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Vampira - Late night horror show hostess seen on ABC's affiliate Channel 7 in Hollywood in the 1950s on THE VAMPIRA SHOW.

Maila Nurmi as VAMPIRA

Former model Maila Nurmi played the glamour "ghoul" Vampira who weekly wandered through a hallway of mist and cobwebs to greet her weekly viewers of "B" horror movies broadcast at 11:00 PM. Vampira sported a full bust, slim waist (17-inches), tight black dress, long black hair and plenty of bug-eyed viewers.

Some of her on-air antics included talking to Rollo her pet spider; and encouraging her fans to write for epitaphs instead of autographs.

Born 1921 Maila Elizabeth Syrjaniemi in Petsamo, Finland, Maila moved to Ohio as a child, and changed her name when she moved to Hollywood to model for Alberto Vargas and Man Ray.

In 1954, Nurmi was nominated for an Emmy as "Most Outstanding Female Personality." Two years later, Vampira appeared in the 1956 low-budget horror film Plan 9 From Outer Space directed by Ed Wood; and in the late 1950s and early 1960s she appeared in three movies produced by Albert Zugsmith, including Sex Kittens Go To College, The Beat Generation and The Big Operator.

In the 1960s, Nurmi opened a clothing boutique called "Vampira's Attic" that catered to such rock stars as Iron Butterfly and Grace Slick. She was also known to be a close friend to actor James Dean before his tragic car crash and had crossed paths with Marilyn Monroe when she was just known as Norma Jean.

In the 1980s, Maila Nurmi sued the folks who created the Elvira, Mistress of the Dark character, because "Elvira," in essence, was an updated (but obvious rip-off) of the character Vampira.

In 1994, Nurmi at the age of 72 lived in a small apartment in Hollywood with a cat, two pigeons, no car and no phone. Mika J. Ripatti made a Finnish documentary film of Nurmi called About Death, Sex and Taxes in 1995. Her life story was told in the 2006 documentary Vampira: The Movie. Maila Nurmi died in Los Angeles of natural causes on Thursday, January 10, 2008. She was 86.


TRIVIA NOTE: The idea for the Vampira character was born in 1953 at Lester Horton's annual "Bal Caribe" Masquerade in Hollywood at which Nurmi wore a costume based on the ghoul woman in Charles Addams' New Yorker cartoon strip (later to be called Morticia on TV). Her costume beat out 2000 in attendance. Nurmi's tight black dress and deathly pale white skin caught the eye of television producer Hunt Stromberg Jr. who offered Maila the "Vampira" gig on his local ABC TV station.

At the same time Vampira was hosting her weekly fright fest of monster & horror movies, "Zacherly," an East coast counterpart was running amok on late night television in 1950s New York City.

Over the years, the Vampira character has been profiled in a number of magazines including:

  • Life magazine article on June 14, 1954 p. 107-110 ("Good Evening, I Am Vampira")
  • Newsweek May 24, 1954, p. 84. ("Vampire)"
  • TV Guide, 5-11 February 1955, p. 13. ("V is for Voluptua - and for Vampira Too)"
  • Fangoria, #30, October 1983, pp. 26-29 ("The One - The Only Vampira")
  • Chiller Theater #1, Winter 1994-95, pp. 21-26 ("The First lady of the Silver Screem: a conversation with the un-dead Vampira a.k.a. Maila Nurmi")
  • Scary Monsters #26, March 1998, pp. 28-31 ("Scary Monsters Honors Vampira").

At the same time Vampira was hosting her weekly fright fest of monster & horror movies in the 1950s, "Zacherly," an East coast counterpart was running amok on late night television in New York City.

Maila Nurmi's character Vampira resurfaced in Tim Burton's biopic Ed Wood (1994). She also turned up in I Woke Up Early the Day I Died (1998) starring Billy Zane. See also "Elvira, Mistress of the Dark"

Vampira Standing Vampira Sitting

Vampira in all her glory

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