She opened for jazz great Billie Holiday, shared the set with Marilyn Monroe, and flirted on-screen with Jack Lemmon. In her dream role, Gene Roddenberry beamed her aboard the Starship Enterprise as Yeoman Janice Rand in the original "Star Trek" series. But a terrifying sexual assault on the studio lot and her lifelong feelings of emptiness and isolation would soon combine to turn her starry dream into a nightmare.
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Read an Excerpt
"Grace, are You Sitting Down?"
Star Trek was my world, my Higher Power. I gave up my marriage for Star Trek. I had grown up not knowing who I was, who my birth parents were, or where I came from. But when I stepped aboard the Starship Enterprise, I truly felt I was home.
Over the years, I had played a hundred roles in different films and TV series. I was a working actress. I would play my part for a few days' filming on "The Untouchables" or "Bewitched" or "The Outer Limits," working with some of the biggest stars and best directors in Hollywoodbut when those few days were over, it was on to the next part, the next show, the next studio.
Finally, in the summer of 1966, on Stage 9 at Desilu Studios, I was home. I belonged. In Yeoman Janice Rand, I had a character of my own to explore and develop, week after week. I was part of something wonderful and exciting, something called Star Trek.
I had no idea how soon it would all be ripped away from me.
* * *
Friday, August 26, 1966.
We were just a little over halfway through shooting the episode entitled "Miri." To this dayin spite of what happened to me that Friday nightthis episode remains one of my favorite Treks. It's a sentimental favorite for me because my sons appear among the children in the episode, as well as Bill Shatner's daughters Lizabeth and Melanie.
In the story, Captain Kirk (William Shatner), Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelly), and my character, Yeoman Janice Rand, are transported down to an Earthlike planet where the entire adult population has been destroyed by a manmade virus. Only children are left alivebut the virus has slowed the aging process in the children. These children are, in fact, hundreds of years oldbut once they reach puberty, they suddenly develop horrible symptoms of the virus: skin splotches, rapid aging, homicidal madness and death. Once we are beamed down to the planet, Kirk, Spock, McCoy and I became infected too. We can't return to the ship without infecting everyone aboard. Trapped on the planet, racing against time, we have to find a cure before we, too, go mad and die.
One of the weekly traditions during the filming of the original Star Trek series was the Friday night wrap party. Actually, these parties were more like "TGIF" parties than wrap parties, because they were held on the set in Stage 9 at the end of shooting every Friday, whether we had wrapped an episode or not. The cast, crew, studio execs and occasionally a network exec or two would gather to have a few drinks, laugh, tell stories and generally shed the pressures of the week.
At around 7 p.m., the production came to a halt and the big hanger doors were opened, flooding the sound stage with the fading summer sunlight. Any cast members still in costume headed for the dressing rooms to change. A wet bar was wheeled out near the dressing rooms, laden with bottles of liquor, a big bowl of ice cubes, salted nuts, chips, veggies, dip and shrimp on ice, all catered by the studio commissary.
The party was in full swing when I stepped out and made my way to the ladies room. A few minutes later, as I was walking back toward the party, I heard a male voice call, "Grace Lee! Wait up!"
I turned. It was The Executive. He was smiling and his face was a little flushed. He'd had a few drinks, just as I had.
I returned his smile. "You want to walk me back to the party?" I asked.
He waved his hand dismissively, "The party's breaking up. I wanted to talk to you. I have some ideas for changes we could make in the showchanges that would affect you. I'd like to get your thoughts on those ideas before the next production meeting."
"Oh?" I was intrigued. "What kind of changes?"
"I think Yeoman Janice Rand has been under-utilized. The character has been developing some interesting possibilities in the past few episodes. I have some ideasWhy don't we find a place to sit down and talk about it?"
"Well ..." I hesitated for the briefest moment, a thrill of excitement at the thought that The Executive wanted to talk to me about my character. I was always looking for ways to advance my career, to enlarge my part and get more lines. He had reached the very thing that made me tick: my ambition. "Where would you like to talk?" I asked.
"How about the E building? We can find an empty office over there."
I'd had a few drinks. My inhibitions were down and my judgment was impaired. "Fine," I said. "Let's go."
