Cassandra "Elvira" Peterson
Inconceivable as it is, given her larger-than-life... um, presence, there just isn't enough of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, to go around. So Cassandra Peterson, who's filled the übervamp's, um, pumps for more than 25 years, has finally hung out the "Help Wanted" sign. This Friday (the 13th, natch) at the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California, she is holding an open "casket call" as part of her upcoming Fox Reality series The Search for the Next Elvira (which debuts Oct.13). Is this the stuff that Peterson's "unpleasant dreams" are made of? To find out, TVGuide.com simply punched in her figures... er, digits.

TVGuide.com: Please, in the name of all that is unholy, tell me this show doesn't mean that you are retiring.
Cassandra Peterson:
No! I am not retiring. No, no, not at all. I'm looking for additional Elviras, not replacements. It's the beginning of an army of clones who will conquer the world!

TVGuide.com: Whew! You scared me there for a second. And not in the fun way.
Peterson:
What's been happening is really odd. I'll go to do an appearance, and someone walks up to me and says — and usually it's someone under 25 — "Are you the real Elvira?" And at first I was sort of bent out of shape about that. And then the more I thought about it, I said, "Hmm... they don't even know the difference! Why don't I get a bunch of Elviras and send them all out there and take a really huge percentage of their paychecks?"

TVGuide.com: Are you worried at all that people might reject an "Elvirette"? You know, like when a kid goes to the mall at Christmas and pitches a fit because he decides the guy in the beard is "Gordon Claus" and not Santa?
Peterson:
Oh, right. Pulling off the wig and all that.

TVGuide.com: That might not be so pretty with Elviras.
Peterson:
Ew, definitely. That scares me!

TVGuide.com: Then again, I assume there's a lot of goodwill toward Elvira, so there won't be a lot of wig-pulling. Maybe some grabbing...
Peterson:
Well, there's already that! I hate to say it, but when you see Batman and Superman out in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater here in Hollywood, tourists are just happy campers to run up and have their pictures taken! Do they really think they're the real Beetlejuice? I don't think so. Is there a real Beetlejuice?

TVGuide.com: It's like seeing an icon, like the Empire State Building.
Peterson:
It really is! Except I'm like two Empire State Buildings! [Editor's note: Ba-dum-bump]

TVGuide.com: It's the new Elvira who'll be taking her chances with the pawing fans, not you, anyway.
Peterson:
Exactly. She'll be the one they beat up. Not me. I'll be back home, safe in Hollywood, collecting my checks! [Laughs] Just kidding.

TVGuide.com: Are you emotionally prepared to see someone else doing your bit?
Peterson:
Well, that's the thing — I've seen soooo many people dressed up as Elvira, and I've judged so many look-alike contests, and god knows there are enough drag queens who dress as Elvira every year to fill a stadium! I'm pretty down with that. I'm flattered when I see other people dressed like Elvira, as long as they look sort of halfway decent!

TVGuide.com: Will "Elvira 2.0" be playing her own version of the character, or will you be coaching her to play the character in more or less your voice?
Peterson:
I will actually be coaching her. I hope to have a boob camp — I mean a boot camp — that we send the Elviras to, and they'll have to learn how to walk, how to talk, how to make really cheesy jokes.... They'll learn to do everything Elvira does, so that they'll really become an Elvira, just like me.

TVGuide.com: Aside from two obvious ones, what qualifications are you going to be looking for?
Peterson:
Oh, so you're stealing my jokes now? [Laughs]

TVGuide.com: I thought I'd save you some work.
Peterson:
Thanks for that. There really is a lot more to Elvira than just a couple of boobs! There are my fabulous legs, of course. And then there's Elvira's corny sense of humor. There's the side of Elvira that is the entrepreneur, the merchandising Elvira who's got to be kind of savvy and kind of smart. And they also have to know how to treat guys.

TVGuide.com: Which is how, exactly?
Peterson:
Like a big side of beef! They really have to have it all together. They have to have confidence and a really good sense of humor. And, of course, the most important thing is that they have to have a good knowledge and love of the horror genre.

