about Elvira’s rise to fame, what the dog Gonk was like to work with in her movie, what happened to the sofa from her TV show, and how the Macabre Mobile came to be.
Beforehand, Barnes & Noble put out a box where people could put questions they had for Cassandra. She was scheduled to do a discussion before the signing but decided to just answer the fans questions instead. She shared a “sour grapes” story about her Coor’s ad campaign and said there would be many more stories in her autobiography which she jokingly said wouldn’t be out for another 25 years. She also talked about working on an Elvira animated series. After entertaining us for 20 minutes or so with her answers it was time for the signing to begin.
They called us up by row and said to have your phone ready for the photo. I had my phone in hand and planned exactly what I would say. As I got closer Cassandra asked everyone to have the flash on. I can’t even take a selfie, how am I supposed to know how to turn on the flash? Panic set in. Then I remembered my old-school digital camera in my pocket. When stalking, I try to be prepared. I got it out and made sure the flash was on but forgot what I wanted to say. I did tell her how much I liked her in the recent movie First Period and agreed how funny it is. She gave me the scoop that there’s going to be a Second Period and I hope she’ll be in it.
When I left I looked in my book and saw she personalized it to me and signed it “Elvira”. That’s when I remembered what I wanted to ask her, if she would sign it with her autograph instead of Elvira’s. Oh well, in 25 years when her autobiography comes out I’ll make another trip into the city and hopefully get it. It’s a date!