The sun was down, but it was still light outside as we walked out of the hangerlike sound stage. We crossed the driveway from the Gower Avenue entrance of Desilu Studios, and entered the office building. I don't remember exactly what we said as we walkedsmall talk, I think, about the show. We had nearly finished shooting the first dozen episodes of Star Trek, and the premiere broadcast was less than two weeks away. The excitement among the cast, creators and crew of the show was growing as our first airdate neared. We believed we had a hit on our hands, and the suspense of waiting for the audience response was excitingand a little nerve-wracking.
The building was unlocked and we walked right in. The Executive put his arm on mine as we made our way down the darkened corridor. There were lights on in some of the offices, but the building was quiet, empty and mostly dark. There was no one in the building but The Executive, me, and possibly a janitor somewhere. The Executive opened a door, flipped on a light, and ushered me in. He indicated a chair for me. I was alone with him, but I didn't care. We were one big happy family on Star Trek, and I trusted him.
There was a stereo in the room. I settled into the chair he offered me, and he put on some soft music. The office had a private wet bar. He went and poured a couple of drinks, not bothering to ask if I wanted one. He knew I did. He handed me a glass, then sat down behind the desk.
We talked. And we laughed. And we drank.
He told me about upcoming scripts, and suggested story angles that could bring out a stronger relationship between Yeoman Rand and Captain Kirk. He put himself in Kirk's place, saying, "Now I'm the Captain and you're the Yeoman. What would Rand say to Kirk in this situation? Put yourself into the role. Pour your heart out to me." And we did some very sexy role-playingpurely across the desk, about 10 feet apart. In my mind, we were simply improvising with the characters to explore the Kirk-Rand relationship for story possibilities. In his mind, I later realized, it was all part of a carefully laid strategy.
"You know," he said after we'd been talking a while, "the thing that is so fascinating about Janice Rand is her repressed desireher hunger for sex."
"Not sex," I said. "Love. She loves the Captain."
"Same thing," said The Executive. "She wants the Captain so badly, but she represses it. She doesn't admit itnot even to herself. We all know what she really wantsbut she herself doesn't know She denies it. Janice Rand can't face her own desires, her own sexuality."
"Absolutely," I agreed. "That's the key to the character."
"And you're just like Janice Rand."
"I'm What? What did you say?" I was vaguely aware that our discussion had just turned a sharp corner. But the buzz in my brain prevented me from grasping where The Executive was steering the conversation.
"You're hungry inside," he said, "just like Janice Rand. Hungry, needy, full of desire. But you repress it. You bottle it up. That's not healthy, Grace."
There were no alarms going off, no warning bells. I just laughed, settled back, and smugly replied, "I'm not bottling up anything. If there is anyone who is completely uninhibited, it's me."
"Oh?" he said lightly. "Well, good, then. Let's see how uninhibited you are. Undress for me."
"What?!" I burst out laughing. "You're kidding!"
The Executive rose and came around the desk, towering over me. "I'm not kidding, Grace. We both know what we wantif we're willing to be honest with each other. I'm being honest with you right now. I want you. I want to see you as you are, underneath ... all of that." With a gesture, he indicated my clothes, from my neck to my feet. "I want you to undress for me," he repeated.
Then he unbuckled his belt and unbuttoned his shirt. Suddenly, I knew he was completely serious. This man had a lot of power over my future, and he expected me to come across. If I didn'tAt that moment, I had a sinking feeling of horror, a sense of impending doom. I needed to get out of this situation somehowbut how? My head was too muzzy to think clearly. I glanced over my shoulder, toward the door, then started to get out of the chair. "I can't undress for you," I said. "Don't ask me to do that."
"Why can't you?" He took a few steps closer, positioning himself between me and the office door. His voice was smooth, he was smiling, his manner was still charmingbut there was an unmistakable air of threat in the way he blocked my path to the door. "It's not as if you're married anymore," he said.
"I'm not divorced yet, only separated. I can't"
"What's the big deal? You just said you're 'completely uninhibited.' So prove it."
"I won't do that," I said. "I'm with someone else now, and I'm true to him. I wouldn't cheat on him."
