Sunday, October 16, 2011

Rocktober XVI

AAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!  Oh... screaming relaxes me so.  A little trick I learned from today's spotlighted horror hostess, the one who started it all... VAMPIRA!  While The Vampira Show only ran during the mid-50s in Los Angeles, it changed TV history forever and gave birth to a multitude of horror hosts and hostesses who would follow in its wake.  

Otherwise known as Maila Nurmi, a Finnish-American actress who grew up in Ohio, Vampira came to life when Nurmi dressed as Morticia Addams for a Los Angeles costume ball. She caught the attention of a television producer who hired her to host horror movies on a local station. Sexing up the Morticia look with more cleavage and an extreme wasp waist, she rounded out the persona with graveyard puns and mockery of the low-grade films she hosted, which became the basic template for every horror host (sans Morticia getup) and hostess who came after. Here is her classic entrance to the show, where she floats through knee-deep fog to scream like only a horror queen can:

Although The Vampira Show was a hit, it was short-lived because Nurmi refused to sell ABC her rights to the character. It ended in 1956 and soon Nurmi was acting in the same kinds of films she mocked as Vampira. Most notable of these is Plan 9 From Outerspace, directed by Ed Wood in 1959, which is considered one of the worst movies ever made.  Nurmi recreated her Vampira role for this film, but she thought the script was awful and refused to speak any lines. Now, of course, the film and Vampira's role in it have been immortalized in Tim Burton's 1994 biopic Ed Wood. 

Vampira with The Misfits.

So what kind of song can accompany a day devoted to Vampira? Why, The Misfits' 1980 homage to her, of course! Along with being Glenn Danzig's first band, The Misfits were one of the first groups to blend punk rock with horror movie themes and imagery. They formed in New Jersey in 1977 and released several EPs, singles, and a couple of LPs before disbanding in 1983. 

The Crimson Ghost
As shown in the picture above, they wore the influence of old horror films not only on their sleeves, but in their hair, on their faces, and pretty much anywhere else they could put it. Their Crimson Ghost logo, taken from an old horror serial, has now become a punk rock icon. While horror movies were incredibly influential on the band, however, their music also bears the stamp of early rock 'n roll, rockabilly, and early punk and metal. 

The Misfits' influence on subsequent groups is just as extensive as those they drew on. Bands stretching the spectrum from Metallica to My Morning Jacket have recorded their songs, and countless others consider them an influence. Much like Vampira, they were game changers, and even though their heyday was short-lived, music today wouldn't be the same without them.  Here they are paying tribute to one of their horror heroes, so come a little bit closer... a little bit closer... a little bit closer...

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