Vampira - Late night horror show hostess seen on
ABC's affiliate Channel 7 in Hollywood in the 1950s on THE VAMPIRA SHOW.
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
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
- Life magazine article on June 14, 1954 p. 107-110
("Good Evening, I Am Vampira")
- Newsweek May 24, 1954, p. 84.
- TV Guide, 5-11 February 1955, p. 13. ("V is for Voluptua - and for
- Fangoria, #30, October 1983, pp. 26-29 ("The One - The Only
- 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").
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 in all her glory
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