She was born Maila Nurmi, which seems ghoulish enough. But she went by the mononym, Vampira. For those of us who did not grow up in Los Angeles watching this strange, mysterious lady host horror movies on late-night television (I grew up in Pittsburgh, where our Vampira was not nearly as sexy: “Chilly Billie” Cardille, as a kind-of Count Dracula), well, we’ve heard about Vampira forever. Now, thanks to Hollywood Heritage‘s peerless “Evening at the Barn” series, we’ll soon learn many details of Vampira’s life — her passions and her pains.
Like so much of the cool stuff in Los Angeles, the genesis of the Vampira character is traceable to the dance world. According to Wikipedia from which we are lifting copiously, in 1953, Ms. Nurmi attended choreographer Lester Horton‘s annual Bal Caribe Masquerade in a costume inspired by Morticia Addams. You know: Tish, the undulating mamma of the Charles Addams friendly family of monsters in The New Yorker cartoons. Nurmi’s pale, Finnish-white skin and tight black dress caught the attention of television producer Hunt Stromberg, Jr. Wishing to hire her to host horror movies on KABC-TV, Stromberg did not know how to contact her … was a seance involved? He finally got her phone number from Rudi Gernreich, the Austrian-born, Los Angeles-reared Horton dancer whose great innovative fashion designs included the topless swimsuit. A late-night-television demi-celebrity was born.
Ms. Nurmi’s niece, Sandra Neimi, has authored a book recounting the escapades of her vampish-auntie. Ms. Neimi, the author of the book “Glamour Ghoul – The Passions and Pain of the real Vampira, Maila Nurmi,” will give an online presentation about her ghoulish aunt’s personal and professional career, illustrated through clips and an in-depth interview. clips from Nurmi’s career and an in-depth interview.
VAMPIRA | Evening at the Barn on-line event | Wednesday Oct 20, 7:30 pm