“Search for the Next Elvira’s” Manvira Judge Speaks Out!
Not long ago we interviewed the winner of the 2007 FOX Reality Show – “Search for the Next Elvira,” April Wahlin. TERROR FROM BEYOND THE DAVES is now pleased to welcome one of the quintessential Elvira-impersonators, Patterson Lundquist, who graciously agreed to do this interview as well as share even more insights regarding the show! We’d like to thank Patterson for not only answering all of our questions but doing so with an amazing amount of honesty.
DAVE F: Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to be a “Manvira.”
PATTERSON: I get asked the second part of that question a lot, and that is easier to answer. The first part though I’ve had to figure out a succinct way of answering it without taking an hour to do so.
I’m a graphic designer, as well as an artist/craftsman and an actor. My work varies from the dark macabre to kitschy, retro pop culture. I currently work for Barbara Eden of ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ as her Social Media and Internet Publicity manager. I also work as an assistant and handler in my spare time.
As for the ‘Manvira’ work, (which I hate as a title) it came about nearly fifteen years ago when I made an Elvira costume for my mother. It cost quite a bit of money at the time and I spent my own money on it. When Halloween rolled up she (my mother) was unable to wear the costume and I was left with an Elvira costume and no money to create something for myself. I can’t stand those seasonal Halloween stores and would like to see them vanish from the earth. The merchandise is crap. It’s the economical equivalent of tacky, commercialization that has happened to Christmas. Anyone with a dime can open up one of those stores and sell the junk for ten times the wholesale cost and meanwhile the public is losing its creativity and ingenuity for creating its own costumes.
Anyway, I’m stuck with this Elvira costume and after a bit of bitching and complaining about the fact that I was going to have nothing to do for Halloween, my mother suggested I dress up in the costume and much to her shock, I did. The rest is history.
DAVE F: How did you manage to get the attention of The Mistress of the Dark, herself?
PATTERSON: The following year I discovered that Elvira had an ‘official’ Haunted House attraction not far from where I lived at the time. Elvira’s Nightmare Haunted House had been open the year before, however I was unaware (and extremely upset when I found out I had missed her public appearance) of it and didn’t find out until the summer of 1998. I decided I’d prefer to work there, rather than do the public meet and greet and get two seconds of face time with Elvira when she announced she would return for the grand-opening.
It turned out that the owners wanted to know what I had done the Halloween before. I mentioned that I had dressed as Elvira and they were interested in having me ‘appear’ as Elvira on the weekends at the haunt. I would be her ‘official Haunted House Look-Alike.’ The catch was, I had to ask her for permission to do so. I have to tell you, the thought of asking Elvira, upon first meeting her, if she minded me getting dressed in drag as her, was really not something I wanted to do. However I had so much fun the year before that I decided to give it a shot.
I ended up assisting her during her public appearance at the haunted house, and during that time I presented her with some Polaroid photos taken the night before (pre-grand opening) where I had come in and sat in her place inside the haunted house. She loved it and even went as far as to do a double-take on the first photo and exclaim:
“Oh my god, I thought that was me! Where were you this morning?! I could’ve slept late!!”
After that, over the years we managed to stay in touch via email. I took my fan website for Elvira into overdrive and created a huge one (now located at www.elviramistressofthedark.com) and continued to keep in touch with her and secured her a premiere screening of her second full length feature film “Elvira’s Haunted Hills,” in Atlanta, where I appeared as Elvira alongside her, out of costume as herself, Cassandra Peterson.
It was at that time (2002) that I retired from Elvira impersonation. I felt I had reached the pinnacle of that type of work. When an impersonator is embraced by the actual celebrity and then goes as far as to appear with them. It really doesn’t get any better than that. The night of that premiere I told her I was retiring to which she said “We’ll see about that!” Little did I know what would happen five years later.
DAVE F: How did you get involved with “The Search for the Next Elvira?”
PATTERSON: At some point in late 2005 I found myself in contact with Christian Greenia, the other judge from the reality show. He had convinced Cassandra to open an Elvira MySpace page. Over a period of a few months I created graphics and promo images for the MySpace page as well as graphics for the old format of Elvira.com.
Sometime around April of 2006 I spoke with Cassandra on the phone. She mentioned she was going to have a reality show and she wanted me to be involved with it. She offered me two choices; I could either be a contestant, or a judge. I chose judge as I had no intention of putting on the costume so I could be judged. Plus I felt with my experience I’d serve better as a judge/coach for the contestants. It was at this time that we knew it would be Elvira, Christian and myself as the main ‘stars’ of the show.
DAVE F: The show hinted at a rivalry between you and Christian, was there any truth behind that?
PATTERSON: Any rivalry the show suggested was false. We went into it knowing what was expected of us. However Christian did take it a little farther than I was willing to go. Half the time I was on defense mode and Christian was on attack mode. He knew he was supposed to be the ‘mean queen.’ I on the other hand was not. To be quite honest, if they had asked me to be mean I would have refused simply because I can’t stand bullies, or critical people, especially those who take pleasure in attacking other people. That kind of attitude makes me ill. Christian took his ‘job’ beyond the camera and was pretty insulting to me most of the time. It was a rare moment when he wasn’t being a jerk to me.
I think the real underlying tension was actually Christian having issues with me. I never quite figured out what his beef was with me (at the time), as we were thick as thieves back a year previously. He openly admitted that it was a personality conflict. I think he just didn’t want to like me and didn’t want me on the show. He claimed the reason they chose me to be a judge was just to piss him off and see the tension. That really annoyed the hell out of me as he was not why I was hired.
