LOS ANGELES -- A federal judge Monday dismissed part of a $10 million lawsuit filed by a woman contending that late-night horror show hostess Elvira stole the character she made famous in the 1950s.
U.S. District Judge Matthew Byrne ruled that Maila Nurmi may seek damages against Cassandra Peterson, who plays Elvira, and several other defendants for unfair competition, but not for violating her right to publicity.
Byrne said an actor's right to publicity is not violated by a simulation of a character. The actor's actual voice, face or name must be used to sustain a violation of the right to publicity, Byrne said.
In a lawsuit filed last September, Nurmi said Elvira, who as 'mistress of the dark' hosts fright flicks on late-night TV, is strikingly similar to a character she created named Vampira.
Both lounge on velvet Victorian sofas and wear tattered, black dresses that reveal generous cleavage. Both employ lighted candelabras, cobwebs, skulls and other macabre items in a 'combination of sex appeal, humor and death,' the suit said.
Nurmi said KHJ-TV approached her in 1981 and asked her to recreate the Vampira character and promised to compensate her, but edged her out after she provided her 'trade secrets.' She claimed breach of contract, but attorneys said Byrne dismissed that claim earlier.
No trial date has been set in the suit. ---
Case no. CV88-5436-WMB, Maila Nurmi aka Vampira vs. Cassandra Peterson aka Elvira et al.