I first spoke with Avery Misuraca when I was interviewing “James Girls” for this article featured here last July, in which Avery was definitely a part of. If the dark hair, dark eyes, and deep voice with the slight Jersey accent weren’t enough, finding out Avery was one of the official Vampirella models was all I needed to ask her for an interview for a spotlight feature of her own.
Besides capturing one of the most definitive looks (as evident at left) of Vampirella, when she posed as the character for Harris Comics, Avery later created her own sexy horroresque character in the form of the beautiful Countess Vladimira, whose comic book was published by Peregrine Entertainment.
Behind the dark personas of Vampirella, Countess Vladimira, and Morticia Addams, whom she also did a brief stint as, Avery is a real down-to-earth sweetheart. One of her passions since she was a child is animal welfare and she’s actively involved in Fur and Feather Animal Sanctuary, who rescue and raise awareness about neglected and abused animals.
It was my pleasure to recently speak with Avery (and listen to that sexy Jersey accent) for this exclusive interview and it’s no coincidence that this goes to press on her favorite holiday, which of course is Halloween. (Photo credit: Terry Sanders)
CHRIS CHARLES: It’s a pleasure to have you here, Avery. How are you this evening?
AVERY MISURACA: Oh, thank you, I’m doing well. I’m enjoying all the festivities of Halloween, that’s coming up soon, so I’m just enjoying everyone’s decor and everything that’s going on, ya know, being in the horror industry. Like, it’s my time.
CHRIS: Of course. You know I first became aware of you when I was doing research on Mike James’ models, and I came across you. I did a little bit of research on you and found you were one of the official Vampirella models. Meaning, the publishers (then Harris Comics) of Vampirella selected and hired you.
AVERY: Yes, for some reason they coined me the “official unofficial” Vampirella model. I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean, but I was hired by them and I also did a blood drive as Vampirella a long time ago. That was on my own. I also modeled for Joe Quesada (when he drew the cover for Vengeance of Vampirella #1) as Vampirella, so yeah, I was Vampirella.
CHRIS: Were you a fan of the character before they approached you to model as her?
AVERY: (Laughs) Well, this is interesting because when I was a little kid, I used to go into the candy store and buy like Mad magazine and Bubblicious gum and also buy Eerie and other scary magazines and I would see this magazines with Vampirella on the cover and she just seemed like so super sexy, I thought it was kinda like Playboy so I would never go near it. So I was like “Oh, that’s not something for me to look at!” And then when I got older, I realized it was artwork but when I was younger I did notice her and go “Woah!” She did catch my attention for sure.
CHRIS: What made the (Vampirella) costumes for you?
AVERY: It was a woman in Hoboken, New Jersey. I was living on the East Coast at the time, in the New York area and I asked this woman who had made costumes for productions and stuff, if she could make it for me ….and I was very happy with the outcome. It was a hard outfit to wear, I have to say. You have to really strategically place on the double-sided tape and the glue stick and all that (laughs). Yeah, it’s a challenge.
CHRIS: We discussed this before, when I was interviewing you for the James Girls article, but you and I know the costume Talisa Soto wore in the (1996 Vampirella) movie wasn’t anything at all like the original. They modified it for her because she was “falling out” of the original. So, did you have the same problem when you wore the costume?
AVERY: Well, she was probably doing a lot more running around and action things than I was doing at a convention. I did pose with fans and things, but I think it was much tougher for her to deal with that outfit than it was for me. I could see how it could be an issue, but if I was her, I would have found a way to make it work without making her outfit look like ….I just thought it was a complete atrocity.
CHRIS: I completely agree. Now, you mentioned double-sided tape to keep in in place at the conventions, Did you use anything else?
AVERY: I tried glue stick and that really wasn’t the way to go so the double-sided tape was my answer. It’s really handy, that stuff. It really works!
CHRIS: Good for you because I just couldn’t get into that movie because of that terrible outfit Talisa Soto wore. So when they were casting for that movie, did you hear about it or were you know aware of the movie until after it came out?
AVERY: Uh, I didn’t know about the casting of it, but to my recollection, there were plans to make a Vampirella movie for a long time. I remember, I was like “Oh my god, is this thing ever going to get done?” and before I knew it, it was done and it was horrible.
CHRIS: Yeah, I think Barbara Leigh was originally slated to play the lead back when she officially posed as Vampirella, and that was back in the 70s, but it just never happened. So if you would have heard about the producers casting for a Vampirella for the 1996 movie, would you have auditioned?
AVERY: I didn’t have the acting credits at that point. When I created the character (Countess Vladimira) and was doing conventions, and some people in the film industry, like Troma, were interested in me and I didn’t have any experience acting so I went to Phil Adler’s acting school in New York City for like a year and a half, but it wasn’t something I was seeking out to do, I kinda fell into it. But I don’t know if, at that point in time, if I would have felt secure enough to audition for a role like that.