When I said this, he suddenly became enraged. It was a Jekyll-to-Hyde transformationand it scared me to death. "You'd sleep with someone else," he bellowed, "but not with me? Is that what you're telling me? Do you have any idea what you're saying to me?"
Frightened, I desperately groped for some word to bring him down from his rage. I mentioned the name of the woman he was involved with. "You love her, don't you?" I asked. "And she loves you. We can't do this behind her back!"
"She doesn't care," he shrugged defensively, guiltily, unconvincingly. "She knows I'm with other women. She understands." He was still moving toward me as I tried to back away from him. I only succeeded in backing myself into an adjoining rooma meeting room with a sofa, a few chairs, and a table. The only way out of it was the doorway I had just come throughand The Executive blocked my path. He followed me into the meeting room, closed the door, and locked it with a key.
He continued undressing himself. "Now," he said, "you're not going anywhere. So take off your clothes."
I shook my head. "No," I insisted. "I won't do that."
We argued about it for what seemed a long timemaybe 20 minutes or more. The whole time, he stood there in front of me, exposed, saying he wanted to examine me as if he was a doctor. He made it clear that I wasn't going anywhere until he got what he wanted. He had the power to destroy my career and we both knew it.
I had been chased around the office by producers, directors and executives before. I had been chased by some of the biggest names in Hollywoodbut no one ever caught me if I didn't want to be caught. I wanted parts, I wanted to work, and I figured if I could turn these guys on, I could advance my career. It was always a delicate balancing actbeing a turn-on and a tease without getting cornered and having to put out.
This was different. This time I was trapped in a locked room, alone with this man in a building where I could yell all I wantedand no one would hear me. I don't remember if he undressed me or if I undressed myself. Either way, I had no choice in the matter.
I had known this man for a couple years, and had never known him to be violent. A womanizer, yes, but not a monster. This night was different. This night, he was drunk. We both were. Not so drunk that we didn't know what was happening, not so drunk that we wouldn't remember it all later. But he was clearly drunk enough that his personality was altered from that of The Executive I had known all these months. He was angry with meand, I think, angry with himself. His carefully plotted "seduction" wasn't going the way he had planned, and he was growing impatient and frustrated.
He made me get up on the table in the meeting room and dance for him. He told me to tease him and flirt with him. He yelled at me and threw things at me. He sat down on the sofa, watching mebut he didn't seem to be enjoying it. He just got angrier and angrierand that made me all the more scared. I didn't know what he might do to me. I never would have imagined he was capable of such a thing, even drunk. How could I know what else he might be capable of?
I tried to do what he wanted me to, so I could get it over with. I knew, deep down inside, that I was finished on Star Trek. At that moment, however, I didn't care about that. Nothing else matterednot my tarnished virtue, not my career, not my role on Star Trek. The only thing that mattered was getting out of that room alive.
But he wouldn't let me get down off the table. He wasn't getting arousedand that made him even more menacing. "Come on!" he demanded. "You're supposed to be the sexpot! Make me want you! Come on!" I didn't know why he couldn't get arousedI tried. I really tried. Was it that he'd had too much to drink? Or that I had argued too long with him, and he was just too angry to get aroused? Or that he'd had too many women and he just couldn't get it up anymore? Or
Or was it me? Was there something wrong with me? After getting up on that table and dancing for him, was I just ... disappointing to him?
"Please," I begged. "Let me down. Let me out of here. Please."
He groaned in disgust. "All right!" he said fiercely. "Get down!"
I got down off the table.
"But," he added, leaning back on the sofa, "we're not done yet. When we're done, you can go. Now ... come here."
He wanted me to go down on him. I pleaded. I protested. But in the end, I did what he told me to do.
* * *
It was very dark as I got into my car. It was probably a couple hours or so since I had left Stage 9 with The Executive and walked with him to the office. The whole time I spent with him had seemed like an eternity. Once it was over, I must have been in shock, because I have very little recollection of how I got my clothes and shoes back on, or how I made my way out of the office building.
I started my car and drove off the Desilu lotbut I didn't go home. I was too upset, and I needed to talk to someone.
