From pin-up to TV star to B-Movie icon, Maila Nurmi has been to hell and back. Kevin Sean Michaels's new documentary Vampira: The Movie documents a classic 15-minutes-of-fame story as it chronicles the pitfalls of Nurmi living on the very edge of show business and the rise to celluloid cultdom some 50 years later.
Her big break came in 1954 when she played the "glamour ghoul" Vampira, who wandered through a hallway of mist and cobwebs to greet her weekly viewers of obscure horror movies on a new medium called television. The show was broadcast at 11:00 PM on ABC's affiliate Channel 7 in Hollywood. After less than a year on the air, Nurmi was featured in LIFE Magazine and soon had fan clubs all over the world.
Unique to her look was her slim waist (17 inches), tight black dress and long black hair that was patterned after Morticia from The Addams Family. (Her waistline is still in the Guinness Book of Records for someone her height.) Some of her on-air antics included talking to Rollo her pet spider and encouraging fans to write for epitaphs instead of autographs. She was nominated for an Emmy as "Most Outstanding Female Personality" and was featured in "Who's Who in America."
Her newfound fame led her to pal around with some of Hollywood's elite: Marlon Brando, James Dean and Anthony Perkins. She later claimed she was haunted by Dean's ghost.
But Vampira's show was abruptly cancelled. Two years later, Nurmi again appeared as Vampira in the 1956 low-budget horror film Plan 9 From Outer Space directed by Edward D. Wood, Jr.
This led to bit parts and in the late 1950's and early 1960's she was in three Albert Zugsmith productions for MGM including Sex Kittens Go To College, starring Mamie Van Doren. Retiring from acting shortly thereafter, Nurmi opened a clothing boutique called "Vampira's Attic" that catered to such rock stars as Iron Butterfly and Grace Slick. She also began a foray into fine art, rendering portraits of herself as Vampira.
Fast foward to the late 1970's. A book called The Golden Turkey Awards by The Medved Brothers named Plan 9 From Outer Space "the worst film ever made." This put the film on the map, and it instantly became a cult classic with audiences.
In the 1980's, the song "Vampira" by The Misfits on the "Walk Among Us" album shined the spotlight on Nurmi once again. With a new interest in punk-rock music, the 64 year old Nurmi fronted a band called Satan's Cheerleaders. During this period, Nurmi also unsuccessfully sued Elvira for stealing her look. Read the court's decision in Nurmi v. Peterson here.
Nurmi's character rose from the dead again in 1993's Ed Wood, directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp. The movie renewed interest in her and she has achieved a Bettie Page-like cult status ever since. At 84, she feels she has left a vampiric mark.
Uncle Forry is a legend of the Sci-Fi horror genre. He is the creator and editor of the magazine "Famous Monsters of Filmland" (aka "Famous Monsters" or just "FM") started in 1958. Ackerman is also known as an occasional author, actor, producer (Vampirella), and literary agent.
Ackerman is credited with nurturing and inspiring the careers of several early contemporaries such as Ray Bradbury, Ray Harryhausen, Charles Beaumont, Marion Zimmer Bradley and L. Ron Hubbard of Scientology fame. He was Ed Wood, Jr.'s "illiterary" agent and represents 200 authors of science fiction and fantasy. Ackerman is also notable for having coined the term "sci-fi" by analogy with "hi-fi."
Ackerman has had 50 stories published, including collaborations with A. E. van Vogt, Francis Flagg, Robert A. W. Lowndes, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Donald Wolheim and Catherine Moore, and the world's shortest -- one letter of the alphabet. His stories have been translated into six languages. Through his magazine, Famous Monsters of Filmland (1958-1983), Forrest J Ackerman introduced the history of the science fiction, fantasy and horror film genres to a generation of young readers. At a time when most movie-related publications glorified the stars in front of the camera, "Uncle Forry," as he's referred to by many of his fans, promoted the behind-the-scenes artists involved in the magic of movies. In this way Ackerman provided inspiration to many who would later become successful artists, including Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg, Tim Burton, Stephen King, Penn & Teller, Billy Bob Thornton, Gene Simmons (of the band Kiss), Rick Baker, George Lucas, Danny Elfman, John Landis and countless other writers, directors, artists and craftsmen.
Forry will be 90 years old in June, 2007 and we hope to celebrate with him at Monster Bash in Pittsburgh.
