|MAILA NURMI (ap file/2005)|
LOS ANGELES - Maila Nurmi, whose "Vampira" TV persona pioneered the spooky-yet-sexy Goth aesthetic, has died, coroner's officials said. She was 85.
Ms. Nurmi died Jan. 10 at her Hollywood home. The cause of death has not been determined.
Ms. Nurmi created her Vampira character - reminiscent of Charles Addams's spooky New Yorker cartoons - to host horror movie broadcasts on KABC TV in Los Angeles in 1954.
With darkly mascaraed eyes and blood-red lipstick, Ms. Nurmi appeared each week in her revealing black dress and slinky fishnets to introduce such films as "Revenge of the Zombies" and "Devil Bat's Daughter."
"The Vampira Show" was canceled after about a year, but Ms. Nurmi remained a cult figure among B-movie buffs and is thought to have inspired the vampish Morticia Addams on "The Addams Family," which premiered about 10 years later.
But Ms. Nurmi's cultural resonance did not translate into long-term wealth. In 1989, she lost a $10 million lawsuit that contended Cassandra Peterson's late-night horror hostess Elvira pirated her character.
"There is no Elvira. There's only a pirated Vampira," Ms. Nurmi was quoted as saying in an Associated Press story at the time. "Cassandra Peterson slavishly copied my product and made a fortune. America has been duped."
Among Ms. Nurmi's scattered film appearances following her TV career was a cameo in Ed Wood's 1959 cult classic, "Plan 9 From Outer Space." Ms. Nurmi was played by Lisa Marie in "Ed Wood," Tim Burton's 1994 tribute to the B-movie director.
Ms. Nurmi was born Maila Elizabeth Syrjaniemi in Finland and immigrated with her family to Ohio, said Heather Saenz, a friend.
In her late teens she went to New York, where she fell in with a clique of actors and artists and moved with them to Hollywood, Saenz said. Ms. Nurmi worked as a chorus girl and model before appearing as Vampira, Saenz said.