Born in Manhattan, Kansas, Peterson grew up near Randolph, until the area was flooded to create Tuttle Creek Reservoir; her family then moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado. According to a 2011 interview, Peterson states that as a child, while other girls were occupied with Barbie dolls, she was more fascinated by horror-themed toys. During her teens, Peterson worked as a go-go dancer in a local gay bar.
Days after graduating, she drove to Las Vegas, Nevada, where she became a showgirl in "Viva Les Girls" at The Dunes, where she met Elvis Presley. She had a small role as a showgirl in the 1971 James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever, played a topless dancer in The Working Girls (1974). She also purportedly posed for the cover of Tom Waits's 1976 album, Small Change. Peterson has since described it as "a giant mystery," claiming that while she has no memory of the event, the picture looks enough like her that she feels "pretty sure" that it is her. She is a vegetarian and has appeared in a humorous Halloween-themed ad for PETA promoting a vegetarian diet.More meat for me!
In the early 1970s, Peterson moved to Italy and became the lead singer of the Italian rock band I Latins Ochanats and The Snails. During this time she had a chance encounter with director Federico Fellini, which led to a small part in Roma (1972). Back in the United States she toured nightclubs and discos around the country with a musical/comedy act, Mammas Boys. In 1979, she joined the Los Angeles-based improvisational troupe The Groundlings, where she created a Valley girl-type character upon whom the Elvira persona is largely based.
During the 1970s, Peterson also modeled for several men's magazines, such as High Society, Man's Delight (magazine) and Modern Man.
Traces of these photoshoots remain on the internet (NSFW links)
Peterson auditioned for the role of Ginger Grant for the third Gilligan's Island television movie in 1981, shortly before KHJ-TV offered her the horror-host position.Peterson also was a personality on Los Angeles radio station KROQ 106.7 from 1982 to 1983.But she didn't get the part, and we got Elvira. Win - win!
In the late spring of 1981, six years after the death of Larry Vincent, who starred as host Sinister Seymour of a local Los Angeles weekend horror show called Fright Night, show producers began the task of bringing the show back.
The producers decided to use a female host. They asked 1950s horror hostess Maila Nurmi to revive The Vampira Show. Nurmi worked on the project for a short time, but eventually quit when the producers would not hire Lola Falana to play Vampira. The station sent out a casting call, and Peterson auditioned and won the role. Producers left it up to her to create the role's image. She and her best friend, Robert Redding, came up with the sexy punk/vampire look after producers rejected her original idea to look like Sharon Tate in The Fearless Vampire Killers.
Peterson's Elvira character rapidly gained notice with her tight-fitting, low-cut, cleavage-displaying black gown. Adopting the flippant tone of a California "Valley girl", she brought a satirical, sarcastic edge to her commentary. She reveled in dropping risqué double entendres and making frequent jokes about her cleavage. In an AOL Entertainment News interview, Peterson said, "I figured out that Elvira is me when I was a teenager. She's a spastic girl. I just say what I feel and people seem to enjoy it." Her campy humor, sex appeal, and good-natured self-mockery made her popular with late-night movie viewers and her popularity soared.
GOODSTUFFs BLOGGING MAGAZINE (214th Issue) hits a similar theme: This monstrous Halloween Ho Down blog has all the tricks and treats. Like Vampira, Morticia Addams, Esther Williams, Elizabeth Montgomery, Veronica Lake, Elvira, Vampirella and udder crazy stuff. Linked at Pirate's Cove in the weekly "Sorta Blogless Sunday Pinup" and links. Wombat-socho has "Rule 5 Sunday: Just What It Says On The Label" ready at The Other McCain to fulfill any Rule 5 needs I might have missed as well as "FMJRA 2.0: Ride Across the River."
Now included in the Canonical List of Rule 5 Posts.