In 1954, Maila Nurmi shocked the world as sexy horror host Vampira on KABC. She rocketed to national, then worldwide stardom, then quickly faded. She died in 2008. A couple of years ago, R.H. Greene, who became friends with Nurmi in her later years, told her story for Off-Ramp in a documentary called "Vampira and Me." That radio documentary is now a film up for "Best Documentary" at the LA Film Festival. There's one more showing: Saturday, Jun 23, at 7:30 pm, at Regal Cinemas L.A.
When we aired the radio doc, Greene wrote:
'In the interviews I conducted with Maila when we were friends back in the 1990s, she made it clear again and again how completely uninterested and even hostile she was to the conformity and largesse that were universal priorities of her era and every era since. "I don't like to do wholesome people," she said to me when describing the inspiration for the giddily unwholesome Vampira. "I don't like to dwell on their very existence, let alone pretend to be one."'
'Vampira became an enduring icon because she offered a place to stand for all the misfits who hear a stifled scream beneath the smiley face pasted over so much of modern life. And she was empowered to do this by the fact that the woman who created her meant it with every molecule of her being.
'The goth kids suiting up on Halloween weekend may not even know whose crest they're wearing when they slip into their black fishnets, cinch their waists, and press on their long red fingernails. But the momentary exhilaration they feel -- that sense of danger, and the cool breeze of freedom wafting like oxygen though the stale air of the everyday -- has been blown to them like a kiss from Maila's ruby red lips. It's a cliche, but freedom isn't free -- especially not for the pioneers. In the end, it cost Maila a lot to maintain that stance for so long, but I don't know if there was another one available to her.'
(There's one more showing of "Vampira and Me" in the LA Film Festival. It's Saturday, Jun 23, at 7:30 pm, at Regal Cinemas L.A.)