Besides that, there was some miscommunication way back in our history, on both our parts and after that it was never the same. I personally have nothing against him, he is a great Elvira impersonator and is probably among the best in the business. My biggest issue with him is that he can be so over-the-top nasty at times. You can get through to people a lot more easily and actually have positive impact on them if you go about it the right way. Being a bitch isn’t the way to do it. At that time during the show he took it to the next level.
DAVE F: The winner of “Search…,” April Wahlin, stated in a recent interview with us that her and the other contestants had very little contact with Elvira during filming. Was the same true with the judges?
PATTERSON: Not at all. When we weren’t on set, we were typically in Elvira’s dressing room. Discussing our thoughts about the contestants, the show, the crew, the format and how it was working. I was not happy at all with how it was going. The Search for the Next Elvira did not happen the way it was meant to happen. The budget was a nightmare, the powers that be always had different ideas than the ones Cassandra had. Ultimately it could have been a great, fun, campy ‘reality’ show. In the long run though it was just, not what it should have been. I even told both Cassandra and Christian that I thought the show would bomb simply because no one wants to, nor could replace Elvira.
I reiterated that if the show was going to be successful it would need to be able to stand on more than the Elvira name alone. If it had gone off the way Cassandra wanted it to, it could have. She had come up with some fantastic elements and had some really great plans for it in the beginning. Cassandra is extremely savvy and very good with comedic elements and knows what makes Elvira work. Unfortunately she lost control of it all and was stuck with the rest of us. When it was said and done it was a very flimsy and weak shadow of what it could have been.
DAVE F: Now that the contest is over, will you tell us who your personal pick for the “Next” Elvira” was?
PATTERSON: I said this at the time of the show and it still stands firm. If you could combine Kitty, April and Jenny into one person, that would have been a great ‘Next Elvira.’ Each of them embodied an element of Elvira’s character. However separately they each lacked a little something on their own. That something is something only Cassandra Peterson has.
DAVE F: Do you have any personal “behind the scenes” stories you’d be willing to share with our readers?
PATTERSON: The day we filmed the ‘Sell Your Soul’ challenge when I accompanied the girls to Universal Studios where they tried to give coffee to people at the park in exchange for their email addresses, I stood there thinking ‘how freaking stupid is this?’ It didn’t make a damn bit of sense to me. I expressed that feeling on set, on camera. It went a little something like this:
Elvira: So, Patterson you were with the girls today. Give us a little scoop on how it went
Me: First of all lemme just put this out there. This challenge was completely ridiculous. I don’t know who came up with this crap but seriously. Elvira wouldn’t A: Be caught dead out in the baking sun. B: In public without an assistant or security. C: Try to pawn off hot coffee to strangers in the baking sun. D: beg people for their email addresses. How the hell does this have anything to do with being Elvira?!
Elvira: (under her breath) Damn straight.
Everyone sort of looked caught off guard. The director and crew stood there looking like a painting.
Voice of someone I couldn’t see: Let’s do that again…
Me: No, why do it again? I’m gonna say the same thing again. That challenge was lame!
They moved on and filmed us watching the challenge. What aired was highly edited. My statement about how pathetic and out of character the challenge was, cut from the aired episode. Which I might mention, a lot of my screen time was edited out. I’m not sure what the reason was, but a lot of my replies, commentary and exclamations were cut. Maybe I pissed off the person who came up with that challenge. Who knows?
DAVE F: How did your life change after the show?
PATTERSON: Not at all, at the time the show aired, Fox Reality Channel was like channel 301 out of 10,000. The Nielsen Ratings didn’t even have the channel in their registry. We had no clue (none) how many people actually watched the show. The production company swore up and down it was seen by a big audience, but it’s doubtful.
The only thing that changed was that I was no longer attached to a production. I had to find a place to live as I had been living in the hotel the production had put me in. I went head first into working as an extra on primetime TV shows as well as films. The show only served as a means to get out to Hollywood. It had no major impact on my life and only garnered me an ability to get booked at conventions where I could have a table (which I did) off and on for a few conventions, dressed as Elvira. It felt extremely odd sitting alongside iconic horror actors and actresses, when I had done nothing more than appear in a crummy reality show hardly anyone saw. However it helped pay the bills.
DAVE F: Do you still have contact with Elvira and are you a fan of her latest “Movies Macabre?”
PATTERSON: I do. I saw her recently two weekends in a row as I was working as an assistant to Barbara Eden one weekend and Loni Anderson the next. It was a lot like old times. Nothing had changed, she was still the same and still just as charming and fun to be around as always. Not to mention she looks amazing.
April, Jenny, Kitty, Patterson and Elvira watching the taping of ‘Reality Remix’ special episode reviewing the finale of the Elvira reality show. Shot immediately after the finale was shot on October 28, 2007
As for the new Movie Macabre…. Initially I was really thrilled about it coming back on television. However as photos from the set started popping up online and the show went on the air I was highly disappointed with a number of things. Elvira was not one of them. Still in perfect form, physically and comically (which was no surprise). My beef was more with the aspects of the show itself, sets, music, format etc.
DAVE F: Tell us what projects you’ve been up to since “Search.” Are you still an Elvira impersonator?
PATTERSON: As I mentioned in the beginning of the interview, I do a lot of things. I worked as a copy writer for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. I wrote all the episode synopsis and box text, as well as restored photos and recreated the cartoons for the third through fifth and complete series DVD boxed sets for the ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ DVD releases. In fact if you own the complete series DVD set, my name is on the packaging for the trading cards I created. Besides that I’ve served as the head of makeup and costuming for two separate independent video productions. I’m one of the scenic artists for the South East’s largest haunted attraction, Netherworld Haunted House. I work in graphic and web design as well as public relations and personal assistant work. If you Google me, you’ll find a lot of info. Most of it is accurate.