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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Maila "Vampira" Nurmi 1921-2008

One of the true cult icons of horror has left us. It was first reported late Thursday night on Metroblogging Los Angeles--and later confirmed--that Finnish-born Maila Nurma, better known to her fans as Vampira, has passed away at the age of 86.
The original goth femme fatale, in 1954 Nurmi became the first of many television horror hosts, starting a staple of late-night TV that would live on for nearly 30 years. She had been discovered by the program director of a local L.A. TV station after attending a Halloween party dressed as Morticia Addams from the original Charles Addams New Yorker comic strip.
"The Vampira Show" aired for only one season, but that was enough to make Nurmi an L.A. legend. She even developed a friendship with fellow '50s icon James Dean, which some have speculated may have been more than a friendship.
Unfortunately, Vampira's broadcasts were never recorded for posterity, and this tiny snippet is all that has ever been found:


Nurmi refused to give up the rights to her character and wound up blacklisted in the entertainment business. Needing cash, she accepted a role in Ed Wood's epic disaster Plan 9 from Outer Space, which features the only other footage of her in character, some which can be seen here:


In the early 1980s, another California TV station tried to buy the rights to Vampira for their own horror movie program. When Nurmi refused, they hired actress Cassandra Peterson and created the far less sexy, yet unfortunately much more famous knock-off Elvira. Nurmi later unsuccessfully sued Peterson.
Despite her brief time in the spotlight, Vampira's legacy has been a powerful one. Idolized even by many far too young to remember her, she's one of those figures whose image seems to have somehow permeated the collective unconscious--known even to those who have never heard of her.

5 comments:

pot head pixie said...

She was also the subject of a song by the Misfits.

B-Sol said...

Yes, that's true, and there's a great homemade video for the song on YouTube, featuring a lot of great shots of Vampira, including an absolutely amazing pic with Bela Lugosi:
http://youtube.com/watch?v=OKYe3h6lO20

Dove said...

That picture with Bela Lugosi is a good one. She was amazing though I can't get over her tiny waist.

B-Sol said...

I tried and tried to locate that pic on the web so I could include it in this post, but to no avail! Lord knows where they found it...As for her waist, a lot of starlets like Jayne Mansfield and the like wore super-tight girdles at that time to achieve that look.

Anonymous said...

^^

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