Vampira: Dark Goddess of Horror Paperback – 25 Sep 2014
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"Finally, Poole lovingly gives Vampira her due."--Booklist, Starred Review "Pop culture critic Poole (history, Coll. of Charleston; Monsters in America) sure knows a monster when he sees one. He continues his macrocultural exegesis in this microquasibiography and cultural (especially the 1950s) explication of TV's first and most revelatory horror host...This stone-cold winner belongs in every American studies collection." --Library Review, Starred Review "W. Scott Poole has written a fascinating and illuminating socio-sexual history of the last half decade of American Pop Culture...W. Scott Poole explores deftly and accurately the history and the politics of both feminism and "the outsider," the parts of America pushed to the curb but yearning for acceptance, love, and financial success, the "new and shiny" promise of the (supposed) post war era. Poole has done a great job in bringing such a variety of disparate pieces into a singular whole, and this book should be bought and read by anyone interested in the unspoken history of Hollywood, and the darker story of our culture." --The Examiner "Poole is as concerned with the larger social changes afoot in mid-century America and uses the Vampira narrative to approach the second half of the 20th century from a fresh, and new thought-provoking perspective...[Vampira] provides an interesting and singular window into a time in the nation's past that can hardly be over-examined, especially as so many of the battles described are still being fought and it can often seem as if some of the hard-won gains of the era are slowly being given up." --Charleston City Paper "Scott Poole has the chops, the Hollywood savvy, and the horror genre's insider smarts to write a killer book on Vampira. I'll be first in line to grab a copy." -- Jonathan Maberry, multiple Bram Stoker Award winner and New York Timesbestselling author of Assassin's Code and Dust & Decay. "...this pioneering book is a tribute to the change that Vampira incited and the awakening that so many unknowingly received from her presence." --Santa Fe New Mexican, Pasatiempo "Poole goes to great, and effective, lengths to identify the attempts at social engineering that fostered specious notions of maleness and femaleness in the name of governmental control and selling the American dream. But the most impressive thing (besides his impeccably researched historical insight) is his understanding of Nurmi and her character in that context."--Delirium Magazine "Horror hostess, bondage goddess, Charles Addams cartoon comes to life, Vampire was every first-generation fanboy's wet dream. Scott Poole takes us on an unforgettable ride through the overlapping underworlds of B&D magazines, Hollywood noir, and early political liberation movements that inspired actress Maila Nurmi to challenge a postwar culture bent on stifling women's choices, bodies, and desires. This book is a subversive masterpiece." -- Sheri Holman, author of Witches on the Road Tonight and The Dress Lodger. "W. Scott Poole's last book, Monsters in America, was a dazzling work of cultural history: smart, funny, subversive and wildly entertaining. He showed a special gift for playfully saying serious things. His new book is even more wonderful. The life of Maila Nurmi, better known as the late-night TV hostess Vampira, is a great, strange story in itself, but also allows Poole to explore our attitudes about sex, death, fear, and difference. 'The Lady of Horror' was famous in the 1950s, but she is a remarkable symbol who connects backward to Poe and forward to Goth. She is as American as the Statue of Liberty." --Christopher Bram, author of Gods and Monsters and Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America "Vampira is up there with Vincent Price for lovers of the macabre, an icon whose shadow and influence lingers long after death. She's not only important to modern children of the night for being the first TV horror host, but as the original 'Glamour Ghoul,' whose style has inspired generations of Goth Girls to adopt the sexy undead look as their own. But there is more to her story than her ability to look good screaming, and Scott Poole, whose writing on the dark side of popular culture has proven to be some of the smartest, sassiest com-mentary on American society around, is the man to tell it." --Liisa Ladouceur, author of Encyclopedia Gothica "An expert critic of pop culture, W. Scott Poole is one of the finest historians of all that is wicked, salacious, and sexy in America. Poole's previous award-winning books on monsters and the devil in movies, comic books, and television have revolutionized how we think about evil and culture. Now with Vampira, he plans to wow us again. By looking into the life and times of Maila Nurmi, the former stripper turned television's dark goddess of sex and death, Poole unveils a new side of midcentury America, the 'American century' in which we too often forget the steamy, scary, and sensational." --Edward J. Blum author of Reforging the White Republic and The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America "Scott Poole is, in my view, the finest (certainly the wittiest and most crafty) scholar working in this area and by far the most persuasive. Vampira represents a way to talk about fifties culture, especially about the political and moral pressures exerted then and what costs ensued. Scott Poole has shown how brilliantly he can unearth cultural fears and desires, both dangerous and heartbreaking, by analyzing what passed itself off as entertainment." --James R. Kincaid, Aerol Arnold Professor of English at USC and author of Erotic Innocence and Annoying the Victorians [Praise for Monsters in America] "Poole brings to life American horror stories by framing them within folk belief, religion, and popular culture, broadly unraveling the idea of the monster. Thanks to Poole's insights we see the ubiquity of the monster lurking in and around us." --John David Smith, Charles H. Stone Distinguished Professor of American History, The University of North Carolina at Charlotte "Poole's connection of the monster to American history is a kind of Creature Features meets American cultural history. Here we not only meet such monsters but also discover America's cultural monstrosity." --John W. Morehead, editor, TheoFantastique.com "A well informed, thoughtful, and indeed frightening angle of vision to a persistent and compelling American desire to be entertained by the grotesque and the horrific." --Gary Laderman, Professor of American Religious History and Cultures, Emory University "With Monsters in America, W. Scott Poole has given us a guidebook for a journey into nightmare territory. Insightful and brilliant!" --Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of Patient Zero and Dead of Night "An unexpected guilty pleasure! Poole invites us into an important and enlightening, if disturbing, conversation about the very real monsters that