Maila Nurmi (aka ‘Vampira’) looking gorgeously goth at the beach with her umbrella, mid-1950s.
Maila Nurmi the captivatingly gorgeous Finnish model and actress with a tiny nineteen-inch waist, created an instant sensation when she attended a masquerade ball in Hollywood in 1953. She was dressed as the cartoon character created by longtime New Yorker contributor Charles Addams that would later become the inspiration for “Morticia Addams” in The Addams Family television series. After winning the top prize in the ball’s costume contest, Nurmi became “Vampira,” introducing—and often poking sly fun at—horror movies on her own local LA television program The Vampira Show on WABC. By the time that 1954 rolled around Nurmi was already a star. After doing time as a coat check girl in her early years, Nurmi was now rubbing elbows with everyone from Marlon Brando (who romanced Nurmi), to Surrealist photographer Man Ray (who shot her), to Antonio Vargas (who drew her) to James Dean (who wondered if she was possessed by something demonic). The evil “Maleficent” character from Disney’s animated Snow White was even based on her look (as confirmed by Disney), but her fame sadly didn’t last as long as it should have. She was cast in Ed Wood Jr.‘s Plan 9 from Outer Space in 1959, for which she was paid $200 but insisted on not saying a word of Wood’s lousy dialogue. It is for this mute role that she will eternally remembered.
After disappearing from the Tinseltown spotlight Nurmi continued to be a sort of real Hollywood vampire, even ghoulishly cavorting with the Misfits and performing with a pubk band called Satan’s Cheerleaders during the 1980s when she was in her sixties. At one point Nurmi got into some legal disputes stemming from the rights to Vampira’s image including one lawsuit Nurmi launched against Cassandra “Elvira” Peterson for ripping off her Vampira image, which was dismissed. Despite this, Nurmi’s “Vampira” character continues to endure since she conceived of her over 60 years ago. She was played by Lisa Marie in Tim Burton’s film, Ed Wood.
Somewhat rather underappreciated during her time, Maila Nurmi was lovingly profiled in the 2012 documentary Vampira and Me which featured newly restored kinoscopes of her TV appaearances. Some of the photos that follow (though tame) might be slightly NSFW because, bikinis.
More after the jump…