Saturday, January 12, 2008

RIP: Maila "Vampira" Nurmi

Maila Nurmi, better known as Vampira, passed away yesterday at the age of 86. Although few would recognize Ms. Nurmi's name, almost everyone knows her "Vampira" character. Maila Nurmi was born in Finland, but moved to the US with her family while still in her teens. Maila dreamed of stardom on the silver screen and headed for Hollywood.

Although romantically linked to Marlon Brando, Orson Welles and even James Dean, it was a
masquerade ball in 1954 that led to her pop culture iconic status. Maila attended dressed as Mortica Addams [from Charles Addams New Yorker cartoons which later became the basis for the popular Addams Family tv series]. Maila won the contest by beating out nearly 2,000 other contestants. Maila made such an impact that several months later she was offered the role as host of KABC's late Saturday night horror movies. With a few costume modifications and new name, Vampira was born! Maila and the show were an instant hit and provided the framework for all of the horror hosts that would follow. Vampira was profiled in Life and Newsweek [within a month of each other] and Maila began guesting on nationally syndicated shows. She was even nominated as the "Most Outstanding Female Personality of 1954" by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Judging by her impact on popular culture, you'd probably think that Vampira's horror host role lasted years, immediately led to movies, comics, and more -- but you'd be wrong. Despite the show being a smash hit,.it lasted just over a year. Some say that Maila was difficult to work with, while others say that the FCC and network blackballed her due to her on-air comments and double entendres.

Maila did make appearances in a few movies after her tv show was cancelled; most notably Ed Wood's infamous "Plan 9 From Outer Space." Maila left show business in the early 60's, but her spirit lived on through the antics of dozens of other horror hosts such as Zacherley, Sammy Terry, and even Elvira [who was later unsuccessfully sued by Maila]. With the growth of the goth movement, the "popularity" of "Plan 9" and Tim Burton's "Ed Wood" film, Maila enjoyed renewed popularity in her later years.

It appears that Maila died leaving behind no family members. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her friends and many fans.

1 comment:

craig wilson said...

RIP to the true hostess of the dark; it's a crime she couldn't get justice from the Elvira rip off. (An industry crime, not Cassandra whats-er-name's)

I think Tim Burton maybe gave her showbiz character the best tribute in "Ed Wood," certainly there was an interesting life there outside of the industry.