TIME

Why So Serious, Roger Goodell?

Jack Dickey is a reporter for TIME focused on culture and sports. He is also a contributor to Sports Illustrated.

The shallow and spineless posturing of the NFL commissioner

On Wednesday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell proposed to owners a tougher personal conduct policy for the league’s players. And the owners accepted: the new policy, the league said, will “embrace” independent investigations of player conduct off the field. In order to herald the coming change, Goodell also participated in a front-page feature for the Wall Street Journal in what appears to be the latest of many attempts to reassert the commissioner’s reputation for seriousness.

Monica Langley, an admired reporter who usually profiles titans of industry like Steve Ballmer and Jamie Dimon, scored “a series of interviews over a period of weeks this fall as the commissioner was caught flat-footed in the unfolding controversy.”

Here are some excerpts, which Deadspin’s Tom Ley called an “attempt to turn Roger Goodell into Robert Kennedy navigating the Cuban Missile Crisis”:

Late into the night on Sept. 10, executives in the NFL conference room brainstormed over ways to prove the commissioner wasn’t covering up for Mr. Rice. Pizzas arrived but no slice was taken until Mr. Goodell ate. He never did, and the slices turned cold in the box.

NFL General Counsel Jeffrey Pash suggested an independent investigation run by former Federal Bureau of Investigation director Robert Mueller. “Call him now,” Mr. Goodell said, despite the late hour.

As Mr. Goodell reviewed the cases with advisers, he jumped to take calls at his desk. During one, he told his twin 13-year-old daughters he wouldn’t be home for dinner. He also took calls from owners and player representatives begging for leniency. “Let me be clear,” Mr. Goodell barked to one caller, “we’re taking him off the field.”

Around that time, a friend, General Electric Co. Chief Executive Jeff Immelt, told Mr. Goodell to “stop and apologize now,” Mr. Immelt said. “This is fast-moving and deeply felt.”

National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver and Mr. Goodell compared notes over lunch at 21 Club in Manhattan. “You can learn from what we’re going through,” Mr. Goodell told him.

More than any other person in the sports world, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wishes to convey that he is a serious man. He is unfailingly humorless, both in his public appearances and his interactions with his players. He tries to look the whole package, too. He’s a workout freak, so he can never be an empty suit in the most literal sense, and he’s cribbed Clint Eastwood’s perpetual squint at trouble in the distance. In spite of the sport’s essential rowdiness, Goodell has always been that way—he once told FORTUNE that as a six-year-old he looked up to NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle.

The funny-as-hell thing about Goodell’s seriousness is that it’s a pose. A goofy, dopey, dishonest pose, one that frequently falls apart under the tiniest scintilla of scrutiny, be it a sympathetic player facing punishment or mounting medical evidence of the game’s longterm ravages. His seemingly careful moral calculus then gets laid bare as a PR strategy, and typically not a very good one, either.

This happened most recently less than three months ago, with the controversy over TMZ’s Ray Rice tape. NFL insiders had leaked to all the appropriate veteran reporters that league brass had investigated the matter thoroughly. As the story went, the league had seen the tape of what happened in the elevator and punished Rice appropriately, with a two-game ban. Then the tape came out, and Goodell then insisted publicly that neither he nor anyone at the league had ever seen it. He determined, too, that Rice now needed a stiffer suspension, which went from two games to a two-game ban he thought too lenient but wouldn’t adjust, to an indefinite suspension, to no suspension, at the behest of a retired federal judge who said Goodell had “abuse[d his] discretion.”

I’ve read the Journal piece over a few times, and I can’t tell whether it’s high satire—the Journal, in the driest tone imaginable, laughs at the transparent method Goodell employs in hopes of recreating an image he had to abandon on account of transparent phoniness earlier this fall—or just another too-credulous account of a lightweight commissioner. (An aside: It’s also hard to tell which details Langley got firsthand, and which came from sources, or what ground rules she may have agreed to in order to get access. It’s hard to imagine the most important detail to come from an all-hands crisis meeting at NFL headquarters concerned the pizza.) It looks a lot like the latter, owing to the accretion of these details and this passage, too:

Meantime, the Rices are fighting back. Last month, an independent arbitrator awarded Mr. Rice reinstatement to the NFL. Janay Rice—now his wife—accused Mr. Goodell of being dishonest when he had said Mr. Rice misled him about the punching. “I don’t take those things personally,” Mr. Goodell said.

