Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Boldly tagging along where no man has gone before...

HALLIE EPHRON: Confession: I've been a Star Trek fan for, ahem, decades. Loved all the series. All the movies. If you recognize the quote, then maybe you're a Trekkie (or Trekker), too?

Recently Idiscovered a kindred spirit in Ellen Kozak. An attorney, Ellen is an expert on all things publishing and a published author herself of (among other things) Every Writers Guide to Copyright and Publishing Law as well as two pseudonymous science fiction novels.

But in her dark and tangled past, she was a journalist who had the good fortune of going to Star Trek Movie premieres for Wrath of Khan and Search for Spock and (SO jealous) hanging out with... well I'll let her tell you.

ELLEN KOZAK: Through some connections at a local newspaper, I was able to get onto the press junkets for both movies.  It meant not only seeing the movies before anyone else did, but also getting to interview the actors and director and producer in assigned groups during the next two days.  Needless to say, I attended every interview session.

HALLIE: Who did you get to hang out with?

ELLEN:  In the interviews, I met and got to quiz all the cast members, but because I'd been on the set of Star Trek: The Motion Picture and had attended a few Star Trek conventions, I knew several of them already. 

There was a dinner in the studio commisary (which was unrecognizable once it was all dressed up with tablecloths and china) just before the showing of Wrath of Khan, and I sat at with DeForest Kelley and his wife Carolyn (both of them smoking like chimneys-- I guess that's how he stayed so thin, and he was VERY thin!).

I think I was the only journalist who bothered to go to ALL the interviews; the others primarily stuck with the principals and then headed for the bar or wherever. 

The last interview of the day was with Kirstie Alley (who was young, and thin, and unknown, and played a Vulcan) and Merritt Buttrick, who played Kirk's son David.  De Kelley happened to pass me in the hall and asked where I was going, and when I told him, he teased, "I'd better come along and warn them that you're dangerous."  So he did, and then the four of us sat and drank the free Paramount booze in the suite for the rest of the afternoon.

At Search for Spock, I sat right in front of De and Carolyn for the screening. This time, there was a party afterwards, and I ran into Merritt there.  I told him that I was sorry his character had been killed off, and he bent me over backwards in a fake Rudolph Valentino kiss.  I was wearing false eyelashes, and when I got back to my room, I realized that I was missing an eyelash, and I couldn't figure out where it could have come off, and then I remembered he'd been wearing a bulky-knit Irish fisherman sweater, and I'm sure it wound up in his sweater.

At one of the Wrath of Khan press conferences, some journalist in my group asked De a question about the original series, and he said, "I don't remember-- why don't we ask Ellen? She knows." And I did! So then I had sort of celebrity status among the journalists, and they'd all come up and ask me questions if they wanted some background information.

HALLIE: I love that you call DeForest De. Who knew?

ELLEN: Actually, the name DeForest was a family name-- he was related to Lee DeForest, the inventor-- but everyone called him De.

He would wax garrulous in his cups, and would tell wonderful stories. One, which I wish I'd taken down because I've forgotten the details, was about how he and George Reeves (my first crush, and De was a later one, before he became a friend), were driving together to some location shoot right after they were mustered out of the service after WWII.

That was, of course, before "superhighways," so they were wending their way through Nevada stopping at every bar to ask directions (and imbibe). Wish I could have been a fly in the inner windshield of that car!

HALLIE: I got hooked on Star Trek as a kid. Did you?

ELLEN: I came late to Star Trek, in re-runs in the mid to late 70s. (I bought my first TV-- a small black and white portable-- to take to my office the morning of August 9, 1974, to watch Nixon resign).  My secretary was a Star Trek fan, and once I had the TV, I watched it a couple of Saturday afternoons while I was cleaning the house to see why she liked it, and I got hooked.

My first piece of completed fiction was a Star Trek short story about Spock in old age, called "Indian Summer of a Vulcan" (yes, with the allusion to Galsworthy). I'd always been able to make people laugh with my writing, but with that story, I let some other fans read it at a ST convention in Columbus, and I watched a dozen people, male and female, passing the pages along and, when they got to the end, bursting into tears-- the guys were fighting it, and one turned red as he tried not to, and I thought, "I CAN do this."

Gene Roddenberry's assistant Susan Sackett was at that same convention, and I gave her the manuscript to read that night, and the next morning she brought it up to my room, saying "It was wonderful-- I cried so hard I lost your paperclip," which only another writer would understand is high praise indeed.

In fact, that short story convinced my agent to take me on (I almost got to write a Star Trek novel, but the editor who was going to buy it left, so it never got published).  So Star Trek has done a lot for me-- including seeing me through some tough times. My favorites were the original series and Voyager, but I like them all.