CHRIS: So, when you first met Mike James, were you dressed as Vampirella?
AVERY: No, I was Countess Vladimira. I only portrayed Vampirella for about a year and a half. Ya know, I realized every year they get a new Vampirella. It’s kinda short-lived so that’s what inspired me to create my own character, her being Countess Vladimira. When Mike met me I was at a horror convention in New Jersey called Chiller (The Chiller Theater Expo) which is really the biggest horror convention in the country. That’s where we first met.
CHRIS: Was Countess Vladimire all your creation?
AVERY: Yes, she was totally my idea. I wanted someone who had some history to her and being the daughter of Vlad the Impaler, there could be a lot of backstories. Unknown to me, once I created the character, someone approached me to do a comic book. So it was really good that I had some history to me because we had a lot to work with to start writing a comic book.
CHRIS: What was the inspiration for the costume?
AVERY: Vampirella was part of my inspiration. Just coming out from being that character, there was a little bit of that in there, but I have a little bit my clothing on as Countess Vladimira than I do as Vampirella. Probably because my title is “Countess” so I don’t run around half-naked (laughs) so I put a little more elegance into my character. I wear long gloves on and a long dress but it’s slit up rrreally high so there’s plenty of leg, but it’s just more of an elegant costume that I was going for.
CHRIS: I know she’s (Countess Vladimira) made a couple of film appearances. The first one was Terror Firmer?
AVERY: Yes, I think it was the first one. Vampire Night was the other.
CHRIS: And that (Vampire Night) was 2000?
AVERY: I believe so. Unknown Productions they were called, if I’m not mistaken.
CHRIS: Has she made any film of TV appearances since?
AVERY: I did introduce something for like a Dark Shadows vintage horror series several years ago but nothing else in quite a while.
CHRIS: But I know your website is still up and running. Do you still update it regularly?
AVERY: Well, I haven’t updated it in a little while. I’m going to be putting a lot more of my work with Mike James on there. I’m going to shoot with him again in August.
CHRIS: Yes, he mentioned that to me. I know he likes to shoot original characters, but I asked him to ask you if you would bring your Vampirella outfit with you, because I’m a huge Vampirella fan and would love to see a Vampirella James Girl. Do you still have the outfit?
AVERY: No, somebody got my Vampirella.
CHRIS: Hmm, perhaps you could have one made by then.
AVERY: (Laughing) I can ask them if I can borrow it back “Can you lend it to me for a photo shoot?”
CHRIS: It would be great because the way Mike presents his models ….they’re really out of this world, so the two of you would create an amazing Vampirella. (We briefly discuss a painted-on outfit and that the only tricky part being the collar.)
CHRIS: You have a deep, sultry voice with a slight Jersey accent. When you spoke to fans at conventions as either Countess Vladimire or as Vampirella, did you use your normal voice or did you use a different voice or accent?
AVERY: No, I never did. I just went with my own voice. I used to say I was like the Fran Drescher of Vampires.
CHRIS: Well, I wouldn’t compare your voice to Fran Drescher’s, as I finder hers kind of grating and nasally.
AVERY: (Laughs) Voice outta New York, but yeah, I know what you’re saying. No, I used my own voice.
CHRIS: Now, you were modeling before Countess Vladmira and Vampirella. How did you first get into modeling?
AVERY: It was back when I was about 16 or 17. There was (and still is) a local (New Jersey) rock and roll paper called The Aquarian and there was a store called My Generation in East Rutherfordthat made custom rock and roll clothes. They did stuff for Aerosmith, ya know, it was when Spandex was really big, and they had an ad, they were looking for some models. So I think I sent them some pictures or I went in, I can’t recall, and they hired me. My first job was modeling in their window as a human mannequin model. Then I did some print work for them. Then I want to a modeling agency in New York who took me on, then they sent me to Elite. Back then, there was a division called “Petite Elite” because I’m only 5’3″. They wanted to shoot with me and do my whole book over. They were fronting the bill and paying for everything and you know what? I never did follow through with it. I don’t know what but for some reason I was just like “Ummm, I don’t know about this” and I didn’t go in that direction. So later one, I was doing modeling for the horror thing but I just didn’t want to do the high fashion modeling. So, I had the opportunity but I just passed on it.
CHRIS: did you ever get offers to do nude modeling? I ask this because most of the models I interview, even if they explicitly state they don’t do nude modeling, they tell me they still constantly get offers, so I assume you must have gotten your share of offers.
