Cassandra Peterson — known to most as horror hostess Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, since the early 1980s — is finally coming out into the light.
Peterson released her first memoir on Tuesday, and in it, she discusses her 19-year relationship with another woman named Teresa "T" Wierson, who started off as her gym trainer.
Titled Yours Cruelly, Elvira: Memoirs of the Mistress of the Dark, the book recounts how Peterson, now 70, first noticed a "dark and brooding" trainer years ago at Gold's Gym in Hollywood — someone she thought was male.
"Often, when I was doing my preworkout warm-up on the treadmill, I couldn't help noticing one particular trainer — tan, tattooed, and muscular — stalking across the gym floor, knit cap pulled so low over his long brown hair that it nearly covered his eyes," she wrote.
"A typical sexy bad boy, he was unaware he was so charismatic that he'd garnered his own unofficial fan club. Watching him from the safety of my treadmill made my heart beat faster and the time pass much more quickly."
Soon, however, the Elvira's Movie Macabre hostess discovered that the charismatic trainer was indeed a woman after running into her in the ladies' room. From there, she said a friendship began.
"A former body-builder, track runner, and cyclist, she was an incredibly sweet person, despite her tough exterior," Peterson wrote of Wierson. "She had the ability to make something even as mundane as working out fun, and we trained together three times a week for the next six years, striking up a close friendship along the way."
Years later, however, things evolved when Wierson showed up on Peterson's doorstep during a tough time and ended up moving in.
After Peterson divorced her husband Mark Pierson and embarked on raising their daughter Sadie on her own, she found that "instead of being a burden, having [Teresa] around was a huge relief."
"Evenings were spent with all of us laughing, cooking, singing, and dancing around the kitchen while she helped me prep dinner," Peterson added, going on to detail how they took their relationship to the next level.
"...After coming home from a movie, I told her goodnight and suddenly felt compelled to kiss her — on the mouth. As shocked as she was, I think I was even more surprised," Peterson recalled.
"What the hell was I doing? I'd never been interested in women as anything other than friends. I felt so confused. This just wasn't me! I was stunned that I'd been friends with her for so many years and never noticed our chemistry. How could I have missed it? Was it the male energy she exuded that attracted me? Her intense green eyes? Or just my own loneliness?"
Nevertheless, Peterson "soon discovered that we connected sexually in a way I'd never experienced, and after a while it became clear I was falling in love with this beautiful, androgynous creature who'd appeared on my doorstep, like an angel, just when I needed someone most."
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Now, decades later, the woman behind Elvira is happy to tell the story of her longtime love out in the open.
"As Cassandra, it wouldn't have mattered to me that people knew about our relationship, but I felt the need to protect Elvira in order to keep my career alive. Elvira has always had a thing for men, and men have a thing for her, so I worried that if I announced I was no longer living the 'straight life,' my fans would feel lied to, call me a hypocrite, and abandon me," she reasoned.
"Would my fans hate me for not being what they expected me to be? I'm very aware that there will be some who will be disappointed and maybe even angry, but I have to live with myself, and at this point in my life, I've got to be truthful about who I am."
Yours Cruelly, Elvira: Memoirs of the Mistress of the Dark is out on bookstands now from Hachette Books.