Gazette reporter Stephanie Earls: I was introduced to Elvira and "Movie Macabre" in the early 80s, watching late night TV with my granddad during summer break. We kind of bonded over it. Did you ever imagine your character would have that kind of effect or appeal, on everyone from 'tweens to granddads?
Peterson: So many people say that, 'I used to watch you with my granddad or grandma or mom or dad' - and that really means so much to me to hear it touched their hearts. You really don't think of my show as family viewing, but guess she was. I thought probably my main audience would be horny old men, the way they were having me dress, but actually it turns out that Elvira appeals to women (too). When I do conventions, I would certainly say I have as many female fans show up as male.
Gazette: You've said your appreciation for costumes and dressing up was inspired in large part due to your childhood, growing up in a creative family that ran Peterson's Partyland, in the city's Ivywild neighborhood. How much fun was it to grow up in that environment?
Peterson: My mom and my aunt ran that. It was very successful. That's a trip. It's still over there somewhere, right?
Gazette: The woman who owns the shop (Ivywild Costumes) recently moved it to Fort Collins and now focuses exclusively on costumes for professional theater companies. The name is still the same, but the store's in Fort Collins. I'm sorry to be the bearer of that news.
Peterson: No, it's OK. I'll have to let my mom know. (She) made my first costume ever.
Gazette: Do you have family or friends who still live here and do you still visit?
Peterson: Most of my family and friends have unfortunately passed away - my aunts and uncles. I have a couple aunts (by marriage) who live there, and several cousins. I don't visit as often as I used to, that's for sure. But I do love Colorado. I miss it. I was thinking of coming out there for vacation sometime in the next year just to hang out.
Gazette: There is an exhibit devoted to you at the Pioneers Museum right now. You're letter "E" in "The Story of Us." You could come out and visit your exhibit.
Peterson: That's so funny. I used to go to the Pioneers Museum as a kid. I must be really ancient; back then it was all just pioneers. I wish I could have given them real dress and wig.
Gazette: You turned 66 in September. I'm sure I'm not the first to tell you you look amazing. I imagine avoiding the sun is advice both you and Elvira must adhere to, given that you're a redhead and a vampire, respectively. But, any tips?
Peterson: I was a redhead my whole life and that kept me from staying out of the sun. I'd get covered with freckles. My whole life...I was skulking around under bushes and trees. Being a redhead paid off in a way I wouldn't have thought about when I was young. I also wear tons of sunscreen. Every day when I go out of the house - especially here in California. It wasn't that great when I was young and everyone into being tan. I looked like ghost.
Gazette: So you were kind of already in character.
Peterson: Yes, I got my revenge here on everyone that was tanning.
Gazette: Any wisdom from the perspective of someone who's been hailed both as a cult sex symbol and a role model for female empowerment? Did you set out to do that, and has that ever been a tough line to walk?
Peterson: Honestly, I don't know how I did it. I was trying to be sexy. I knew I could do that. The fact that I kind of ended up being a feminist icon is bizarre to me, but I can sort of see how it translated. Elvira is strong and tough and doesn't take any crap from anybody. She isn't your typical sex symbol. She's not a weak, soft-spoken bimbo, which is what you generally see when you see a 'sexy woman.' She has these two sides to her. I think that's what translates to the fans. You can be sexy and show off your assets; you can be a woman and still have strength and confidence.
Gazette: What's your favorite horror movie?
Peterson: I love 'Carrie.' And the Alien movies. I was thinking, my favorite horror movies are all based on strong female characters.
For more info and updates on Peterson's "retirement" projects, visit elvira.com or follow her on Twitter @TheRealElvira