In the Summer of 1978, I carefully selected the right outfit to wear to visit the set of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. I was going to see William Shatner. And I felt that – if I looked just right – he might see me, too. And that he might fall in love with me, even though I was only thirteen-years-old. As we drove from Fresno south on I-5 over the Grapevine, the radio played “Hot Child in the City”.
The best friend family of our family – even before this favor – set it up. Later we would learn how rare the trip was, Reportedly, only 13 people were identified officially as having visited the set. We represented 6 of them. And the plot of the film was a guarded secret. So we were very careful – for the next decade – to hide the copy of the working script we were given at the very back of the bottom drawer in the desk where we did our homework.
The receptionist at the office at Paramount was either Connie Sellecca – who would later marry John Tesh – or Veronica Hamel – who would play a D.A. on Hill Street Blues in the future. They look so much alike that I can’t remember which one it was. All I remember is that she didn’t smile.
We were escorted past the makeup area and left Spock’s ears untouched where they lay. My little sister bumped into Leonard Nimoy dressed in a pink shirt, but she didn’t know it was him without his Vulcan makeup. A skinny Scotty walked past us, and I was surprised to see his gray hair. Finally we came to Engineering, where Stephen Collins’ Captain Decker would brief Admiral Kirk on the status of the Enterprise. Kirk would descend one level in a translucent elevator, step out, listen to his ambitious but unseasoned subordinate, then say: “Let’s talk.”
And then William Shatner would look across the set and see me, in my perfect outfit and finally grown up enough to wear a real bra…
It happened almost exactly like that. Kirk…I mean Shatner…did see me. And then he went back to work, which I really respect.
The plot of the film integrated a fictional deep space probe Voyager-6, based on the Voyager-1 which had recently been launched in 1977. News coverage surrounding the venture included my first recollection of a public dialogue regarding “What if…?” an alien civilization discovers our calling card, but they aren’t benevolent. The idea of a dark future is common in science fiction, but I tended towards the Star Trek optimism.
Voyager-1 has now left our solar system, the first manmade object to enter interstellar space. I only learned that Voyager-6 was fictional while researching for this blog.
I could have just asked my brother-in-law, Mark “Buzz” Lanning. He is an aerospace engineer who was just inaugurated into the International Space Hall of Fame on the 17th day of August in the Year of Our Lord 2013 for his work on some rocket thingy. Team DC-X/XA, I think…
Thankfully, I wasn’t at any launch parties recently where I could have embarrassed him. The last one I went to was eons ago. It was for Cassini, and the Farmer sisters were asked to help get the party started when none of the rocket scientists were dancing. The roof of the plush hotel near Cape Canaveral in Cocoa Beach looked more like a 7th Grade sockhop – with boys on one side and girls on the other – instead of a celebration of a successful collaboration of 13 countries. The Sisters reached across the divide with diplomacy worthy of a Federation-brokered summit and moves worthy of Orion Slave Girls. After da roof was on fire and everyone was jumpin’, we left and walked down the beach for all-you-can-eat crab. Our work there had been done…
As Voyager looked back at our solar system and took a picture before continuing its 40,000 year trip to a neighboring star, our beautiful Earth can be seen as a lonely blue dot. On that beloved blue dot, some things have changed. Around perhaps my 40th birthday, Mom and Dad finally changed their wills, no longer requiring our Star Trek connection family to be our legal guardians in the event of our parents’ premature death. Maybe it was because any death of either of my parents at this point wouldn’t be premature, but the stated reason is that no one wanted my sisters to be required to leave their husbands.
And William Shatner is working on his seventh career, currently touring music venues in Southern California. I have tickets to see him in the next few weeks, and I’ve asked to be hooked up not near the stage like a convention Trekkie but in a particular VIP loft near where his Green Room will be. Maybe he will see me again. And if I do Big Hair, he might recognize me and sigh at a lost opportunity. I know that he is married now, and I told my sisters that I wish I had met him again after my marriage broke up and somewhere between one of his few.
Now, I suppose that I am too old for him. But in my heart, I am still “Hot Child in the City”.
NEXT TIME: No clue, but hopefully not Syria…
Picture of the recent launch of the moon probe as it left Virginia and streaked across the sky of NYC, from Buzz who humbly made sure to mention that this was NOT one of his projects.