The woman behind the icon known as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, the undisputed Queen of Halloween, reveals her full story filled with intimate bombshells—told by the bombshell herself.
On Good Friday in 1953, at only 18 months old, 25 miles from the nearest hospital in Manhattan, Kansas, Cassandra Peterson reached for a pot on the stove and doused herself in boiling water. Third-degree burns covered 35% of her body, and the prognosis wasn't good. But she survived. Burned and scarred, the impact stayed with her and became an obstacle she was determined to overcome. Feeling like a misfit led to her love of horror. While her sisters played with Barbie dolls, Cassandra built model kits of Frankenstein and Dracula, and idolized Vincent Price.
Due to a complicated relationship with her mother, Cassandra left home at 14, and by age 17 she was performing at the famed Dunes Hotel in Las Vegas. Run-ins with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and Tom Jones helped her grow up fast. Then a chance encounter with her idol Elvis Presley, changed the course of her life forever, and led her to Europe where she worked in film and traveled Italy as lead singer of an Italian pop band. She eventually made her way to Los Angeles, where she joined the famed comedy improv group, The Groundlings, and worked alongside Phil Hartman and Paul "Pee-wee" Reubens, honing her comedic skills.
Nearing age 30, a struggling actress considered past her prime, she auditioned at local LA channel KHJ as hostess for the late night vintage horror movies. Cassandra improvised, made the role her own, and got the job on the spot. Yours Cruelly, Elvira is an unforgettably wild memoir. Cassandra doesn't shy away from revealing exactly who she is and how she overcame seemingly insurmountable odds. Always original and sometimes outrageous, her story is loaded with twists, travails, revelry, and downright shocking experiences. It is the candid, often funny, and sometimes heart-breaking tale of a Midwest farm girl's long strange trip to become the world's sexiest, sassiest Halloween icon.
Instant New York Times Bestseller, Los Angeles Times Bestseller, USA Today Bestseller, Publishers Weekly Bestseller
A New York Times Best Books to Give This Season selection
About the Author
Cassandra Peterson was born in Manhattan, Kansas, and raised in Colorado Springs, Colorado. At age 17, she began performing as a showgirl at the Dunes Hotel in Las Vegas, then traveled to Europe where she pursued a career as a singer and actor. Upon returning to the states, Peterson toured America as star of her own musical-comedy show, Mama’s Boys. She eventually settled in Hollywood, where she spent four years with L.A.’s foremost improvisational comedy group, The Groundlings. In 1981, she auditioned for the part of “horror hostess” on a local Los Angeles station. That show, Movie Macabre, and her newly created character, Elvira, became an overnight sensation and gained national syndication. Peterson also co-wrote, produced, and starred in two feature length films: Elvira, Mistress of the Dark and Elvira’s Haunted Hills. She has spent four decades solidifying her unique brand and building it into an internationally recognized pop culture icon synonymous with Halloween and the horror genre.
-—Winner of the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award's Book of the Year
“Friggin’ hilarious! Juicy stories and outrageous revelations!”—RuPaul
“A wicked page turner filled with hilarity and heartbreak—a life full of crazy stories and insane revelations, told as only Cassandra Peterson could tell it.”—Rob Zombie
"This is the behind-the-wig story we've all been waiting for! It's inspiring, at times harrowing, and consistently hilarious. Be warned though, it's a real 'booby trap' because once you've picked it up you cannot put it down!"—Peaches Christ
“A hauntingly beautiful memoir of one of the most iconic figures of the macabre. Just when I thought I couldn’t fall in love with Elvira any more, this book took my admiration to a whole other level.”—Kat Von D
“I knew Cassandra had a colorful and exciting life, but I didn¹t realize what a talented writer she’d become. Her book is beautiful—funny, poignant, outrageous, and full of surprises. Exactly like her. I’m happy I can genuinely recommend it and hope I’ll get to play myself when it becomes a blockbuster movie.”—Paul Reubens AKA Pee-wee Herman
“Elvira the character is a tantalizing gothic pop icon, a living Halloween costume, a kitschy, clever, comely chanteuse with brains. But Cassandra, the multi-talented woman inside that character, has lived an incredible life full of experiences that make most people's best days sound like dime-store humdrum.”—Jack White
“Elvira/Cassandra is a glamour ghoul after my own black heart—and a virtuoso tassel-twirler. I value her beauty advice. But most of all, I treasure her showbiz tales—louche, lusty, and sometimes so ludicrous they have to be real! Here they are, and more, delivered with that scintillating wit that makes her a bona fide legend. I savored every single page.”—Dita Von Teese
“Prepare yourself to enter a rocky, rollicking life, loaded with unexpected twists, turns, and stunning surprises. The Groupie stories alone will leave you jawdropped. Turn off your phones and computers, get to know Cassandra, and settle in for a delicious, un-put-downable read.”—Pamela Des Barres
"For chilly nights, stay at home and read Yours Cruelly, Elvira, the dishy new memoir from Elvira (a.k.a. Cassandra Peterson), the longtime horror movie hostess and entrepreneur."—New York Times
"Cassandra Peterson reveals how she became the Mistress of the Dark, and her tale is far more complex than one might expect….Through it all, Peterson maintains the dry sense of humor beloved by viewers since her Movie Macabre days, showing off her affection for corny puns even when she’s recalling painful memories. Her book is a must-read for anyone interested in 1970s Hollywood, horror movies, or just Elvira herself—a pop culture icon of the highest order." —BUST Magazine
“Yours Cruelly, Elvira is packed with insider details and a few shocking surprises which no one saw coming, except folks closest to her plunging neckline….Peterson's memoir is written in much the same style as her persona and delivers her mildly sardonic yet warmly funny lines easily, but it's not all jokes and sarcasm. There's an honesty that satisfyingly saturates these chapters. Fans will savor personal stories about her rocky upbringing, her determination to make it in Hollywood, and, most touchingly, her deep shock and sadness at losing several close friends to the burgeoning AIDS epidemic while attempting to remain focused on her career. There are a few zingers Peterson elaborates on which will undoubtedly surprise even hardcore fans of this dark enchantress.”—Bay Area Reporter
"If you've ever wondered if there are 1000 fascinating stories behind the iconic character, the answer is yes....The book is full of a million ways she became that way."—NPR’s “Bullseye”
“The writing in the memoir is deeply personal and heartfelt, detailing Peterson’s relationships with her parents, her siblings and her partners throughout the years. Seemingly she doesn’t hold back on details, allowing the audience to appreciate a life lived, with many lessons learned along the way….Ostensibly Yours Cruelly, Elvira is a book for horror fans and lovers of this character, and no doubt if a devotee remembers tuning in on Saturday nights to see Elvira introduce the horror flick of the week, there’s a lot of nostalgia within these pages. However, Peterson is after something more profound and revelatory than mere nostalgia. Her stories are meant to teach lessons, bear witness and show just how wild a life’s journey can be from the farms of Kansas to the top of the media world….This is not Elvira’s book, it’s Peterson’s, and that’s a good thing."—Hollywood Soapbox