For those of you scoring at home, that’s a non-defense of what would be a substantial lie for Goodell, if Rice is telling the truth. But he’s allowed to brush it off as nonsense from a disgraced couple. These are the perks, apparently, of being a very serious man.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Music

Taylor Swift on 1989, Spotify, Her Next Tour and Female Role Models

Taylor Swift Time Magazine Cover
Photograph by Martin Schoeller for TIME

The 24-year-old pop star spoke with TIME this fall as she readied for the release of her new album and again as she watched its record reception. 'Other women who are killing it should motivate you,' she says

To read all about Taylor Swift’s rise and significance, check out the feature story on the singer in this week’s magazine. But not everything could fit in the story, so here’s the rest of what Swift told TIME. The moment’s most successful recording artist has big theatrics planned for her 2015 tour. And she’s praying for an Iggy Azalea cameo. While she struggles to name a role model in the music industry, she finds herself looking up to Mariska Hargitay, the actress behind Olivia Benson, and Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, these days.

For the rest of Swift’s thoughts, including why she ditched streaming music service Spotify, how she writes a song and the media’s portrayals of women, here are excerpts from our conversations.

Why did you leave Spotify? I’m in an office of people who are upset they can’t stream your music.

Well, they can still listen to my music if they get it on iTunes. I’m always up for trying something. And I tried it and I didn’t like the way it felt. I think there should be an inherent value placed on art. I didn’t see that happening, perception-wise, when I put my music on Spotify. Everybody’s complaining about how music sales are shrinking, but nobody’s changing the way they’re doing things. They keep running towards streaming, which is, for the most part, what has been shrinking the numbers of paid album sales.

With Beats Music and Rhapsody you have to pay for a premium package in order to access my albums. And that places a perception of value on what I’ve created. On Spotify, they don’t have any settings, or any kind of qualifications for who gets what music. I think that people should feel that there is a value to what musicians have created, and that’s that. I wrote about this in July, I wrote an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal. This shouldn’t be news right now. It should have been news in July when I went out and stood up and said I’m against it. And so this is really kind of an old story.

What was the goal of your new album, 1989?

With 1989, I was really putting my neck on the line, because I was the one saying I need to change directions musically. And my label and management were the ones saying “Are you sure, are you positive? This is risky.” And I was the one who had to come back every time and say, “No, this is what we’re doing.” When I put forth an album cover that didn’t have half my face on it, and tried to convince my label that this was the best way to sell an album, you know, I got some kind of interesting side-glance looks. But I knew that this was the best cover to represent this record, because I wanted there to be an air of mystery. I didn’t want people to know the emotional DNA of this album. I didn’t want them to see a smiling picture on the cover and think this was a happy album, or see a sad-looking facial expression and think, oh, this is another breakup record. When I wanted to call the album 1989, people on the team questioned that. Every single element of this album has been called into question, and I’ve had to say “No, this is how we’re doing it.” And the fact that we came out and did the kind of numbers we did in the first week—you have no idea how relieved I was, because it was all on me if this didn’t work. It was a little hard to sleep the night of the album release.

There’s a song on my album called “All You Had to Do Was Stay.” I was having this dream, that was actually one of those embarrassing dreams, where you’re mortified in the dream, you’re like humiliated. In the dream, my ex had come to the door to beg for me to talk to him or whatever, and I opened up the door and I went to go say, “Hi,” or “What are you doing here?” or something—something normal—but all that came out was this high-pitched singing that said, “Stay!” It was almost operatic. So I wrote this song, and I used that sound in the song. Weird, right? I woke up from the dream, saying the weird part into my phone, figuring I had to include it in something because it was just too strange not to. In pop, it’s fun to play around with little weird noises like that.

I am in love with catchy melodies and hooks that are stuck in your head for days, and ideally weeks, and even months. I really love it when I hear a song, and all of a sudden, my next two weeks are spent trying to figure out how to get that song out of my head. I think there’s a way to artfully do it. I want people to have songs that I write stuck in their heads, but I don’t want it to absolutely perturb them that they have the song stuck in their head. I’m talking about songs that sound like they were cooked up in a lab. Like, anything that makes you think there are eight songwriters on this.