Black Betty is the winner of After Dark Films' "Miss Horrorfest" Contest. After Dark was looking for a brand new kind of Horror Hostess - a sultry Scream Queen with a penchant for the dark side - and in walked Ms. Betty, the answer to everyone's nightmares. Black Betty, born Elizabeth Beetles, was raised by a loving family of large black beetles, order coleoptera, family scarabaeidae. They raised her as their own little beetle girl, and taught her valuable digging techniques for survival. As she grew, she developed the ability to communicate telepathically with vast amounts of beetle friends, a gift that has saved her from many sticky situations. Black Betty is a born screamer, naturally gifted with a bone-chilling shriek that wakes the dead and makes the living – well, wish they were dead! She studied Beetle Ballet at RABB, the Royal Academy of Beetle Ballet, where she performed with some of the world's most prominent beetle ballerinas. A natural strategist, she developed her infamous scream as a battle cry during the Great Beetle Wars of '72.
Elvira's alter ego, Cassandra Peterson, was born in Manhattan, Kansas and raised in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Cassandra remembers being mesmerized by Ann-Margret. "I always wanted to be a dancer, ever since I saw Ann-Margret in Viva Las Vegas." Just days after graduating from high school, Cassandra fled to Vegas where, at the age of 17, she became the youngest showgirl in Las Vegas history.
Cassandra's desire to emulate Ann-Margret led to an evening with the legendary Elvis Presley, who saw her perform and encouraged her to pursue a singing career. Off to Europe, Cassandra toured extensively as lead singer for an Italian rock band. Eventually settling in Rome, where she became fluent in Italian, Cassandra met renowned director, Federico Fellini, who cast her in his classic film Roma.
Returning stateside, Cassandra formed her own nightclub review, "Mama's Boys," which toured the national club circuit. In the late 70's, she joined the satiric improvisational troupe, The Groundlings, which also produced such notables as Phil Hartman, Pee Wee Herman, Jon Lovitz and Julia Sweeney. There she honed her now renowned comedic skills as both a writer and performer.
Film and television appearances such as Cheech And Chong's Next Movie, Fantasy Island, Happy Days and St. Elsewhere followed, but Cassandra recalls, "I was your typical struggling actress. I went to every audition, took a million acting, dancing and singing lessons and spent years wondering where my next meal was coming from."
It was the fall of 1981, with the birth of her character, Elvira, that it all changed. While she has since played herself in many film and television shows including Echo Park, Alan Quartermain and Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Cassandra Peterson ultimately combines her numerous talents into an intriguing persona which has not only become a Halloween icon, but a "vamp" for all seasons.
Sid is an actor's actor. He is best known to horror fans for his portrayal of the maniacal Captain Spaulding in Rob Zombie's House of 1,000 Corpses and his reprisal in The Devil's Rejects. This role earned him an award for Best Supporting Actor in the 13th Annual Fangoria Chainsaw Awards, as well as an induction into the Horror Hall of Fame. But Sid's career is much broader, spanning over 40 years. From Batman villain to Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown, it seems Sid has done it all.
Sid has appeared in over 50 films and 350 television shows. He also became a staple in the pictures of Jack Hill, appearing in Spider Baby, Coffy, and Foxy Brown. Haig's other memorable credits include George Lucas's THX-1138, and the 1970 James Bond opus Diamonds are Forever. Sid was a major star of the "grindhouse" era of the 1970s, which is now enjoying newfound popularity.
Among his most significant television credits are appearances on such landmark programs as The A-Team, TJ Hooker, Dukes of Hazzard, Quincy ME, Hart to Hart, Fantasy Island, Charlie's Angels, Police Woman, The Rockford Files, Six Million Dollar Man, Mannix, Mission: Impossible, Gunsmoke, Get Smart, Here's Lucy, The Flying Nun, Daniel Boone, Star Trek, Batman and The Untouchables.
Currently, Sid has several projects in various stages of production, and continues to enjoy his renewed success as an actor.
Bill's characters are as indelible as ink. With Bill's good nature and wise-cracking demeaner at horror conventions, one would never guess he's played the bloodthirsty Chop Top in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and killer Otis B. Driftwood in Rob Zombie's House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects. Sometimes fans come up to Bill's table, look at the movie stills and ask "which one's you?" He answers: "All of 'em!" That is a tribute to Bill as actor-chameleon.
He's also a musician. Cornbugs is a three-man band Bill has with Buckethead (formerly of Guns N' Roses) and Pinchface.
In the 1990's, Bill portrayed Johnnie in Tom Savini's remake of George Romero's 1968 zombie film, Night of the Living Dead. In 1993, he had a small role in the cult hit Army of Darkness as the Deadite leader.
On TV, Bill's been seen in episodes of HBO's Carnivàle, ER, Freddy's Nightmares and believe it or not, the soap Days of Our Lives.
Bill is currently appearing in a "trailer" in the movie Grindhouse, in a segment called Werewolf Women of the SS, where he plays Dr. Heinrich von Strasser.