BY AMBER KELLY-ANDERSON
Role in the horror community: Television Personality/Actress/Ghoulish Glamour Girl
Claim to fame: In the mid-1950s, flipping through late night television might have meant crossing paths with the entendre-loving Vampira (born Maila Syraniemi) as she introduced Z level horror classics on Channel 7. Nominated for an Emmy for Most Outstanding Female Personality, Vampira is most notorious for her role in the Worst Film of All Time, Ed Wood’s horror classic, Plan 9 from Outer Space. Outside of a smattering of minor film roles, she was more famous for her sexy yet macabre persona which led to features in major magazines of the day and a number of Vampira fan clubs. Her fame was short-lived and she, like many horror stars of the period, ended her career in wince-inducing throwaway films. However, she did appear in a number of horror documentaries talking about her work. Director Tim Burton even cast his then-paramour, model Lisa Marie, to capture the essence of Vampira in his brilliant 1994 film Ed Wood.
Weapon of choice: Body-conscious black dress, long onyx tresses, beckoning sculpted nails, high arched eyebrows, obscenely tiny waist, sleepy “deadroom” eyes, and a creepy spin on a come hither voice. Vampira’s look actually originated at a costume party where she decided to sex-up Morticia Addams, the matriarch of Charles Addams’ New Yorker cartoon strip, “The Addams Family.” Not only did she win, she also caught the attention of local television producers. Her silhouette as she floated down the smoke-filled corridor in her show’s opening was supposed to resemble a black widow spider. Years later, Elvira would reinvent the look for the 80s, building on Vampira’s foundation.
Why she’s bloody brilliant: Vampira exemplifies the captivating power of some women. Rather than a victim or even a villain, she represents a girl in touch with her dark side, not afraid to embrace, rather than shun, it. And unlike bad girls in many forms of pop culture, she isn’t punished for it or forced to apologize. Brava, dark lady.