A question about “Shake It Off,” the lead single: I had never read someone saying you stay out too late.

Oh, that was just a good first line. Yeah.

What does writing a song do for you?

I see a lot of celebrities build up these emotional walls around themselves, where they let no one in, and that’s what makes them feel very lonely at the top. I just keep writing songs. And I kind of stay open to feeling humiliated and rejected, because before being a quote-unquote celebrity, I’m a songwriter. Being a celebrity means you lock your doors and close your windows and don’t let people in. Being a songwriter means you’re very attuned to your own intuition and your own feelings even if they hurt.

So I approach it much more from a songwriter’s perspective. But I do know how to pull myself out now, from that constant, never-ending, bottomless rabbithole of self-doubt and fear. I’ve been able to write songs and feel better. They clarify and simplify the emotions that you’re feeling. Nothing you do is going to make the pain stop. It just helps to have it clarified and simplified.

Is there someone you look to as a model of where you’d like your career to go? Are there women you look up to?

We’re taught to find examples for the way we want our lives to wind up. But I can’t find anyone, really, who’s had the same career trajectory as mine. So when I’m in an optimistic place I hope that my life won’t match anyone else’s life trajectory, either, going forward. I do have female role models in the sense of actresses like Mariska Hargitay. I think she has a beautiful life, and an incredible career, and I think she’s built that for herself. She’s one of the highest paid actresses—actors in general, women or men—on television, and she’s been playing this very strong female character for, what, 15 years now, something like that. And Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. I really love her business, and how she sticks to who she is, and how people relate to it. In other industries, I have female role models. I just struggle to find a woman in music who hasn’t been completely picked apart by the media, or scrutinized and criticized for aging, or criticized for fighting aging—it just seems to be much more difficult to be a woman in music and to grow older. I just really hope that I will choose to do it as gracefully as possible.

Is it a struggle, being a role model for so many young women while trying to produce something artistically valid?

I don’t find a struggle with that balance, being looked at as a role model, because I think it’s a very obvious and natural thing for people to see you as, when you’re a singer. I’ve always felt very comfortable with it, for some reason. That in particular hasn’t been one of my struggles. I’ve struggled with a lot of things, but the idea that you’re living your life and it’s impacting other people, some of whom are very young, some of whom are in their most impressionable times and they’re discovering the music that tells them how they are going to live their lives and how they should feel and how it’s acceptable to feel, I think that that’s kind of exciting.

But it’s the same thing as living your life based on what your grandkids will say one day. I’m sure there will be things that my grandkids make fun of me for no matter what, but I’d really rather it be, “Look how awkward your dancing was in the ‘Shake It Off’ video! You look so weird, Grandma!” rather than “Grandma, is that your nipple?” I don’t make it as much about the millions of people who would be disappointed if I were to have some sort of meltdown or scandal or something that made everyone feel like my character wasn’t what they thought it was. I think more about the people in my life that would disappoint: my mom, my dad, my kids, if I ever have them. And that way it’s not as much pressure as thinking about the millions of little minds that you must be shaping. I’m trying to live my life with some sort of thoughtfulness put into my actions, but it’s not because I feel like I’m the president of the International Babysitters Club.

Does it annoy you when people say you don’t write your own songs, or that someone else is pulling the strings of your career?

I haven’t heard any of the people I respect in the music industry or in journalism, saying that they think I don’t write my own songs. I think, when I put out Speak Now, which was my third album, and I decided I was just going to write it entirely on my own, to me that was enough of a statement. I felt like I could move on from that. I felt like I had proved my point. That was when I felt free to collaborate with whoever I wanted, because if you actually listen to the music, you can tell that the lyrics are written by the same person. And it’s not a ghostwriter. It’s not some weird, you know—everyone’s got those weird Shakespeare theories that someone else did all his stuff for him. Not to ever compare yourself to Shakespeare. But people need to poke holes in things because of their own stuff. It’s not about me.

And we all know it’s a feminist issue. My friend Ed [Sheeran], no one questions whether he writes everything. In the beginning, I liked to think that we were all on the same playing field. And then it became pretty obvious to me that when you have people sort of questioning the validity of a female songwriter, or making it seem like it’s somehow unacceptable to write songs about your real emotions—that it somehow makes you irrational and overemotional—seeing that over the years changed my view. It’s a little discouraging that females have to work so much harder to prove that they do their own things. I see Nicki Minaj and Iggy Azalea having to prove that they write their own raps or their own lyrics, and it makes me sad, because they shouldn’t have to justify it.