AVERY: Ummm, I had some people with publications like Scream Queens Illustrated who wanted to publish an article on me but wouldn’t because I wouldn’t get naked. And then finally, after seeing me from show to show doing conventions, they realized that it wasn’t going to happen, I wasn’t going to get naked and they just said; “We’re going to do an article on you, anyway.” I think they realized that they couldn’t break me down (laughs).
CHRIS: I saw a photo of a shoot you did with Mike James entitled “Black Swan,” where you were in a ballet position in a black tutu. Did you study ballet?
AVERY: when I was really, really young ….and when I did that shoot, it was very challenging. I had to be on my toes for a certain amount of time for him to shoot the picture. I was a little nervous about it because we did that shoot first (for that session) so I thought, “Oh my god, if I fall and hurt myself now, the rest of the shoot’s gonna be a goner.” (laughs) I don’t know why we chose to go with the ballerina shoot first, but I did get up on my toes and that was good because I haven’t had (ballet) training in a long time.
CHRIS: Who have been some of your favorite photographers to work with?
AVERY: Let’s see ….I had a French photographer named Jill, whom I worked with and I had a roommate who was an award-winning body painter. So, a lot of times I worked with the two of them together and I really enjoyed the outcome of those photos. I’ve worked with Mike (James) a bunch of times, because I’m really comfortable with him.
CHRIS: Yes, all of his models I’ve spoken with have told me that. They all speak very highly of him. In fact, some ladies who don’t normally do nudes or scantly-clad shoots will make an exception for him. They say how comfortable he makes then feel and that he’s so great to work with.
AVERY: That is so true for me, yes.
CHRIS: Now I usually don’t mention boyfriends and spouses in my interviews, but you are currently married to rock guitarist Robert Sarzo.
AVERY: Yes, aka Voodoo Man!
CHRIS: Yes, so would you say these days, you live a rock and roll lifestyle or more of a domestic lifestyle?
AVERY: Oh, rock and roll. Yeah there’s days where it’s domesticated, but for instance, I was out a couple of weeks ago on the red carpet for a T.J. Martell Foundation event. So yeah, I’m still living a rock and roll lifestyle.
CHRIS: Are you close friends with any other rock and roll wives?
AVERY: Mmm yeah, a few of them, mm hmm (but she didn’t seem to want to drop any names, so I moved on).
CHRIS: Also, I know you’re actively involved in animal rescue. Please tell me a little about that.
AVERY:Yeah, ever since I was a little girl and I saw thecans in stores where you’d put money in to donate to help starving dogs, I would always think; “How could an animal look like this and who would do that?” I’d ask for my allowance so I could put the money in there, and then as I got older, I found out about the SPCA and all the other organizations that help bring awareness and help animals that have been mistreated
CHRIS: You have your own organization now, don’t you?
AVERY: Well, I have four rescue dogs and a friend of mine has a sanctuary called “Fur and Feathers” and I help her with things that are going on with her organization. If I could be like Doris Day and have a big piece of land and afford to take care of all these dogs, that would be great! (laughs) I really would like to educate people on getting their pets in general, because with all these pets already in shelters, we don’t need to have more. So, I’ve just always been into it since I was a little kid and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve changed my diet because of my compassion for animals.
CHRIS: Ah, so are you a vegetarian or a vegan?
AVERY: I’m a vegan. I don’t eat anything made with any animal byproducts whatsoever. Milk, butter, yogurt …anything from an animal.
AVERY: I have recently started eating eggs only from certified farms. They have to be certified. That’s the only way I’ll eat an egg. I was pretty strict for quite awhile but now, I think because I’m living on the water, I’ll eat fish once in awhile, so I’ve introduced fish back into my diet.
CHRIS: Wow, that’s interesting. Oh and you mentioned to me before that you currently live in the water, which is something I really envy you for.
AVERY: Yes, I live on a yacht on the ocean. I have to tell you, about a week ago, I was thinking if someone gave me like a 3,000 square foot house, would I want to live in the house or would I still take the boat and you know what? I’d still take the boat. I love living on the water. I might want a bigger boat but I really, really enjoy living on the water. There are times when we have some storms here and it can be pretty brutal. I’m not a person who gets seasick but there are times when it gets pretty rough. But just with all the animals around, the seals and dolphins, starfish, sea rays, and all the birds that are on the water, it’s really beautiful.
CHRIS: Yeah, I can imagine what that must be like. So, as we speak, do you have any projects in the works?
AVERY: Actually right now, I’m going into merchandising and marketing. I’m opening a shop called “Voodoo Man Curiosity Shop,” due to my husband’s huge fanbase. He has this creepy hat that he wears with feathers and a skull and so many people wanted that hat when he was on the road, that we’ve produced them and are selling them now at the online store. Besides that, we’re doing a line of some interesting t-shirts. So, right now, I’m not really doing anything theatrical, I’m doing more enterprising things.