HALLIE: The mysteries of the missing eyelash and paperclip. Love it!

Reds, any Star Trek fans out there? Favorite series? Favorite good guys? Favorite bad guys?

Favorite series: Next Generation
Favorite good guys: Jean-Luc Picard and Data
Favorite bad guys: Q and Khan 


  1. I loved “Star Trek” when it first aired, love it still. Watched all the television shows, never missed a film . . . It's so hard to pick just one favorite, but I’m going with the original series, Kirk and Scotty, and Kor [played by John Colicos] . . . “Beam me up, Scotty.”

  2. The scout and I used to trek over to his brother's house every Friday night with a couple of six packs and sodas to watch Star Trek with his wife and five kids. It was one of the best times we spent with family.

  3. My wife and I are big Star Trek fans and still a watch a few reruns -- our favorite series being Captain Kate and Voyager. Species 8472 was it? Scary.

    I have one small inside Trek story -- Kirstie got the part over a friend of ours, Nancy Lee Andrews, an ex Ford model who lived for 10 years with Ringo. She thought she was going to get the part, and we were all in mourning for months -- Nancy said that movie would have made her career.

  4. I couldn't watch ST when it first aired unless it was school vacation. We couldn't watch tv on school nights. But it was all the talk at school so I knew about it. But my husband was a big fan so we caught all the reruns and the Next Gen series.

    I always liked Spock. My favorite villain in the original series would have to be Harcourt Fenton Mudd and and his women. In Next Gen how can Jean-Luc not be a favorite good guy? And Q for a "villain."

    And the tribbles were cool.

  5. Ellen, this is so cool. I confess I faded after the original series and the first 4 movies. Faorite movies were Wrath of Khan and the one about the whales in San Francisco. Sometimes watched the later series with Picard and Data.

    So with DeForest Kelly did you ever have the urge to say "Dammit Jim, I'm a doctor!" ;-)

    My ST story - I've always had a major crush on Patrick Stewart and when I was working at WNET he was taping the voiceover for a science series. He must have been staying somewhere near my apt because we walked to work for three days (Not that he realized...)

  6. oh, how LOVELY to find so many kindred spirits out there.

    I had forgotten Kor, Joan - first Klingon character on Star Trek. Those female Klingons were fearsome, too -- got to love a woman bites her chosen male's face. And all those wonderful "words" for Klingon foods? "Grah" has a permanent place on our table.

  7. Great story, Jack -- that role certainly goosed Kirstie Alley's career.

  8. Marianne - I remember the roguish Harry Mudd and his android wives. Also loved the tribbles.

    Ro - Patrick Stewart! And his way the anti-Kirk.

  9. I never got the Star Trek bug, but loved this post.

    I am just certain that De's wife or lover found the eyelash in his sweater (just like lipstick on a collar)!

  10. My father and I used to watch Star Trek reruns every Saturday night at 6 on WPIX.

    I've got to go with Shatner's Kirk and Montalban's Khan all-time, but I was also a big fan of Deep Space Nine: Avery Brooks as Sisko, Rene Auberjonois as Odo, Nana Visitor as Kira...I could name the whole cast. Great actors and characters all around.

    I wanted to like Enterprise, the prequel series with Scott Bakula, but I think it took a misstep trying to mirror the events of 9/11. Conscientious, perhaps, but too soon, I thought.

  11. Thanks for the reminder, Gerald -- Enterprise was such a dud for me that I'd forgotten all about it. I'd tune in for an episode an before it was over change the channel. I think you're right with your analysis. Also too macho. Too much action not ideas.

    On DS9 Kira Nerys was a favorite. Also Odo the prickly shapeshifter.

  12. Lucy, Ellen got kissed by the young hunk Merritt Buttrick! Helluva way to lose an eyelash!!

  13. It's a toss up for favorite series between Next Generation and the original Star Trek. Favorite character, Jonathan Frakes as Commander Riker. That man is yummy with a spoon. Favorite bad guy? Khan.

  14. Darlene Ryan - Riker, sigh. I named a baby in NEVER TELL A LIE Riker.

  15. Thank you for this post! I've loved all the Treks but for different reasons. The Jake and Nog friendship on Deep Space Nine charmed me, but I was most moved by Jake's dream to become a writer, as well as his father's encouragement and pride.

  16. Isn't it nice to know that even in the future, books and writers are important? Remember Samuel T. Cogley ["Court Martial"] saying, "I've got my own system. Books, young man, books. Thousands of them . . ." and then, at the end of the episode, he gives Captain Kirk a book . . . .

