Horror hostess Elvira, Mistress of the Dark and vamp of camp, reveals she has been in a same-sex relationship for the past two decades.
Any child of the ’80s and even the most casual of horror fans have at least a passing familiarity with Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, the character created and portrayed by comedienne Cassandra Peterson. It’s been 40 years since the ‘horror hostess with the mostess’ hit the airwaves and to celebrate that milestone Peterson released her autobiography Yours Cruelly, Elvira: Memoirs of the Mistress of the Dark on September 21st.
The book chronicles her life and career from her first gig as a Las Vegas showgirl all the way through to her tenure as Elvira, Queen of Halloween. It talks about her encounters with the likes of Elvis Presley and Brad Pitt. It even describes the time she spent living in a haunted house! What surprised readers most, however, was her admission that she has been in a 19-year relationship with a woman named Teresa “T” Wierson.
Having initially met at Gold’s Gym in Hollywood, Cassandra was drawn to T’s dark and brooding good looks. She initially mistook T for a man until they ran into each other in the ladies’ room! A quick friendship was formed which only blossomed into romance sometime after Peterson’s divorce from her husband Mark Pierson.
Peterson writes: “…I told her goodnight and suddenly felt compelled to kiss her, on the mouth. As shocked as she was, I think I was even more surprised. I’d never been interested in women as anything other than friends. I felt so confused…..I soon discovered that we connected sexually in a way I’d never experienced and after a while it became clear I was falling in love with this beautiful, androgynous creature…”
And even though she loved T, Cassandra had to take the emotional journey a lot of us had to in order to come to a place of self-acceptance. She continues:
“It took me time to process my relationship with T. I’d been straight my whole life but now I’d suddenly turned gay overnight!? I was having a hard time wrapping my head around it. I was someone who had spent most of her life hanging around with gay men and now here I was ashamed of my feelings for a woman. I felt like such a hypocrite. I eventually gave up my ridiculous preconceived notions about what sexual category I fit into and realized that when you love someone, and they love you back that’s all that matters.”
Even after coming to this conclusion things were not as cut and dried as the pair hoped. They made a decision to keep their romance a secret in order to protect the Elvira brand. There were concerns that Cassandra’s personal life would clash with the expectations of a big part of the fanbase.
It would appear now, however, that those worries are behind Peterson, who turned 70 this month. And I, for one, couldn’t be more thrilled for her.
Please allow me to break journalistic protocol for a moment and get a little personal. You see, I grew up watching Elvira and have been drawn to the character for as long as I can remember. She helped my love for horror and camp flourish. It’s because of her that I became a horror host myself and you can see her indelible imprint on my show. Even though I identify as male, the character’s autonomy and sexuality as a woman dazzled me. I cackled at the silly puns and innuendos. In short, Elvira helped take me out of myself when I needed it. She still does.
Cassandra Peterson, on the other hand, is one of the most gracious and generous performers I have ever had the opportunity to meet. She is lovely to her fans and delivers Elvira to you with every encounter. She is patient and kind; quick with a joke or anecdote to put you at ease. She works to make the world a better place. She is an equal rights and animal activist. She is every bit the legend you think she is and then some.
Elvira has long been an icon in the gay and horror communities and this new piece of information will not change that. It gives me sincere joy that Cassandra Peterson can now live in her truth and live her life openly with the woman she loves. It’s what we all deserve.