Back in October of 2007, TV Horror Hostess – Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, debuted her FOX Reality TV show “The Search for the Next Elvira.” The premise of the show was for attractive young contestants to don their own slinky, black dresses while displaying their own hosting skills via a televised competition. Though technically a “reality” game show, this was no “Survivor” nor “Donald Trump’s Apprentice.” The show never took itself too seriously and the “camp” factor was about as high as the very films Elvira had been famous for hosting. Losing contestants scream in terror as they are “disintegrated” in a cavalcade of computerized fire and brimstone.
Adding to the cheese was the presence of her midget maid running around sweeping up their left-over ashes along with Elvira’s two drag queen “Manvira” judges; Christian Greenia and Patterson Lundquist.
I distinctly recall the anticipation I had regarding this show when it first aired, as well as being glued to the TV when the big moment finally arrived. Keep in mind, this was back when I was under the impression that Svengoolie and Elvira were the only two hosts in existence and, having just rediscovered Sven’s return to TV three years prior, was anxious to bring his female equivalent back into my life as well. Unfortunately, after watching the first couple of shows, I decided it was probably best that I just stick with Svengoolie while relegating the Mistress of the Dark to those fond memories I had of my 1980’s “Elvira Midnight Madness” VHS tapes!
I felt the show was just too corny (even for me) and was confused by some of the “challenges” presented (e.g. run around a hot theme park and get someone to drink a cup of coffee). Also, I wasn’t sure why they chose to have the winner be a new “Elvira” when Cassandra Peterson is so intertwined with that character they could never be fully accepted. I felt that it would have been more appropriate to have “Elvira Presents: Search for the Next Horror Hostess” where contestants could showcase their own unique characters and hosting schtick rather than just emulating another. Needless to say, I never did stick around long enough to see who finally won.
Nearly four years later, it was a whole new world and perspective. I discovered many more hosts across the globe and joined forces with the other Dave – David Albaugh – in creating this site. We’ve been truly blessed in not only learning a lot regarding the history of horror hosting but also being able to meet them and sample their work We would also see the return of Elvira, herself, to commercial TV via a brand new Movies Macabre series. While her show has received mixed reactions (and for the record we Daves don’t give a hoot what people think, we still love her) it begged the question; “If Cassandra Peterson’s Elvira is back on the air, whatever happened to the “Next” one from the TV competition?”
Having tracked down a copy of the series, I popped it on and watched it from beginning to end. While it was still a bit painful to sit through, after awhile I started getting more into it and picked my own favorite contestant to win. Her name was April Wahlin and she would indeed take home the crown! After conducting my own “Search,” I was able to track her down and was delighted when she took a break during a trip to Europe, to answer a few questions.
DAVE: In the opening episode, it’s hard to gauge how many people actually turned out for their chance at becoming a contestant on “Search for the Next Elvira.” Can you describe that first day on The Queen Mary (where initial auditions took place)?
APRIL: There looked to be about 500 people when I arrived at the Queen Mary, but I didn’t get there until later in the day. The place looked like “Goth night” on the lido deck. My day at the Queen Mary was about 4 hours and, in the end, I never got to go up on stage in front of Elvira. I was kinda heartbroken. They had run out of time so they had us California locals do video interviews. Apparently my tape was the only one that made it out of the cutting room. LOL!
DAVE: Unlike most reality show competitions, there didn’t seem to be a lot of backstabbing and drama between the contestants. Was it safe in assuming you gals all got along pretty well?
APRIL: The other contestants and I got along famously. We had a great time together! Jenny (fellow contestant Jenny Jenson)and I hung out a lot while on set.
DAVE: How much contact did you have with Elvira during filming?
APRIL: No contact with Elvira at all. She had her own dressing room. The only time we saw her was on set.
DAVE: Were the “Man-viras” as tough on contestants as they appeared to be on screen?
APRIL: No the man-viras were sweethearts. Christian was actually really cool.
DAVE: What was life like for you immediately after the show?
APRIL: Stressful, because I wasn’t sure what winning meant. I was very excited, but had no idea what was going on.
APRIL: Officially, for Elvira, I made one appearance as the “Next” Elvira at a Halloween parade in Oklahoma. Had a lot of fun there.
DAVE: Obviously those stilettos are a bit tough to fill. What was the reaction from fans?
APRIL: Fans were mixed on the idea of a new Elvira. Half of them didn’t want the original Elvira to go, even though she really wasn’t, LOL. Others were excited that there might be a new Elvira to return and host movies. There was a lot of confusion. Elvira was never going anywhere, but some people thought she was so they were very critical. I was just supposed to pick up some of the extra work, but that never happened.
APRIL: I’m a nerd. I love comic books and movies. I’m a big STAR WARS fan. I very much enjoy Halloween and all the things that come with it.
DAVE: Overall, do you look at your participation with and winning of the contest as a positive or negative experience?
Special thanks to April Wahlin for her participation in this piece!