  17. "Many stories are possible...."
    --Guardian of Forever

    If I ever write an autobiography, a lot of it will have to involve my adventures in Trekdom. I'm glad I won't have to explain too much background, since it seems to have become a universal constant.

    My favorite parody is the one from early SNL, with Belushi playing Shatner, but I didn't get it the first time I saw it because I'd never watched the series. And I watched ST on a black and white TV for years; seeing it in color brought so much to it, including the explanation of the term "redshirt."

  18. WOW! I started out my writing career as a fanfic writer for ST:TNG. It was an incredibly fascinating experience and I met so many wonderful people because of it -- including my best friend and beta reader. We still reminisce about those wonderful times.

    But, SO jealous you got to meet these great people. Sigh. So so jealous. Today, I live my ST life vicariously through George Takei on Facebook. That guy is a hoot.

  19. Ellen, I hadn't seen the SNL parody -- Belushi does an amazing impression of Shatner... and whoever is playing Spock has the voice exactly right. Have a look:

  20. Hallie, I believe that is a very young Chevy Chase.

  21. I'm an original series guy, even tho I didn't start watching until reruns in the Seventies. Favorite villain was Khan and Wrath of Khan was my favorite movie. My next favorite wasn't really a Star Trek movie, but the send-up "Galaxy Quest." And both CSI and Castle had good send-ups of Star Trek conferences.

  22. I LOVED Galaxy Quest, too, Larry.

    I've never been to a Star Trek conference -- anyone out there has? Must be pretty trippy (voyagey?)

  23. Oakland, California . . . August, 1976 . . . the second Star Trek convention [actually billed as Space-Con 2]. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Mark Lenard, lots of NASA scientists . . . it was great fun!

  24. YIKES!!
    Wrote a whole thing that disappeared.
    I loved most of the incarnations. Didn't watch much DS9 or Enterprise. Enterprise wasn't shown much around here. I think a MAJOR problem with it was the DARKNESS...and I'm talking the lighting! You couldn't see what was going on most of the time.
    It WAS Chevy Chase playing Spock.
    And I LOVE Galaxy Quest. Such fun. And anytime one of my fave TV shows does a take off. :)

    Pen M

  25. Oh. Meant to mention Tribbles. One of the best was when NG went back in time to the original with Tribbles. :)
    So many villains, Khan, Q, Dr. Soo.

    Me again
    Pen M

  26. Pen, hadn't remembered but you're right, DS9 an Enterprise were set dark. Also somewhat humorless.

  27. "Galaxy Quest" is my go-to cure for a blue day.

    As for Star Trek conventions, I've met some of my best friends at them. I have to admit I've never worn a costume, but before VCRs, I had been known to stay up until dawn watching reruns of various episodes shown at various conventions. (And IN COLOR-- see previous post!)

    I guess I missed the CSI send-up of ST (and other fantasy and science fiction) conventions, but I loved the one on Castle.

  28. PS One of my favorite bits on Castle is the fact that Worf (out of Klingon costume) is Beckett's shrink.

  29. Um, our dog, Dax, is named after Jadzia Dax on Deep Space Nine... Does that tell you anything?

    I started with reruns of the original series in the early 70s and stayed hooked. Favorite series? Probably the first. It was so ground-breaking in so many ways, and it was also funny.

    And I loved Kirk and Spock. They were iconic. Favorite captain for sex appeal? Jean Luc, of course.

    Favorite bad guy? Ricardo Montalban was such fun chewing the scenery as Khan.

    Interesting that no one has mentioned the reboot!

  30. Not really a Star Trek fan, but I loved the documentary "Trekkies." The cast talked about fans sending them gifts and writing personal letters about how the series helped them. James Doohan spoke about one woman struggling with depression. She contacted him--why, I don't think he knew either!--but he encouraged her to go to ST conventions. He'd speak with her, and stayed in contact. He and Leonard Nimoy, in particular, came off as nice guys who were somewhat flabbergasted by the fans, but who genuinely cared about them.

    Galaxy Quest: j'adore!

  31. I loved the SNL parody — Belushi... perfect.

  32. One word: KHAAAAAAAN!

    Yep, I'm a Trek-Geek too. :-)

  33. Oh, see, I knew you were my people! And this is just what I needed right after just learning that AC Crispin, who wrote key ST novels and is one of the founders of Writer Beware, that wonderful free service to protect writers from scammy pubs/agents/eds, is entering her final days.

    The original series is my fave, and of course, Spock my favorite hero with Khan for the villain. And for movie--Galaxy Quest, which out-treks Trek.

  34. Well I met Ellen due to ST cons way back in the dark ages of ST cons in the late 70's and early 80's - and we reconnected via Facebook, of all things. Great interview with a great friend!