As a female celebrity, having your body picked over, in a way that doesn’t happen for male celebrities—how do you deal?

I refuse to buy into these comparisons, because you don’t see it happening to men. All you seem to see is “Which New Mother Is Sexier?” “Who’s the Hotter Mama?” “Who’s Got The Better Booty?” If we continue to show young girls that they are being compared to other girls, we’re doing ourselves a huge disservice as a society. I surround myself with smart, beautiful, passionate, driven, ambitious women. Other women who are killing it should motivate you, thrill you, challenge you and inspire you rather than threaten you and make you feel like you’re immediately being compared to them. The only thing I compare myself to is me, two years ago, or me one year ago. How does 1989 measure up to Red, sales-wise? You just try to lead by example, and you hope, someday, that if we talk about feminism enough, maybe we’ll start to actually see it make a difference in the way young girls perceive themselves and each other.

Does it annoy you to have photographers everywhere you go? Are you at risk of becoming a shut-in?

Yeah, every outing is documented. So any outing I’ve been on, you’ve seen photos of. Any other time, I’m at home. Or I have my friends over and we cook dinner and talk and sit on the roof and laugh about things and gossip and whatever.

It’s honestly like, if I’m in the mood to be held accountable for every single article of clothing on my body, and whether it matches, and if it clashes, and if it’s on trend, then I go out. But if I’m not interested in undergoing that kind of debate and conversation—regarding how I’m walking, whether I look tired, how my makeup is right, what’s that mark on my knee, did you hurt yourself?—I just don’t go out. I try to evaluate whether I’m in the right emotional space to deal with that, and if I’m not, then I just stay in. And I’m perfectly happy staying in.

What do you have planned for the tour?

I know that with the way the fans have latched onto this album, the setlist will be predominantly songs from 1989. You know, when I go back and play songs I know they want to hear, like “Love Story” or “Trouble,” it’ll be interesting to reimagine them so that the fans get a new experience that feels in keeping with 1989. But I’m so excited. I have so many things I’ve been dreaming up for this.

If you look at the makeup of my previous music, as far as production elements go, there are a lot of live drums, acoustic guitars, electric guitars, and live bass. And if you look at the landscape of 1989, it’s mostly synths and automated drums and these kind of big epic synth pad sounds, and key bass, and layered vocals. I have a very big band, there are, what, 14 of us, so what you’re going to end up with is more of a live feel in that it’s going to be filled in and more dramatic with more layers to it, but never to the point where it’s going to feel noisy or overcrowded. The music on this tour is going to live a little bit in that world, and thank God, my fans really seem to like that world.

The challenge with a stadium show is making those people in the very top row feel like they got an intimate, personal experience. On the Red tour we achieved that sense of intimacy by having acoustic moments, and moments where I was telling stories about these songs. I don’t like to scream at the audience, I like to talk to them.

I really like for there to be something theatrical about what we do on stage. When I was younger, I was just obsessed with Broadway shows. As much as I can show these audiences an element of that theatrical nature to a performance, I think that it allows them to escape from their lives a little bit more. So when you have a show like that it’s very difficult to change up the setlist every night. I keep the setlist pretty much intact, but we have little variables—I usually do different acoustic songs every night. In the past, I have brought out dozens of guest artists not to perform my songs but to perform their songs and I’ll take a verse. And those are the things that make me the happiest, because the reality of the situation is that most of the kids in the audience have YouTubed the entire concert before they got there. They know exactly what’s going to happen next unless I call up another artist and have a secret rehearsal soundcheck and surprise the crowd with something they genuinely weren’t expecting. I should be getting on that now, look into a booking agent for these things.

But it’s worth it because I really want them to have that genuine moment of surprise. It’s very rare in this day and age to surprise people, but I really like doing it.

Do you have a dream onstage guest?

