FROLIC #3 DECEMBER 1951 featuring Maila Nurmi.
Here I am with “Vampira” (real name Maila Nurmi), probably best known for appearing in Ed Wood Jr.’s Plan 9 From Outer Space, and Conrad Brooks, who played the dumb cop in the same movie.
Heather and I saw Nurmi at L.A.’s Glamourcon convention (November 1995), where we doing a Carnal Comics promotion, and I got the notion to do a possible article about horror TV hosts (I’d already written stuff like that for Starlog, FilmFax, Cult Movies, andMidnight Marquee magazine). Vampira’s glamour ghoul Morticia Addams-style character debuted on TV in April 1955, hosting late night horror movies shown on KABC channel 7 in L.A., predating copycat Elvira by decades (even Elvira’s name rhymes with Vampira’s).
I also wanted to ask about her fabled friendship with James Dean (who told reporters that he thought Nurmi was a genuine sorceress, before finding out she was a mere horror movie hostess). After the young actor’s death in September 1955, Nurmi claimed to the press on several occasions that she was in contact with Dean’s departed spirit: “The Ghost Of James Dean” was a 5-page cover feature written by Vampira herself forBorderline magazine in January ‘64.
When asked about this, the 74 year old actress was put off by my query and reluctant to discuss Dean at all. I asked about an article from the February ‘57 issue of Whisper Magazine, a cover feature entitled “James Dean’s Black Madonna” -
"What did you think when tabloids published rumors that you were a jilted lover who put some kind of curse on James Dean shortly before his fatal car crash?"
Nurmi stiffened in both poise and tone. “The gossip magazines made that story up, after I wouldn’t talk to them any more about Jimmy,” she said icily, adding “I’ll have you know that I personally destroyed the only known photograph of James Dean and I together, just so that people like you couldn’t accuse me of cashing in on my friendship with him.”
This belied previous interviews she’d given but I pushed on, asking about her failed infringement lawsuit against Elvira (1989 Nurmi v. Peterson - Nurmi lost because the court ruled “character likeness means an exact copy, not a suggestive resemblance”).
This served only to get her more agitated - “As far as I’m concerned, she stole the entire ‘Vampira’ concept from me, that’s all I’ll say.” With two strikes against me, I figured what the hell, if looks could kill I would have already been wearing a toe tag.
"Is it true your TV show was cancelled in early 1955 because parents complained that you promoted witchcraft and because you made a joke on the air saying ‘My sister was lynched for raping a snake’?"
This oft-repeated rumor first turned up in 50s magazines like Whisper and Confidentialand I hoped to finally get either a confirmation or denial of its veracity, straight from the sorceress’ mouth, as it were, but she gave me neither. Instead, she stood up and turned swiftly on the heels of her sensible black shoes, marching away from me without another word.
I never got to talk to her again before her death in 2008….”
To read the rest of the article you can find it here
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[Maila Nurmi] and James Dean were lonely soldiers, and they recognized each other… I think in the moment that she was in with Dean, that’s the way that the whole world felt. ‘There’s so few of us, over here, and then this big smiley face on American culture. This big rah-rah go get success thing. This thing that tells us what we have to be.’ This sort of grim normalcy inflicted on the whole world, which is how it actually felt to Maila. ‘We stand against that. And we need to find each other.’
Maila says something so profound about herself there: ‘Hi stranger, I know how you feel—this isn’t your planet.’ I think the metaphor comes from the fact that Dean’s favorite book was The Little Prince, which is something that someone who was close to him like Maila would have known. But it’s the secret of their attraction to each other—which was not sexual—it’s the secret of the way that they bonded and it may be the secret of why they came apart, too. They really were alienated. How can you say it any better than she said it there? They were alienated from the place and the time they were in, and unaware of the fact that the place and the time they were from was something that they were bringing into being.
Lurking around at son monsterpalooza today! #monsterpalooza #kreepsville666 #elvira #vampira #marsattacks #toxictoons #burbank #monsteragogo (at MONSTERPALOOZA)
Today’s project: touching up an old (read: ancient) Vampira portrait I started on some years ago. Let’s hope I’ll finish it, too…
Screaming relaxes me so. 💚💀 #vampira #mailanurmi #queen