“Vampira is a kind of entity (and you can call her a woman though she is androgynous) that survives in this world. I, Maila Nurmi, am not.”
This one is sure to petrify! If there is one woman who recognized the importance of standing out from the crowd, it’s Maila Nurmi [December 11, 1922 – January 10, 2008], or as most people would recognize her, the legendary Vampira.
Leaving Finland at the age of two, Maila would move with her family to the United States of America. After high school, she quickly gathered up her possessions and moved to Los Angeles in pursuit of the dream!
The blonde knock-out with razor-sharp cheek bones would soon be working with the likes of art legends Man Ray, Alberto Vargas, and Bernard of Hollywood. Then in 1951 upon attending the Bal Caribe Masquerade as Charles Addams’ cartoon character from The New Yorker, Morticia Addams, Maila would catch the attention of a local television executive searching for a new star.
On April 30, 1954 on KABC-TV at 11pm Dig Me Later, Vampira aired followed by The Vampira Show the very next night. From that night on, the legend of Vampira was in full swing inching its way up the time slots, and creating from scratch an entire sub genre of Horror-Hosts on television!
Unfortunately the series was cancelled in 1955, but Maila would retain her rights to the character she created. Maila would continue her fascinating career taking bit parts in several films as Vampira including “Sex Kittens Go To College”, “The Beat Generation”, and Ed Wood’s iconic “Plan 9 From Outer Space”. She also shared a fascinating and close friendship with rebel icon James Dean.
Vampira is a rare character for its time. With her dark wit, and forbidden sex appeal, Maila became a one-woman crusade against the stereotypical portraits of women on television, and Vampira would more than help break the mould.
A combination of the Dark Queen from Snow White, Theda Bara, and Gloria Swanson’s menacing Norma Desmond from Sunset Boulevard, it was unlike anything the world had ever seen!!
However by the 1960s Maila Nurmi would no longer find herself the glamorous dark diva, and was instead filling her time installing laminate flooring and making custom hand-made jewelry for extra cash. I guess that’s just how it goes in Hollywood: the city of broken dreams.
Come 1981, Nurmi was called to KHJ-TV for a revival of the character she had created nearly 30 years prior. The station would go on to cast young actress Cassandra Petersen, who would create the spirited Elvira we all know and love. Nurmi would bring the case to court claiming Elvira infringed on Vampira’s “distinctive dark dress, horror movie props, and…special personality.”
Sadly Maila Nurmi passed in 2008 leaving behind her legacy for art, style, and above-all originality. In this fantastic interview with Time Magazine she explains the creation of her iconic alter-ego and how creating this facade would help battle her personal demons.
One thing’s for sure today: there will only be one Maila Nurmi. Perhaps it was just the times, but no horror-host does it with the same sense of danger, charisma, and worldly sophistication. This of course was all an act according to Maila, but you don’t get fired for upstaging Mae West for just standing there!
We’ve inserted a gallery of our most wickedly wonderful images we could find of our diety of the dark to enjoy! So please do!
This girl had something special: it was up to her to find it! So let this be a lesson to us all! Dreams come and go, but only you remain in the end. So always remember to stay true. You’ll only have yourself to thank in the end.
We’re feeling like a Vampira cocktail ourselves about now. So until next time!