I love Iggy Azalea, I love Haim. I’d say Vance Joy, but he’s opening up the tour, so he’ll be there anyway. The things that I try to really focus on when bringing out people as surprise guests is what do my fans really want to see, what would they lose their minds over? Not to show too many of my cards here—but I have probably 10 guests that I’m thinking about that would be amazing. But you know, these have to be artists that would get up there and play for the love of playing, because they’re not paid for being there, and they usually have to switch up their schedules. The people who have done it in the past—it’s been astonishing to me, because it’s been Nicki Minaj, and Usher, and T.I., these huge artists who could be anywhere else. And you can tell who loves playing live if they’re willing to come and play for free on one of my stadium shows.

Is there a singular moment from touring that sent your endorphin levels higher than they’d ever been before?

There are moments that happen live where you get to see humanity do what they’re going to do, and you can’t ever anticipate what they’re going to do. I played a stadium right outside of Boston a couple years ago. It was outdoor, perfect, clear weather forecast. And in the middle of the show, a torrential downpour starts. In my head, the first thing I’m thinking is, Everyone’s going to leave. We’re seven songs into this show, and they’re going to leave. I’m going to be playing to no one. And it’s going to look just like my nightmares look. But instead of leaving, they just danced. They all danced in the rain together, and I still, years later, have people come up to me in public, at some restaurant or wherever they run into me, and they’ll say, “I was at the show where it rained. I was at the Rain Show.” And I know exactly what they’re talking about, because we have these moments and these memories that bond us, like the time I looked out there and saw everyone dancing, when it was the complete opposite of what I thought they were going to do, and it’s those moments of human interaction that happen on tour that you can’t get just watching a song climb the charts, sitting in your house.

You recently moved to New York. Are you a Knicks fan now?

Yeah, totally.

You realize they’re not very good.

I love them, though. Why does that matter? So you run into a bunch of different, interesting types of people at the Met Ball. I’ve gone the last four years. And the most normal people at that event, every single time, are Amar’e Stoudemire and his wife Alexis. I talk with them and hang with them every time I’m there. So I’ve always had this sort of love of the Knicks, just because Amar’e is so cool. And also I performed at the Knicks’—at Madison Square Garden’s—Kids Talent Competition at halftime when I was 12 or 13. And ever since then I’ve had this kind of sparkly, magical opinion of Madison Square Garden and the Knicks, since they let me sing when I was a little kid.

Condensed and edited from separate interviews in September and November.

Read next:

TIME Music

Taylor Swift’s Spotify Paycheck Mystery

Photograph by Martin Schoeller for TIME

Spotify and the pop star's record label provide new figures to defend themselves in the battle over profits from the streaming-music service

Read TIME’s full interview with Taylor Swift.

Taylor Swift has been paid less than $500,000 in the past 12 months for domestic streaming of her songs, Scott Borchetta, the CEO of Taylor Swift’s record label, the independent Nashville-based Big Machine, told TIME Wednesday.

His statement is the latest salvo in an increasingly heated disagreement between Swift and Spotify. The disagreement has sent ripples through the music industry, with the country’s most successful musician removing her work from an admired new online music model.

According to Borchetta, the actual amount his label has received in return for domestic streams of Swift’s music—$496,044—is drastically smaller than the amount Spotify has suggested the artist receives. That sum represents only a portion of the amount paid out by the streaming service. Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said Tuesday that the label for an artist of Swift’s popularity could expect to receive $6 million in the next year from the streaming service as the site’s audience grows. Borchetta said his label had made more from streaming Taylor Swift’s videos on the video site Vevo than it has from putting her music on Spotify.

A Spotify spokesperson told TIME that the total payout for Swift’s streaming over the past 12 months globally was $2 million.

MORE: Spotify CEO “really frustrated” with Taylor Swift

“The more we grow, the more we pay artists, and we’re growing like crazy,” said Jonathan Prince, Spotify’s global head of communications and public policy. “Our users, both free and paid, have grown by more than 50 percent in the last year, which means that the run rate for artists of every level of popularity keeps climbing. And Taylor just put out a great record, so her popularity has grown too. We paid Taylor’s label and publisher roughly half a million dollars in the month before she took her catalog down—without even having 1989 on our service—and that was only going to go up.”

On Nov. 3, Swift pulled her entire catalog from the streaming service, which claims over 50 million users, more than 10 million of whom have paid subscriptions. No artist today can match Swift’s popularity: her new album 1989 has sold nearly 1.7 million copies nationwide in its first two weeks on sale, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Swift and Borchetta both say that removing her music from Spotify is meant to make a larger point.

“The facts show that the music industry was much better off before Spotify hit these shores,” Borchetta said. “Don’t forget this is for the most successful artist in music today. What about the rest of the artists out there struggling to make a career? Over the last year, what Spotify has paid is the equivalent of less than 50,000 albums sold.”

At first, Spotify asked Swift to come back in a blog post. But after Borchetta said on a radio show on Nov. 7 that he had been hearing from other artists and managers who also want to leave Spotify—country star Jason Aldean just pulled his latest album from the service—Ek posted a broader defense of Spotify’s model. He claims Spotify has paid $2 billion to labels and publishers since its founding in 2008, and says the service, through its mix of paid and ad-supported subscriptions, is replacing revenue the music business had lost to piracy.

This isn’t the first time a major recording artist has tussled with Spotify. In October 2013, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke pulled his solo songs off the site to protest the size of its payouts.

–With reporting by Matt Vella

Read next: Taylor Swift on 1989, Spotify, Her Next Tour and Female Role Models

TIME celebrities

Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, Is Halloween’s True Queen

Courtesy Hulu

It's "the best of all holidays," as the actress behind Elvira explains

One perk of America’s inexorable march toward total godlessness? Halloween is huge! A 2013 study suggested that the holiday generates near $7.6 billion in retail spending, with $2.8 billion of that going toward costumes. Perhaps no character says more about Halloween and commerce than Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, who rose from Los Angeles local TV in the early ’80s — hosting corny horror flicks while sprawled on a red velvet sofa, teasing the dateless lechers who had no choice but to spend their nights with her and Roger Corman — to become a one-woman branding machine, lending her name and unmistakable likeness to costumes, comics, video games and much more. (A personal favorite is the “Monsta Rap” novelty song.)

But Elvira’s iconic look (cribbed a little, to be sure, from Morticia Adams) wasn’t all that made her Halloween’s queen; viewers couldn’t help but love the character’s wit and double-entendres, served with a side of vocal fry. On TV today, high-low blends like hers exist perhaps only in Cartoon Network’s wee hours. But the internet happens to be another perk of America’s decadent damnation, and accordingly, Hulu has commissioned a new 13-night series (13 Nights of Elvira) to run through Halloween. Cassandra Peterson, the 63-year-old in the costume, chatted recently with TIME about Halloween, horror and hanging up her wig someday.

TIME: How is late October for you, generally?

Cassandra Peterson: My phone doesn’t stop ringing, and I don’t sleep, and I’m working during the day, and I’m working at night. It’s pretty hectic! I love it, I’m happy. But I sometimes wish all my work didn’t come in a one-month period.

You’ve got the Hulu series, and the live show…

And a lot more things in between! Oh, brother. I’m doing a big live extravaganza at Knott’s Berry Farm, the Halloween venue in Southern California. I’m out there singing and dancing and telling jokes to about 3,600 people a night. And I’m also back doing what I do best, hosting horror movies. It’s fantastic to finally do that again. I did do that in 2012, as a syndicated show. But good luck finding it—it was one of those, you’re looking up some channel number E-72-G-W at four in the morning. So I’m back where people can actually find me, on Hulu, hosting some movies I’ve never hosted before — which is hard to believe, because I thought I hosted every damn movie that ever existed.

How many do you think you’ve done?

Oh my God. Just on Movie Macabre, my original show, I did 272, I believe. And since then, oh my gosh, I’ve had at least a dozen home-video productions, so, I don’t know, upwards of 500 movies. Finding movies that haven’t been done by me is a miracle. And these are also the good bad movies that are perfect for me, movies like Puppetmasters, and Gingerdead Man.

Where did the character come from?

I got a part to host horror films on local TV in L.A., and I was told to come up with a look and a costume. An artist friend drew a picture. And I said, ‘Are you kidding me? There’s no way in hell they’re going to let me on TV in that.’ And they did! The general manager’s only comment was, ‘Can you make the slit on the leg a little higher?’

I went on, thinking, gosh, how will this last longer than a week? Because it’s ridiculous — I’m being this Valley Girl character that I developed in the Groundlings while dressed like a vampire. But, I figured, I’m making $300 a week, I shouldn’t complain. Obviously, they didn’t think it would run longer than a week, either, because they rented everything on the set, the candelabra, the sofa, and all of that. Funny story: They forgot to stop renting the couch. Seven years later they found out they’d paid, like, $25,000 in rental fees.

Do you really like Halloween that much? Were you into it growing up?

Oh, yeah. In life, there are no coincidences — I grew up with my family running a costume shop. Halloween was the biggest time of the year, and I was a Halloween-dressin’-up fool. I wore costumes when it wasn’t even Halloween, because I was a total geek. I had the best costume every year, because my mom and my aunt would dress me as whatever popular television character there was. Everybody else was wearing those cheap little plastic costumes from Sears. I won my first Halloween costume contest when I was in second grade — dressed in fishnets, high heels, and a can-can dress, dressed as Miss Kitty from the Gunsmoke series.

Plus, from about the age of seven on, I was a horror-movie freak. My cousin had taken me to see House on Haunted Hills, with Vincent Price, and I was both repulsed and intrigued. I couldn’t think of doing anything else but going to see the next cheesy Edgar Allan Poe ripoff movie by Roger Corman. And then I got into collecting horror magazines. My sisters were playing with Barbies; I was playing with Dracula.

No one who didn’t have that background could do this job. I have to watch these movies over and over, and you really have to like them in order to endure that. There are a lot of stinkers out there. But I love them. To me, it’s comfort food, watching one of those movies. If I’m sick at home, I get a blankie, and I watch The Tomb of Ligeia. It just gives me that warm, fuzzy feeling.

How has Halloween changed since you started?

When I started out, it was a children’s holiday. As my career progressed — and I like to think that, possibly, I was a little bit of an influence — it became a more and more adult holiday. It’s a fantastic holiday — the best, best holiday of all holidays. There’s no religion involved, you don’t have to buy anyone any presents, you don’t have to have dinner with your relatives. It’s hedonistic. It’s about going out, having fun, and doing things that you wouldn’t ordinarily do — dressing up as a hooker or something.

Yeah. Is the sexy-costume thing your doing?

I really do have to pat myself on the back for that. I know sexy costumes are the biggest sellers. But you know the really sad, pathetic thing? I have a costume deal now with Rubie’s Costumes, and Rubie’s now says they’re going to make a sexy Elvira costume next year. I mean, what? Sexy Elvira? I said, ‘What’s wrong with this one?’ They said they wanted to make it shorter, more low-cut. It’s kind of sad to think that I was responsible for the sexy-costume trend, and now my own costume isn’t even sexy enough. ‘We have to get rid of that dumpy old frowzy Elvira. Get something sexy!’

What’s the craziest thing you’ve lent the Elvira name to?

I just released an Elvira sleep mask. Years ago, I did one of those smelly things that hangs in your car. I was like, ew, what does Elvira smell like? Luckily, it just smelled icky and overly perfumed — and they sold a bunch.

Has the internet done anything for your career?

In the beginning, I was really afraid that the internet would be the end of the horror host, because people weren’t watching TV, and things were so much more fast-paced. People’s attention spans are so much shorter. But I’m happy to say, that after a period of adjustment, it’s actually been a huge boon to me. I’m doing short videos, music videos — I have one out right now, for “Two Big Pumpkins,” my single that just came out from Third Man Records, written by Fred Schneider of the B-52s. I also have a huge virtual slot machine game. It’s called Elvira’s Big Chest … of Horrors. Sorry — this is all very subtle. People are able to see me more online. The pay is not there, but the awareness is definitely there, which is good for merchandise sales. I was really afraid of it, but now I love it!

What’s the Elvira business bringing in every year?

Oh god. I will tell you this: I just found out I’m making the same amount of money this year that I made at the very highest point of my career. And let me tell you, I’ve had some extremely down years. 10 years ago, after a messy divorce and a bad stock market, I was really— I wondered for a while if it was going to be the end of Elvira altogether. But I’m happy to say this year will be my biggest year since 1988, when I was starring in my own movie and doing a big publicity campaign for Pepsi.

What’s your wig situation like?

I go through these wigs like toilet paper. I have a zillion of ‘em. I need a whole storage unit for my wigs.

Do you ever think about calling it a career?

I say I’m going to quit every decade — heck, every day. I go, “I’m retiring when I’m 40,” “when I’m 50,” “when I’m 60.” But it just keeps moving up. I’m 63 now, and we’re already talking about next year’s shows. I’m like, “God, will this ever end?!” I’m happy doing it. But putting on the costume is getting a little more uncomfortable.

Yeah?

It’s always taken me exactly an hour and a half to get dressed up as Elvira, and it still takes me exactly an hour and a half. And, I’m happy to stay, I’ve stayed in an identical-sized dress my whole career — well, except for my waist, which never goes back to where it used to be, after you have a child. But that takes a lot of work. I can’t wait till retirement! I’ll balloon to 550 pounds.

Interview has been condensed and edited.

TIME Retirement

5 Things Every Millennial Should Know About Retirement

Save, get lucky or wait for the robots

In this week’s TIME, I, an employed barely 24-year-old with little to no reason for confidence about my future, stare down my sunset years, exploring the world of retirement today and envisioning what it might look like 40 years from now. But I’m told millennials dig lists. So here’s what I learned.

Read the full story in this week’s magazine.

1. Every little bit of savings counts. It helps to build a nest egg. A 2010 study from the Center for Retirement Research says 53 percent of American households are at risk of losing their standard of living upon retirement; in 1989 only 30 percent of households faced such a predicament. Alexa von Tobel, the CEO of Learnvest, a firm which offers financial-planning services to the masses says you should get insurance and keep your debt down. Max out your 401(k) match, if your employer offers one, in your youth. Start an IRA. Cut out that extra coffee. It’s harder to save for retirement when you’re playing catch-up, and you never know what sort of harm could one day befoul you. She says, “Most of us work with our brains now. But how do you know you’re not going to have a brain injury, or something else happen? We just don’t know…We see all kinds of really great people that just didn’t know that something could happen.”

2. Choose your career wisely, then get lucky. And have an exit strategy. John Arnold, the energy trader turned philanthropist, managed to leave his job at 38, and with a spot on the Forbes 400 to boot. (He earned $1.5 billion at Centaurus Advisors in 2008; FORTUNE called him then “The Wunderkind Gas Trader.”) He does realize that not everyone could reasonably expect to follow his path. In his career he nonetheless found generally applicable lessons. “I fell into this job out of college, and my plan was to go to business school,” he says. But then he found that natural-gas trading was the perfect career for him. His math and problem-solving skills pushed him to the top of a cutthroat field. And then there was the money. “The one thing that money does—it allows you to follow your heart rather than do a particular job,” he says.

3. We should expect to be healthy long past the age of 65. Social Security sets the full retirement age for our generation at 67 (those born between 1938 and 1959 reach full retirement age somewhere in between 65 and 67). According to Centers for Disease Control data from 2010, though, the average 65 year-old American has 19.1 more years to live. (That’s up more than five years from 1950.) And we can expect 13.9 of those years to be healthy ones. Ursula Staudinger, the director of Columbia’s Butler Aging Center, says that the proportion of healthy years is expected to continue increasing, as the gospel of good health spreads and prescription drugs improve. All of this is to say that many of us will not need to drop out of the work force at 65 or 67 or even in our 70s, unless we want to. Living over the long-term without the structure and engagement of employment has even been shown possibly to diminish cognitive and physical health, Staudinger says. With that in mind, why don’t businesses try sabbaticals that would increase in frequency with age? What about formal hours-tapering programs? What about a government program that would engage us in civic activity when we’re elderly? I fear otherwise we’ll spend all our time on the PlayStation 37.

4. Retirement is a modern invention. The supposedly sacrosanct institution originated in Germany in the 1880s, when Kaiser Wilhelm I posited that the state ought to care for citizens who couldn’t work due to old age or disability. Germany soon established a social insurance system, and 50 years later, the United States had its own. But the conditions facing seniors during the Great Depression—the best statistics available show that about half of seniors lived in poverty, and generally in rural settings—and the conditions facing German workers in the first several decades of industrialization have next to nothing to do with the conditions in which most aspiring retirees toil today. There’s no reason we need to apportion our leisure time this way, except for that it’s tradition.

5. All of our retirement theorizing might be rendered moot by the advent of brain emulations. Robin Hanson, a futurist and economics professor at George Mason University, forecasts that at some point in the next century human-level robots will appear. Researchers, he predicts, will make cell-by-cell copies of the brains of the 100 most productive humans and implant them in robots. Then the emulations could do much of the work once assigned to humans. I can’t wait.

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