Among the cast of Star Trek, my best friend was Leonard Nimoy. Unlike the cold, logical Vulcan he played on the show, Leonard is a very warm and empathetic listener and a good friend. I had talked to him from time to time about problems I was going through during the summer of 1966, such as the breakup of my marriage and the struggle to be a good single mother to my two boys. He had also been my acting coach during the first weeks of shooting Star Trek, helping me to get in touch with Janice Rand, so that I could play her more believably. Shaken and scared, the first person I thought to confide in was Leonard.
When he answered his door, Leonard found a disheveled, terrified, incoherent mess on the doorstep. It was at least ten o'clock at night, maybe later, and I'm sure I was the last thing he expected to see on his porch at that time of night. "Grace!" he said, looking stunned. "What happened? I mean, come in, come in! What's wrong?"
I went in and sat down in his living room and poured out the whole story to him. Poor Leonard! I'm sure that large parts of my story made no sense to him at allbut he sat there and listened while I dumped all my pain and fear in a big, jumbled pile on the floor. I don't remember cryingI think I was still too much in shock to cry. I just sat there, feeling numb inside, while the story spilled out of me. Leonard was very kind, a wonderful listenerbut he was also completely dumbfounded by what I told him. He didn't know what to say. How could anyone know what to say in such a situation?
"Grace, if I'd only known," he said helplessly. "I had no idea that you were I mean, I didn't see you leave, and when I noticed you were gone, I just thought you had left the party early."
"How could you have known?" I responded. "I didn't know myself what was happening until it was too late. I just want to put this behind me somehow. Lock it away and forget about it. The thing is, Leonard, I don't even know exactly what happened to me. I know I was violatedbut was I raped? I don't think you can call it rape. In fact, it would have been easier on me if he had raped me. Because then it would have been over within a few minutes. Instead, he was furious with me. And it never seemed to end, and it just got scarier and scarierI thought he was going to kill me!"
Nowadays, of course, it's commonly understood that when a man forces a woman into an act of oral sex, it's a crime, a sexual assault. Back then, however, I really didn't know what to call this traumatic violation I had just been through. I blamed The Executive for what he did to mebut I also blamed myself. I felt stupid for allowing myself to get lured into such a situation: "Come over to my office, sweetheart, and let's talk about your careerI've got big plans for you, little lady!" My gosh, it was the oldest trick in the book, and I fell for it.
I'm not sure how long I stayed and talked to Leonardprobably a couple hours. But by the time he had listened to my whole story, it was after midnight and I had calmed down a lot. He was very worried about me and offered to drive me home or follow me in his car, but I told him I'd be all right.
So I went home to Sherman Oaks. The house was dark and quiet when I arrived. The housekeeper and my two little boys were in bed. I checked on the boys, then went to the kitchen and poured myself a drink, maybe two. Then I went to bed.
I had a lot more to drink that weekend.
* * *
Monday morning, August 29, 1966.
I went back to the studio. We had two more days of "Miri" to shoot, and I was sick to my stomach with fear and worry as I drove onto the Desilu lot and parked my car in my accustomed space. What would I do when he came in? What would I say to him? How would I react?
And what would he say to me?
My nausea increased as I entered Stage 9 and went to the makeup room. There were two reclining barber chairs in the room. Leonard Nimoy was in one of them as makeup supervisor Fred Phillips worked on him. His pointed Vulcan ears had already been fitted and his high Vulcan eyebrows applied. Fred was touching up Leonard's yellow pallor. I sat down in the chair next to Leonard, so that hairdresser Virginia Darcy could attach Yeoman Janice Rand's trademark beehive wig to my head.
As Virginia worked on my hair, Fred Phillips looked over at me and seemed to groan a silent "Oh, no!" He saw he had quite a reconstruction job to do on me as soon as he was through with Leonard. My face was swollen and distorted from a weekend of too much crying and too much drinking. I know I looked sick, not only from anxiety but from being hung over.
Virginia had just finished my hair and Fred had not yet started on my face when the door to the makeup room opened. I looked out of the corner of my eyeand my heart jumped in my throat and stuck there. It was himThe Executive. If Fred or Virginia noticed the burning flush rise to my cheeks, they didn't say anything.
