E3 Deep Dive: Maila Nurmi AKA Vampira
Who is Vampira and why didn't she have a bigger career?
TW: This episode involves some discussion of sexual assault and disordered eating (not heavily, but they are mentioned).
Maila Nurmi AKA Vampira was best known for hosting The Vampira Show on KABC-TV, a Los Angeles affiliate of ABC, from 1954-1955. While the show was short-lived, it received international attention and pioneered the concept of themed movie hosts. In other words, it was a big fucking deal but because it was a live broadcast and none of the episodes were properly archived, it’s a bit lost to the annals of film history.
In 2021, Nurmi's niece, Sandra Niemi, published a biography of her aunt called "Glamour Ghoul: The Passions and Pain of the Real Vampira, Maila Nurmi." We can't recommend this book highly enough. It really got us both interested in learning more about Nurmi so that we could put together this episode and hopefully spread her legacy to other people who might not know much about her (or even worse, have her confused with Elvira). Here are a few other books/articles we recommend reading:
- “Vampira: Dark Goddess of Horror” (2014) by W. Scott Poole
- "The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror" (1993) by David J. Skal
- Interview with Maila Nurmi on Please Kill Me: Part 1 and Part 2
And here are some movies where you can either see Vampira in action or learn more about her:
- "Plan 9 from Outer Space" (1959), streaming free for Amazon Prime members
- "Ed Wood" (1994), streaming on Disney+. Nurmi isn't in this, but Lisa Marie plays her. I recommend watching it after "Plan 9 from Outer Space" because this movie is a biopic (sort of) on that movie's writer/director, Ed Wood. It does unfortunately feature Johnny Depp, so ... proceed at your peril.
- "Vampira and Me" (2012), streaming free (with commercials) on Tubi.
If you search YouTube, you can find some small clips from "The Vampira Show." I am so fucking angry that these weren't archived, but what are you gonna do? If anyone knows of any good sources we haven't considered, please let us know!
Because I am a long-winded bitch, here are some interesting tidbits that did not make it into the episode but that I think people should know:
- One episode of "The Vampira Show" featured a disguised James Dean as a naughty schoolboy who had his knuckles rapped by Vampira.
- In 1987, at sixty-four years old, Nurmi cut two singles with Satan’s Cheerleaders, a band fronted by her friend Jane Satan. After the punks came the goths and then the fanatics of "Plan 9 From Outer Space."
- Nurmi was proud of her creation and made paintings of her alter ego, which she sold online later on in life. In the 2008 LA Times article which was published within a week of her death, she was quoted as saying, “I don’t have any babies or any social history that’s remarkable, so I’m leaving something behind, you know, when the time comes to say goodbye, I’m leaving something.”
- Here's a local news interview with David Putter, Nurmi and Orson Welles' son.
- Here's the clip of Nurmi in "The Beat Generation" (1959) with a rat on her shoulder.