    I love all Trek except for possibly the animated series. Never could get behind those. Favorite baddie - Khan, without a doubt.

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  36. An aside... a friend of mine was close friends with Ricardo Montalban's daughters. He sounded like the nicest guy you can imagine, a terrific dad, and obviously a sensational actor.

  37. Ellen--this is the coolest! SOrry to be so late (day job)but what a treat to read this inside stuff!

    I know I would like Star Trek, the original, but I think I was doing something else. Wonder what that was. If I start now, would it be valuable?

  38. Hank, the Original Series was groundbreaking, but it might move a little slowly by today's standards. Still, worth it to see the origin of terms that have made their way into our language: "warp speed," "redshirts," "beam me up." It is indelibly entwined with out culture.

    From the later series, there are other references: "make it so," "resistance is futile." There is a lot of humanity in all of the series. Some are better than others, but I think not to have seen at least some Star Trek is to be culturally deprived.

  39. Anything having to do with Star Trek is pure joy for me . . .
    I have been to every opening night of every movie but one, and that’s only because I was living in India at the time. Otherwise, a pack of buddies and I would go—sometimes there were as many as 18 of us—and then we’d all go out afterward to have a bite and rehash. I always (still!) go to opening nights in my Next Gen engineering outfit, and take a few potshots at folks on the queue with my phaser. My favorite is the original series (TOS), with Next Gen second.

    My most wonderful ST moment was when I attended the huge 30th-anniversary convention of TOS in L.A. many years ago. I think it was the last one when all the principals were still alive and kicking; they were sitting on stools across the stage, telling stories, jokes. At one point, there was a thunderous standing ovation, and you could just FEEL the waves of love and appreciation pouring toward that stage, bathing those guys in love . . . I thought to myself, “No wonder they’re all still alive!”

    And then I got to stand up and express my personal appreciation for all the years of delight that I experienced.” Unforgettable.

    I also got to see a sheepish Gene Roddenberry when I was working at M.I.T. around the time of the first movie, “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.” By all accounts, the weakest of all the movies, and he was somewhat apologetic for that. But then he came back, guns blazing, with ST II, as we all know.

    I still watch reruns. My favorite bad-guy-turned-good-guy (in a sense) was Mark Lenard, who is the only performer in the series to ever hve portrayed a Romulan, a Vulcan, and a Klingon. He is best known for his role of Sarek, Spock’s father. What an elegant man. He also appeared on a Next Gen episode, reprising his role as Sarek. I was sad when he passed on.

  40. And for LadyGrace7, a small share: I got to have dinner with Mark Lenard and Susan Sackett at the end of a day of interviews during the press meetings for Search For Spock. He was a charming and very intelligent man.

  41. Thanks, LadyGrace7.

    LOVING these reminiscences... thunderous applause from this corner.

  42. "He would wax garrulous when in his cups..."

    That's the kind of writing we just don't get enough of.

  43. Ellen, you lucky girl . . . I read your "small share" and went "Awwww!"

    A great many books about TOS have come down the pike over the years, and I'm sure you've seen your share, but I can only say, hie thee hence to wherever you can find this one. It's an odd format, and all the more charming for it: 6 1/2 x 9 1/2 (wide) hardcover, titled "Star Trek 365: The Original Series" by Paula M. Block with Terry J. Erdman (with an intro by the redoubtable D. C. Fontana). 365 pages of the most entertaining tidbits, fabulous photos, drawings, and more that I've never seen before (and which I bet even most Trekkies haven't either), and the text goes way beyond a mere description of every episode.

    For you, Ellen, there's a shot of De with latex face sags and a gray wig for playing an old man on the episode "The Deadly Years". . . priceless! And a photo of him in what seems to be his living room (with a blue rotary-dial phone!), looking as adorable as can be. You probably knew that he had a poet's heart and wrote a long poem titled "The Big Bird's Dream" about the creation of ST by Roddenberry. There's a reproduction of the cover, in flawless calligraphy by his wife, Carolyn, on the opposite page. De was working on a sequel to be title "The Dream Goes On" when he left this planet in 1999.

    I could go on and on, but I don't want to hog the space!

    But I can't resist . . . Anyone know how screenwriter Gene Coon ("the other Gene") came up with the name "Klingon" for the first episode in which they appeared? (This may be the first trivia question on this string.)

  44. Bones was my favourite when I first watched TOS as a teenager and has remained my favourite ever since. There was something just so humane about him. It was irritating when he was reduced to just a cameo in certain episodes. De was a wonderful actor with the most expressive eyes and the way he modulated his voice was incredible. It was when he died that i realised that ST would now become a memory.