When I moved from New Jersey to California, I was all alone. My friend Jeannie had flown out with me, but after a week of playing tourist, I put her on the plane back home. That was a tough day. I had a return trip ticket, because it had been cheaper to buy a round trip than a one-way, so I could have called it off then and there. I was tempted, but I gathered up my courage and my sense of adventure and said good-bye.
About now, you’re wondering what all of this has to do with the famous horror hostess Elvira, but stick with me, I’m getting there.
As I walked away from that airplane terminal, I wondered if I had made the right choice. Later, as I stood in line to rent a car (mine was being trucked out from NJ and wouldn’t arrive for several weeks), I was sure I’d made a mistake. What was I doing in this big, smoggy city, so far from home? I had moved to Los Angeles to be closer to my beloved television industry, but I had signed a contract to teach school out in a small, desert town several hours away. No TV work for me.
The homesickness hit me hard and it stayed with me for several days. Because I didn’t have a kitchen, I ate most of my meals out. A block down from the motel was a Wienerschnitzel – a fast food restaurant specializing in hot dogs. I went there because it was a California thing. We don’t have that chain in NJ, so it felt like a good way of immersing myself in the local culture. I fell in love with the chicken cordon bleu sandwich and made it a regular stop for lunch.
Elvira – yes, she’s coming up now.
That Halloween, Wienerschnitzel and Slice ran a promotion called Go Psycho With Elvira. The sweepstakes winner would get to party at Universal Studios with Elvira herself. What? Universal Studios is one of my favorite places in the whole world and when you add the Psycho House (see my photos here) and Elvira to the mix . . . . It was a childhood dream come true. I had spent most of my teen years celebrating everything spooky and Elvira was my idol.
To promote the promotion, Wienerschnitzel gave away glow-in-the-dark cups like the one you see here. I think there were four styles. I know I had them all back then, but four moves later, they’ve all disappeared except one.
I know it sounds ridiculous to say I cherished those cups, but I did. I kept one on my desk in my classroom and one became my toothbrush cup. These goofy, promotional plastics made me smile, and they reminded me of home. They also reminded me of the reason I had moved to Los Angeles in the first place. After years of dreaming about it, I was visiting Universal Studios weekly, I was chatting with TV stars, and I was slowly becoming an entertainment reporter. Yes, all of that from a simple, plastic, fast food soda cup.
Elvira (Cassandra P), if you should be reading this, thanks for making a homesick Jersey girl feel warm and welcome here in California.
I rediscovered the cup this week, when I was cleaning out a closet. It’s now back in the bathroom, glowing like the dickens when I creep around at night. As soon as I’m done writing this, I’m heading over to eBay to see if I can find the other styles so I can go Psycho with Elvira all over again.
Do you have a strange collectible that means nothing to anyone else, but means the world to you? Tell me about it in the comment section below.