CHRIS: Do you still do modeling from time to time?
AVERY: Occasionally. A couple of years ago, I did something for the gentleman who hired me many years ago for My Generation. He owns a production company and he was at a show called TransWorld. It’s a trade show for people who are in the horror industry. It’s for people who own haunted houses and make props, it’s not like a regular fan convention, but he wanted to have me there signing. So, I went and that was in St. Louis.
CHRIS: Did you appear as Countess Vladimira for that?
AVERY: Yes, because it was all a horror-themed event.
CHRIS: Do you ever go on the road with your husband?
AVERY: Every now and then but it’s someplace like San Diego or Seattle for a couple of days, but I don’t do the on-the-tour-bus thing. I’m over that (laughs). I fly, meet him there, spend a couple days, and fly back out.
CHRIS: I did an interview last year with Paula Marcenaro, who’s married to the current lead singer of Skid Row. Do you happen to know her?
AVERY: Well, my ex-fiance was in Skid Row. Rock and roll’s a small world and a big merry-go-round! (laughs) I don’t know her, but I probably will eventually run into her somewhere at some event.
CHRIS: I believe you’re acquainted with some of the other ladies who’ve also modeled for Mike James?
AVERY: Yeah, Rachael Robbins, and Jasi Lanier, and Tina Krause, whom I haven’t seen in a while but I used to see her quite a bit when we were doing horror conventions together.
CHRIS: Maybe I should say this off the record, but you were my favorite James Girl of the ones that I featured. It was the dark hair and eyes that first got to me and when I did some research on you and saw that you posed as Vampirella, that was it for me!
AVERY: (Laughing) Forget about it! (in a heavy Jersey accent) Ya know, it’s funny because sometimes the way you look helps what you do.Like, I love Lily Munster. I used to want to play the harp because I thought it was so cool.
CHRIS: Now, who was cooler; Lily Munster or Morticia Addams?
AVERY: Well, it’s funny because when I was younger, I used to think Lily. Then, when I got older, it was Morticia. Years ago I was signing at this thing called “Madison Scare Garden.” It was a big maze horror event at Madison Square Garden. So, I was there signing and somebody who worked there at the time said, “Oh, they’re having auditions for The Addams Family” because they were revamping the show again. So, I said, “Oh really? well, I have to be here signing,” but they said, “You know what, you can take off” and I went to the audition.
I was all dressed-up as Countess Vladimira. I was all done-up, standing in line for the audition, it was like a cattle call thing, and I go into the room and I said; “Have no fear, your Morticia is here” and I went; *snap* *snap* (snaps fingers twice ala the Addams Family theme song) and the guy goes; “You are here! You are here!” and the casting guy sat down and he was talking to me for like a half hour, and I go; “Excuse me, but there’s other people here for the audition.” So anyway, I got the part of Morticia. I was not the only Morticia, though. They had a couple of other Morticias, but it was really fun because they also hired a Gomez and they taught us how to do the tango and we would go through Manhattan with our boom box and just set it down somewhere and do this whole tango routine, you know, to promote the show so, that was really cool. I really enjoyed that. I got to be a character whom I loved as a little kid.
CHRIS: Do you have any photos from that event?
AVERY: Oh, I wouldn’t know where they are. I think I had one and my face was so whited-out, I didn’t really like it anyway (laughs). I looked more ghoulish than sexy and pretty like Morticia.
CHRIS: Well, it’s been a pleasure talking with you Avery. I could go on and on, and hopefully we can do a Part 2 sometime in the near future. In closing, and plugs or shout-outs?
AVERY: Mmmm, no, I don’t have any ….un-uh (she says rather coyly).
CHRIS: Well once again, it’s been a pleasure and I’m very proud to be able to feature you at my website, Avery. AVERY: Aw, thank you very much and I’m honored to be featured, Chris.
Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Chris flirted with the music business there and in Nashville before joining the U.S. Army and serving in South Korea. He remained in Asia for several years afterwards, teaching English and covering the regional entertainment scenes. Currently in a mindset between Seoul and San Francisco, besides Idol Features, you can also catch his writings in the print edition of the quarterly magazine, Effective.
Rachael was included in my first James Girls feature and a subsequent solo interview. Her resume includes Playboy magazine to, more recently, her role as the leader of the Van Houten sisters in the indie horror Bleeding Hearts.
Actress Tina Krause was featured in my second installment on the models of prominent pinup photographer Mike James. She first shot with Mike in 1997 and has done shoots with him almost every year since.
Artist and photographer Mike James’ camera has been capturing out-of-this-world sexy models over 20 years. Often in costumes he creates himself, the ladies’ poses and themes range from the outrageous to the fairly mundane.