The Executive came over to me, took something from the pocket of his coat, and held it out to me, cradling it in both hands. "This is something I made for you," he said, "and I'd like you to have it." I looked at it. It was a polished gray stone, like you might find in a river bed, but smooth and shiny as glass. It was not largeyou could place it in your palm and close your fingers around it.
I put my hand out and he placed the stone in it. I looked up at him and eyed him very closely, checking him out. He seemed harmlessbut something felt very wrong. The most awful feeling swept over me, a replay of a feeling I had experienced in the office that night: a sense of impending doom. A little hoarsely, I whispered, "Thank you," but there was no gratitude in my voice.
The Executive smiled a nervous little smilethen walked out of the room.
I turned and looked at Leonard's profile. He was still lying flat in the makeup chair, looking straight at the ceiling, keeping his face still as Fred finished applying his makeup. I waited until Fred was done, then I said to Leonard, "You heard?"
"I heard," he said. "What did he give you?"
I got up and held out the stone for Leonard to see.
He laughedan ironic, humorless laugh. "The son of a bitch!" he said. "It should have been a diamond."
I went through the rest of that day with a sinking feeling that I had shot myself in the footno, in both feet. Getting ahead in Hollyweird is often a matter of knowing who holds the power, then finding a way to get close to that power, and even in bed with that power. I had refused to get in bed with the power. It might have been a morally defensible choicebut it was tactically stupid, in terms of my career. Inwardly, I kicked myself for not playing along, because in the end I was just as violated and exploited by this man as if I hadyet I had no career advancement to show for it. Bad move, Whitney, I thought. You've done it to yourself again.
The Executive's gift didn't make me feel better. It felt like the thud of the first shoe dropping. Deep inside, I knew there had to be another shoe coming.
On one level, perhaps, the stone was an apology an attempt to make amends for the violationbut it was never accompanied by the words, "I'm sorry, please forgive me." In fact, the incident was never mentioned between The Executive and me again.
The shock waves of that incident, however, were far from over. I didn't realize it then, but those shock waves would continue reverberating in my life for a long time to come.
In fact, the worst shock of all was just a few days away.
* * *
The next day, Tuesday the 30th of August, we wrapped the final day of shooting on "Miri." Then began a two-week hiatus for Labor Day before we were to begin shooting the next episode, "The Conscience of the King."
Just a couple days into that hiatusI think it may have been Thursday, September 1I was in the kitchen of my Sherman Oaks home. I was alone, fixing lunch for my two boys (they were playing outside or in some other part of the house). The phone rang. It was Alex Brewis, my agent. "Grace," he said, "are you sitting down?"
He said, "You'd better sit down."
So I did.
"Grace," he continued, "you've been written out of the show."
I heard him plainly, but the words refused to make sense to me. I couldn't think of anything to say in response.
"Grace, do you understand what I just said?"
"I don't know," I said. "What does that mean'written out'?"
"It means," Alex explained slowly and deliberately, almost as if he was talking to a child, "that they've taken the character of Janice Rand out of the show. They're not going to replace you. Your character will no longer appear in the show. You've been written out."
"Well," Alex explained, "I'm told it's a creative decision. The producers feel the romantic relationship between Kirk and Rand is becoming too obvious, and it limits the story possibilities. Apparently, they think Captain Kirk needs to be free to have affairs with other women on all these different planets. If the relationship between Kirk and Rand is too intense, it looks like he's two-timing Janice Rand. The viewers will get mad at Kirk and tune out. At least, that's what they tell me."
Excerpted from The Longest Trek by Grace Lee Whitney With Jim Denney. Copyright © 1998 by Grace Lee Whitney. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Table of Contents
|"Grace, are You Sitting Down?"||1|
|"Who am I?"||17|
|Space, the Final Frontier||72|
|These are the Voyages||89|
|My Cookies and Milk Days||108|
|A Woman in Free-Fall||117|
|Sobriety is not for Wimps||139|
|The Great Bird of the Galaxy||169|
|The Journey Continues||183|
|About the Authors||198|
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Personal, moving, and powerful....If you think this is simply another book of Star Trek anecdotes and inside jokes, take a deep breath and plunge in. This is a Star Trek book which will transform people's lives.
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