Fandom Grandma: From my chat with a journalist

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Fandom Grandma: From my chat with a journalist
Interviewee: Fandom Grandma (Dee)
Date(s): January 24, 2018
External Links: on spockslash: part one; part two; on earlytrekfandom: part three
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Fandom Grandma: From my chat with a journalist was conducted January 24, 2018 and posted February 3, 2018, about three weeks before Dee, known as "Fandom Grandma," passed away from cancer. She was 77 years old.

Some Topics Discussed

  • being a female fan in the late 1960s
  • seeing Star Trek in color for the first time
  • meeting some of the actors
  • what it meant to see women treated with professional respect on the screen

The Interview

[What is your very first memory of Star Trek? Was it love at first sight, or did it take you some time to get “into” it?]

I started out in science fiction, before Star Trek was ever on the air. And in 1966, I was living in Oregon and was part of a women’s writing group, a women’s science fiction group. We were all writing, wanting to write. Some of the members of our group had written professionally, and some were trying to get scripts into Hollywood and so on, but we were all focused on writing. Science fiction in the 1960s was not considered the purview of women.

When Star Trek came out, I imagine [my science fiction club] was how I first heard about it, because I didn’t watch a lot of TV. I had this little black-and-white, eight-inch screen with the bunny ears.

I don’t know why the first episode that aired [The Man Trap] is so disliked, because my memory of it was of just being fascinated. Science fiction … on TV was considered for children. And this was not for children. These were well-developed characters, real plots that you could get into, you could imagine their plight, Bones had a love interest. And there was this Vulcan, who was just a member of this rest of the crew. It was startling, and I was absolutely riveted from that very first day. I had my science fiction club where we would go and talk about it.

[Did your sci-fi group watch?]

We all watched it; we were all excited that something was coming out on TV. Everyone was married, had kids, it was hard to get away to meet, so we would get on the phone and one person would call another and they would call another and this phone chain would go around talking about the episode. I wouldn’t say it totally evolved into a Star Trek fanclub, but pretty close, and we were all fascinated by The Vulcan, by the fact that there was this character that was an alien but serving with a human crew. It almost turned into a Vulcan appreciation sci-fi group, and speculating about what would an alien species be like, working with humans, is what caught our attention.

And by the second year, one member got a color TV and — oh it was a very big deal. In the beginning, we didn’t know that the crew had different colored shirts, or that shirts were related to what job they had on the ship. I remember an early story I wrote where all their shirts were green.

So she had a color TV and we started all watching at her house. And there were a lot of machinations that had to happen because everyone had families, everyone had kids. So one week we’d start planning for the next week. Who’s going take care of the kids, we need a babysitter. We need to collect money to pay the babysitter, and what are we going to do with our husbands? And we didn’t have access to our own money. We couldn’t get money out of our bank accounts without our husbands’ permission, so I remember looking under cushions to get change so that we could send our husbands out to go bowling or something so we could watch and not be disturbed.

It was so exciting. And to see the episodes where Kirk says “She’s a crewman” and where Uhura is working in “Who Mourns for Adonis?” under her communications panel and the way Spock talks to her [“I can think no one better equipped to handle it, Miss Uhura.”]. I can’t tell you. We were just electrified, because that was not the world we were living in, and that was the world we wanted to live in.

[How did your science fiction club evolve to the point that you were actually meeting the cast and crew?]

Well, I wrote the club newsletter. I didn’t know any better, so from the operator I just got the number of Desilu Studios, called up and said: ‘We’re X science fiction club, and we’re wondering if we can speak to one of the writers for an article about Star Trek.’

And, gosh, a few days later I get a call back: ‘Please hold for Mister Roddenberry.’ So I grabbed a pen and sat and we chatted for, I don’t know, 15-20 minutes. And he was so excited that we were so excited. That’s what I remember about that conversation. It’s like a fanfiction writer now. You create these OCs, and then somebody else sees what you’re trying to do, shares your excitement, and of course you’re going to want to sit and talk to them about your creation!

We were interrupting each other and talking a mile a minute, and that’s my first memory of Gene. I’m pretty sure in that conversation — if it wasn’t that one, it was one very soon after — he said to me: ‘Oh my god, come down to the studio, you can come down to the set. Write about what we’re doing here.’ Because he just wanted people to be excited about Star Trek. He wanted people to know about it. He wanted us to write about it. So it was all very accessible in those earliest days.

[Tell me about your experiences meeting Nimoy, Roddenberry and the rest of the cast.]

Leonard Nimoy was the only cast member I met when the show was still in its original run. When he was in Oregon in 1967, he came to the home of the president of my sci-fi club and chatted with us for about 45 minutes.

Gene had invited me to visit the set in 1966, but I didn’t go. If I had known that 50 years later Star Trek would still be around and I’d still be a fan, I might have tried harder to get there!

In 1970, my husband got a job that took us to Pasadena, which was lucky timing for me. The show was beginning its run in syndication and growing more popular, Trek fandom was beginning to consolidate through the first conventions, the founding of the Welcommittee, the proliferation of print zines, and the push to get the show back on the air. I fell in with a group of fans who were incredibly busy with all of those things, and there was such a buzz of energy and creativity when we met, because everything was new and untried and exciting. Fans were basically inventing fandom as know it today, and for almost 4 years I was in one of two spots (the other was NYC) where most of the action was happening.

Meanwhile, all the cast except Leonard were pretty much out-of-work actors — they were not movie stars back then — and living next to LA meant it was very easy to get to see them. They did not charge anything to come to fan events in those early years. Jimmy Doohan once came to my house when a bunch of us were meeting for the campaign to get the show back on the air, basically because we offered him home-made lasagna!