TVGuide.com: If you have smart, savvy Elviras, aren't you worried that there might be a Showgirls moment?
Peterson:
Which moment?

TVGuide.com: [Laughs] Touché. I'm thinking you're coming down the stairs, and Elvira the Sequel is behind you, and all of a sudden — whoops! — "somebody" gives you a shove and Elvira 2 is instantly Elvira 1!
Peterson:
[Laughs] Like All About Eve!

TVGuide.com: You say banana....
Peterson:
No, I'm not really worried about that. I don't want to be doing Elvira when I'm 103, you know? This is also grooming somebody who may eventually take over the character.

TVGuide.com: So it's a job that has room for advancement.
Peterson:
Exactly! Until they hit the glass ceiling, they could go forward. It could turn into a lifetime gig. Who knows?

TVGuide.com: With Elvira, it could be more than one lifetime.
Peterson:
Absolutely. It could keep going beyond the grave!

TVGuide.com: Can you imagine an African-American Elvira?
Peterson:
I swear, I would love to see Elvira in every color of the rainbow! I'd love to see an Asian Elvira, a Latina Elvira....

TVGuide.com: Then they could form their own version of the Pussycat Dolls!
Peterson:
That's perfect! I want a Mini-Me Elvira. That would be cool. A little Elvira!

TVGuide.com: I don't think anybody wants a little Elvira.
Peterson:
That's true. They always want a lot!

TVGuide.com: What about a male Elvira?
Peterson: Absolutely! The sad thing is that a couple of the [drag versions] actually look better than me, and that's really scary! A couple of the men are the best thing I've seen so far! I'm even wondering if one couldn't wind up winning the TV show!

TVGuide.com: I can't wait to see this!
Peterson:
It should be one of the most frightening shows ever to hit the airwaves!

TVGuide.com: Do you have any worries that your potential new Elvira will go out and pull a Britney on you?
Peterson:
I do think about that. Like, she'll go somewhere and forget her panties or something! But that's why we're putting them through this grueling test, so that we can see what type of people they are and make sure they can handle it. We'll give them all the beautiful poise and everything it takes, just like Miss America! We don't want any Paris Hiltons.

TVGuide.com: Kids today may not remember your pre-Mystery Science Theater 3000 series, Movie Macabre, but the DVDs you released last year were a scream. Please tell me there will be more coming.
Peterson:
Yeah! This fall there are six more coming out from Shout! Factory. I like these even better, because they were actually able to get movies that I liked better. Some of the last ones were scraping the bottom of the barrel!

TVGuide.com: Yeah, that science-fiction one was really something.
Peterson:
Oh, god, The Doomsday Machine! That was hysterical. That was one of my favorites!

TVGuide.com: The worse the movie, the funnier your shtick.
Peterson:
They can't always get a hold of movies that are complete, but one that I hope makes the cut for the new set is one of the Gamera movies. You know, sort of like the Godzilla movies except, well, it's Gamera! And during one of the hosting skits, I play an Asian woman. It's really, really bizarre.

TVGuide.com: Speaking of bizarre, now that you've opened the door to reality-TV, are you open to the idea of doing another show? Like, if The Surreal Life calls and asks you to move in with Jimmie "Dy-No-Mite!" Walker and the voice of the Log Lady from Twin Peaks....
Peterson:
I'm happy to say they've already called, and I've already said, "No way!" I have not sunk that low yet! I've gone pretty low, but not that far.

TVGuide.com: I think you'll be OK as long as you remember panties.
Peterson:
Thankfully, I have my personal assistant to remind me.

TVGuide.com: That's gonna do it for us. Good luck with Friday's "casket call"!
Peterson:
I can't wait to see what shows up! They're weeding some people out with a background check, so I think about 90 percent won't make it through. None of the ex-prison inmates.

TVGuide.com: That's too bad. At least they'd play the part with conviction.
Peterson:
You're funny!

Reality-TV fans can find a handy guide detailing the "difference" between NBC's The Singing Bee and Fox's Don't Forget the Lyrics! in the July 9 issue of TV Guide. Try four risk-free issues now!

Send your comments on this Q&A to online_insider@tvguide.com.