inhabit the dark spaces of Americas past." --J. Gordon Melton, Director, Institute for the Study of American Religion "From 19th century sea serpents to our current obsession with vampires and zombies...Poole plots America's past through its fears in this intriguing ...sociocultural history." --Publishers Weekly "Poole ... has set the bar ridiculously high for any future research exploring the locus of historical and cultural studies, particularly as it pertains to the horrific. ... Monsters In America challenges, enlightens, and, quite honestly, frightens in its prescient view of American history, as well as the seeming ubiquity of the monsters of our past and probable future." --The Crawlspace "After reading Monsters in America, a reader will view monsters in a completely different light. No longer just something that goes bump in the night, Mr. Poole showcases that monsters have more meaning and shed more insight into society than one might have previously suspected. Well-written and engaging, Monsters in America is a must-read for anyone fascinated by history or monsters or both." --That's What She Read "While we can never isolate all the elements contributing to our horror stories, Poole looks at the distinct soil that produced Monsters in America. He lurks in the forests and depths that gave rise to Moby Dick, the Headless Horseman and even Bigfoot. Writing from his faculty position at the College of Charleston, Poole locates many of our manias in racial fears and tensions." --Purple State of Mind "The story of monsters, Poole rightly observes, is actually the "underground history of the United States... American monsters are born out of American history." Monsters reveal what simultaneously enthralls and repels us, whether it's leviathanesque sea monsters off the shores of 17th-century New England or Stephenie Meyer's puritanical, defanged Edward Cullen addressing contemporary America's split-personality longing for a supersexy Ozzie-and-Harriet family." --Jana Riess, Beliefnet "Poole is as concerned with the larger social changes afoot in mid-century America and uses the Vampira narrative to approach the second half of the 20th century from a fresh, and new thought-provoking perspective...it provides and interesting and singular window into a time in the nation's past that can hardly be over-examined, especially as so many of the battles described are still being fought and it can often seem as if some of the hard-won gains of the era are slowly being given up." --Charleston City Paper
About the Author
W. Scott Poole, who teaches at the College of Charleston, has written widely about American history, horror, and pop culture, including most recently in his award-winning history, Monsters in America , which received the John G. Cawelti prize from the Popular Culture Association and was named among the "Best of the Best" by the AAUP for 2011. Monsters received nominations for the Bram Stoker and the fan-sourced Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards. Poole is a regular contributor to Popmatters and his work has appeared in the Huffington Post , Religions Dispatches and Killing the Buddha . He has been a guest speaker at Authors@Google and has collaborated on films for the History Channel, PBS, and, most recently, the Banger Films project, Satan: The Movie . He blogs at his website, monstersinamerica.com.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
LATER: ARRGHH!!! I almost missed the best part!
I flipped through a bit to see if maybe there was something redeemable. And I found it!
The author discusses the modern hobby of resin model kits of celebritites/cartoon characters/etc., since there are resin kits out there of Vampira. He discusses the "geeks" who do this sort of thing, along with some other "nerd" activities.
YES! The author of a book on *Vampira* is dripping with condescension for geeks and nerds! That is absolutely priceless.
Living on the edge of poverty all of her life, she nevertheless had spreads in Life, TV Guide and millions of trashy super market tabloids. Nurmi hit the television screen in 1955, and forever changed the face of horror. The Vampira character was probably originally created by Charles Addams of New Yorker fame, and probably exploited to the fullest by Cassandra Peterson as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Characters in pop culture tend to morph in cycles, but Nurmi was the first to embody a living rather cartoon character, followed by Carolyn Jones and Yvonne DeCarlo in The Addams Family and The Munsters.
But somehow Nurmi seemed to signify any number of forbidden fruits verboten in the '50s. She was a cultural and sexual renegade, and her signature scream could mean anything from mortal pain to incredible orgasm, leaving her astounded audience to fill in the blanks. From her television show to her brief association with Ed Wood and the worst film ever made, Plan Nine from Outer Space, through Tim Burton's 1994 Ed Wood, Vampira has almost always been with us, just on the edge of our consciousness. Would there be a Madonna or Lady Gaga without this empowered character showing the way to create anything that the public will devour? W. Scott Poole explores deftly and accurately the history and the politics of both feminism and “the outsider,” the parts of America pushed to the curb but yearning for acceptance, love, and financial success, the “new and shiny” promise of the (supposed) post war era. Poole has done a great job in bringing such a variety of disparate pieces into a singular whole, and this book should be bought and read by anyone interested in the unspoken history of Hollywood, and the darker story of our culture.
And it does, indeed, tell you pretty much everything there is to know about Maila Nurmi, AKA Vampira. There’s her Finnish background, her peripatetic & unhappy childhood, her running away, her stint in Greenwich Village, her fame as Vampira, her work with Ed Wood, her involvement with James Dean, her adoption by the LA punk scene. You also get a good feel for her unconventional, rather complex and contradictory personality. Fascinating stuff.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of other stuff too. As one reviewer notes, there’s a lot of simple rehashing of the larger history going on.
Along with that, there’s a real effort to tie Vampira / Numri in with all sorts of things that may or may not have that much to do with her. Most of this sets the repression of the ‘50s against the coming thoroughly unrepressed ‘60s. There’s lots of talk about sexuality, gender roles, deviance, transgression, etc. And that means there’s a fair amount of American-Studies-style academic jargon to wade through here as well, with Vampira subverting this, and signifying that, and reframing what have you …
That said, the author does actually make some very good, pretty believable points. And it certainly doesn’t outshine what is a very interesting biography. So, I guess I would highly recommend this one, but you do need to be aware of what you’re getting into.