TV's Vampira Dies at Age 85

Photo: Bettmann/CORBIS

Maila Nurmi, the cult actress credited as TV’s first horror-movie hostess, has died at her Hollywood home. She was 85.

The actress created her Vampira character – complete with revealing black gown, smoky eyes and blood-red lipstick – to host horror movie broadcasts on KABC TV in Los Angeles in 1954, as she introduced flicks like Revenge of the Zombies and Devil Bat’s Daughter.

She kept her cult allure even after The Vampira Show was canceled. Her character is believed to have inspired the Morticia Addams character on The Addams Family, which made its TV debut a decade later.

Her film appearances included a cameo in Ed Wood’s 1959 cult classic Plan 9 From Outer Space. Nurmi was portrayed by Lisa Marie in Ed Wood, Tim Burton’s 1994 tribute to the B-movie director.

In 1989, Nurmi lost a $10 million lawsuit against Cassandra Peterson, a.k.a. Elivra, whom she claimed ripped off of her character. “There is no Elvira,” she told the Associated Press at the time. “There’s only a pirated Vampira.”

The cause of her Jan.10 death remains undetermined, the Los Angeles County coroner’s Lt. Fred Corral told the AP. She’s remembered on her Web site,
– Caris Davis

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