Published by Hachette Books on September 21, 2021
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Comedy, Film, Horror, LGBTQ, Memoir
“How’s your head?” “I haven’t had any complaints yet”.
This is one of the many hilarious quotable lines spoken by the legendary Cassandra Peterson, better known as Elvira. I’ve always known who Elvira was, but other than associating her with horror and sex I honestly did not know much about her. Upon seeing many positive reactions for her newly released memoir and after watching her wonderfully campy film, Elvira Mistress of the Dark, my interest was piqued. I made my first book purchase request at the library and was thrilled when a copy of Elvira’s memoir was ready for me to pick up a few weeks later (reminder to take advantage of your local libraries). Elvira is a queer icon. She embraces spooky weirdness, has great wit, and is resilient as hell.
Yours Cruelly covers Cassandra’s story from childbirth in Manhattan, Colorado up until present day. When she was 18 months old Cassandra was badly burned from a pot of boiling water, leaving her covered with scars. Cassandra was embarrassed of the scars and felt like a misfit, which drew her to all things spooky and weird. Most of her childhood took place in Colorado Springs, Colorado. As a teenager, Cassandra was obsessed with music, which led to some hilarious encounters while stalking famous musicians. Immediately after completing high school, she became a show girl in Las Vegas, eventually travelling to perform in Italy. Cassandra then relentlessly pursued a career in acting, hoping to land her first major role. Eventually Cassandra was offered a job, hosting horror movies on television. Thus, Elvira was born. Elvira became a household name, mainly by straight men. Eventually Cassandra’s sultry, spooky character was featured in two films. The later parts of the memoir describe Elvira’s experiences with motherhood, living in an actual haunted house, and her first marriage, which led to divorce. Elvira then finds love with her current partner of sixteen years, T, a woman. This book is Elvira’s coming out to the world.
I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir. Elvira is extremely witty and a great storyteller. Her stories feature plenty of shocks, including many famous names. On top of that, Elvira is one tough cookie. She never gave up on her Hollywood dreams, even when in trying times. I believe this book would be inspiring for anyone pursuing an unconventional career. While the book is full of humor, there are some sad, heartbreaking moments as well. Cassandra was raised by an abusive mother and endured multiple sexual assaults and a verbally abusive marriage. Yet she never lost her plucky, go-getter attitude. Even before coming out, Elvira had close ties with the gay community. She was inspired by drag queens while working as a go-go dancer in high school and toured with The Groundlings, a gay, male comedy troupe throughout the US. Elvira was hesitant to come out earlier because she feared losing support from straight men, who make up a large portion of her fanbase. But I believe Elvira won’t ever struggle for lack of fans. The LGBTQ community will celebrate Elvira for the icon she is, especially with her brand of campy humor and love of Halloween.
Normally I am not a fan of celebrity memoirs, but Yours Cruelly is truly special. Few books can make me laugh aloud, but Cassandra succeeded several times in her memoir. Hopefully this book will kickstart a new era in Elvira’s career. I am here for any future movies, tv shows or books!
Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault