Here’s today’s flashback: From 1979, the monthly Starlog Star Trek Report, this time featuring what it’s like to be an extra on the set of ST:TMP. Among the notable extras cast were Louise Stange, president of the Leonard Nimoy Association of Fans (LNAF, of which I belonged at the time) They misspelled her last name as ‘Strange’! (Probably a common typo for that poor woman) There’s also David Gerrold, author of The Trouble with Tribbles, Bjo Trimble, the grand dame of Star Trek fans (she started the Save Star Trek letter writing campaign back in ’67, and Susan Sackett, the author of the piece herself. Although I enjoyed reading what it was like to be a movie extra, I still felt ill at ease at the look of the new uniforms and the awful, awful severe hairstyles on the women (What? No mini skirts and toppling bouffants ala Nurse Chapel???) What was the Trek world coming to? Alas, I was still envious of every one of them!
Well kids, this was it; my ambition, my dream , my ultimate fan-girl fantasy coming to fruition as a tender 16 year old. As I mentioned in the January 14th post, my Mom had secured tickets to see Leonard Nimoy (in person!) on a lecture tour in Elmira NY on February 18th, 1978 , and as we traveled out on that cold winter evening, I had realized to my horror half way there that none of us had brought a camera! Too late to complain, too cold and too far to go back, so we carried on. All I knew was I never wanted to forget this night, and fortunately, after it was over, I hastily scribbled eight journal pages of the whole event. (see below)
Looking back at it now, I’m glad I wrote these girlish scribblings, for I’m finding all these little details that I had forgotten over these 35 years. Like the excitement of just getting out of town to do something different, and how I was so nervous that my hands were trembling in anticipation of seeing my hero in person! I remember the pretty chandeliers in the lobby of the Clemens Center, and how my Mom gave me gum to settle down while we waited. A musician came out to warm up the crowd before the lecture, and although he played delightfully on the grand old theater organ, I couldn’t keep my eyes off of the light emitting from the thin space beneath the hem of the heavy blue velvet curtains, for there were clearly feet shuffling back and forth to the podium (Is it him, is it him?). I suppose I could only compare my excitement to the girls awaiting The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show or modern ‘tweens awaiting One Direction. Thirty long minutes later, our anticipation was rewarded when, quite casually, Nimoy
sauntered across the stage in a pale blue sweater, beige and grey plaid shirt and brown trousers. The audience erupted in whoops, hollers, and Vulcan salutes, I could feel my face grow warm with excitement as I saluted too. Nimoy began with a cheeky ice-breaker: “You are an emotional bunch of humans!” he grinned. And for the next two hours with just a pitcher of water for the occasional sip, he regaled us with funny and thoughtful tales of about life as an actor, as Mr. Spock, and little philosophies about life, the universe, and everything. At the end I recall he even recited a poem (his?) with its refrain “Hallelujah”, and everyone in the audience saying it along with him in a wonderful moment of communion. One of the funniest stories he related was how, one day while filming on the Star Trek set he had an awful toothache; so awful in fact that on his lunch break he went straight to the dentist in full costume, ears, uniform and all! He recalled getting plenty of odd looks while driving across L.A. to the dentist, yet at the office, throughout the entire check-up, neither the receptionist nor the dentist uttered a word about his other-worldly appearance. “Could you imagine what they said after I left ?” he joked.
And then it was time for questions. My hand shot up and I was the first one he called on. In anticipation of this evening, I had created a gift for him. I had been practicing my calligraphy for my 10th grade advertising class and I had painstakingly recreated on parchment in pen and ink with the prettiest font I could muster, a quote from his recent biography I Am Not Spock. The quote read something like: ‘We spend so much time doing what me must do, that we forget what we can do.” and was bordered in a simple pine frame. I nervously said “Mr. Nimoy, I made this for you in honor of your upcoming (wedding) anniversary.” and I reached over the brass railing that separated us from the stage, and pushed the frame as far forward onto the grand piano in front of the stage as I could.
Surprised, Nimoy came out from behind the podium and bent down to read it. Flashbulbs burst all over the place as he did, and he smiled saying, “Thank You! I’ll pick it up after the show.” My mission completed, my only ambition now was to meet the man and get his autograph. And I gotta tell you, after the show, Nimoy awaited every last fan in his tiny dressing room to greet, sign autographs and have pictures taken. You see, this was in the days before the Creation conventions where you have to pay over $100 for an autograph. I remember getting in the line that was already growing exponentially off to the side of the stage. It would be a long wait, and I chatted with a couple of other fans and told them my woes forgetting my camera. A nice, lovely woman named Linda Jessup told me she had taken a few pictures already, including Nimoy looking at my gift and would send me copies! I was so thankful to her, and these are the pictures I present to you today! Amazing how the kindness of a stranger can make a difference in ones life. Linda, if you’re out there, I thank you again 35 years later, I have always treasured these and am thankful to share them with my readers today. (and hey, if you have any others laying around, let me know!) As Linda and I chatted, my sister Mary-Anne suddenly came up and took me by the arm “Come with me!” she said, and ere long we were heading out backstage behind the curtain, my gift in hand, where a stage hand stood near Nimoy’s dressing room. I’m supposing that my sister didn’t want to wait all night to drive us back home and got permission to let me skip the line! She said “Tell that man there that the organist sent you so your present could be given to him by one of them! (God bless her!) ” So I told the stagehand just that, and he said “You can give it to him yourself!” (Okay, my my teenage heart is about to burst here). So here I am, approaching my big moment with THE MAN, and all I can think is don’t do anything stupid, don’t do anything stupid. As the people exited ahead of me, I stepped into the tiny room, and said with my voice all a-quiver:
“Hi Mister Nimoy.” and I put forward the gift.
“Ah yes!” he replied “Thank you very much, it’s is really beautiful! I told him (again) it was was in honor of his upcoming wedding anniversary, and he replied “Yes, it’s in four days!” Then looking at the writing on the piece he asked “Are you into calligraphy?” And without thinking I said “No, but I’m taking Advertising in school!” (I felt really stupid after saying that, since my gift to him WAS a piece of calligraphy, I just couldn’t put two and two together!) He sat at the dressing table and gestured for me to sit at the other chair there, and as I did, he noticed the three LNAF membership cards I had pinned to my blouse.
“So, you’re an LNAF’er?” “Three years!” “Did you get your Yearbook yet?” “Not the ’77. ” “Oh,” he smiled Well, Louise* was snowed in , you know!” “Oh.” I replied, and glanced into the mirror, instantly slapping my hands to my face “Oh My God, I’m beet red!” Nimoy just grinned, no doubt used to this teenage hysteria. Flustered but determined, I grabbed my new paperback copy of I Am Not Spock from my purse and handed it to him along with a purple Flair pen. (Yeah, I still have that pen)
“How do you spell your name?” “Therese” and I aimed my membership cards at him. To this, he smiled, and with that beautiful baritone voice, and in a French accent at that, he charmed: “Ahhh, Thérèse!” (Okay, my heart may have just stopped right there.) He signed the inside cover of the book, and I thanked him, vigorously shaking his right hand in both of mine. (He must have thought I was a total kook.) The inscription simply read “To Therese – Thank You! -Leonard Nimoy ’78” As I headed out the to car, I couldn’t even feel the cold night air as I got in. My Mom joked “Therese doesn’t have to be driven home, she’ll float!”
Okay, writing this post has reduced me to a pile of jello. Clean up in aisle 12 please! Thanks Mr. Nimoy, and if I ever meet you again, I’ll bring my camera!
*Louise Stange, the president of the Leonard Nimoy Association of Fans (LNAF) in Ohio.
Yesterday I started exhibiting my Trek collection with an old cigar box from around 1973. Today we open the little Pandora to see what’s inside. (My eyes, my eyes…)
First, the interior. I didn’t want the floor of the box to be bare, so every week I went through the TV Guide and cut out the daily descriptions for Star Trek, which aired weeknights on WPIX (we had “eleven clear channels to choose from“* with this new thing called ‘cable’!) at 9:00 and Mom and Dad let me stay up with my sibs to watch it. We got cable mostly so we could watch Star Trek. Of course, we had all watched it when it originally aired (although I didn’t always get to see it) and by age 12, in ’73, I was totally into it. By ’76 it was on our local channel 40 every night at 6:00, and Mom wasn’t too thrilled that it was on at dinnertime, but she would let me watch it on Fridays. Anyway, here’s what old Trek listings looked like back then; something that’s never used now.
You can also see more images from the article I used for the box lid and if you read closely, there’s a little letter to the editors of TV Guide about who the best chess player is. 😉 -Can you name all the episodes described here?
*This expression is from a cable commercial that aired endlessly on our local channels; there was a lady who would go on and on about how cable had
“Eleven clear channels to choose from and absolutely perfect picture!”
Now, as to what I kept in the box? It was good for spare change and rubber bands, but eventually I had little things related to Star Trek that I kept in it. First of all, a ‘Spock Rock’; that is, a stone I found one day along the river that reminded me of Vulcan pointed ears, so naturally, I painted a cartoony little portrait of Mr. Spock on it.
Cute, huh? I’m surprised it hasn’t worn off much in the 39 years since I painted it! I like that I gave him a little smile.
Next we see a prized Spock button I bought at the 1979 ‘Star Trek Bi-Centennial 10 Convention in 1976. It was special because it presents a scene from the Trek episode “Elaan of Troyus” that was never used. Spock is seen playing his Vulcan harp in the grand recreation room, a set that was only seen in “And the Children Shall Lead”. A shame this scene was cut, but you can see a pastiche of it here.
Another thing I kept in the box was a lot of correspondence, there’s a note from NBC in ’73 thanking me for liking the Star Trek cartoon and where I can write to the stars, but the most exciting pieces were the little notes I’d get annually from the LNAF — which was ‘The Leonard Nimoy Association of Fans” run by a Ms. Louise Stange. (Odd, her last name was pronounced ‘Stang-Gee’– but to me it sounded better if it rhymed with ‘flange’, but I digress). Louise had thrust the monumental task upon herself of managing this fan club that was growing by leaps every day, mimeographing newsletters every few months, and once a year the big annual yearbook loaded with candid and professional pictures of Mr. Nimoy and his fans. Yet she still took time to send each fan a personal note at least once a year, and I was always happy to see that familiar green ink return stamp on my letters and manilla envelopes on those special occasions. Here you see my 5 membership cards for the half-decade I belonged from 1975-80; the first three years had the smiling black and white picture, the last two the more pensive picture. How Louise kept track of everything I’ll never know – this was eons before the internet, but she did a great job, met Leonard frequently, and was rewarded by being an extra in the first Star Trek movie. Wonder what she does these days? Wherever you are, Louise, thanks for all your hard work in those exciting years. I felt less like an outcast when I knew there were other kooks out there like me! You’ll see more stuff from the LNAF in future posts. Somewhere I have the full color postcard of Nimoy that came with the intro pack, and a lot of other stuff and nonsense. See you tomorrow, with one of my most prized possession, and as Louise would sign” “Nimoyingly,” -Therese