If there were justice in Hollywood, there would be no such thing as a casting couch, underrepresented groups wouldn’t have to fight so hard to get so little, and no one would have to ask ''Who is Elvira?'' again. I’ve answered the question to my share of whippersnappers, finding that ''the goth Dolly Parton'' is useful shorthand for the B-movie queen’s macabre version of exaggerated femininity, wielded in the service of iconic camp and, yes, feminism. As a kid, I watched her feature film,
Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, so many times I practically knew it by heart, recognizing that her appeal was about more than her vampy, campy persona. Like Dolly, she used her considerable physical assets and comic genius to knock down the doors of a misogynist industry—in her case, horror instead of country music. Elvira, whose real name is Cassandra Peterson, is now 70, and her new memoir cements her legacy—a scrappy and hilarious collection of insider tales from a woman who knew everyone and did everything her way. When she was just a year old, Peterson pulled a pot of boiling water onto herself, burning much of her body and transforming her outlook forever. The farm kid from Kansas was destined for a different life, and in the company of her inimitable voice, you’ll hear allllll about it, in devilish detail. At a time when women were supposed to choose between being funny or sexy, Elvira was brilliant at both—and she still is. Grab your eyeliner and pay some respect.