Scotch with James, jumpsuits with Nichelle and shirtless time with Walter

“Jimmy Doohan exuded energy just walking around. People were crazy about him; he was like a magnet, he was so personable.” — Michael Zarrillo

The stars of Star Trek were an interesting bunch. 

James Doohan

Actor James Doohan signs an autograph, sitting at a table.
Photo by Conrad Felber

“The first time I ever had Scotch was with Jimmy,” said Michael Zarrillo. “This was in ’76 (at a different convention). We went to the airport and picked him up and took him to his room and made sure everything was okay. He said, ‘Come on in’ and grabbed some ice and opened the first bottle of Scotch. He poured two glasses and we sat and talked. That was also the first time I found out about his injury at the Normandy invasion.”

George Hollo had a similar experience, minus the booze. “I had never seen Jimmy Doohan’s missing finger before, but I had heard rumours. So it was really interesting talking to him about that. He showed it to me and it was no big deal.”

Carolyn Clink made a different connection with the actor. “When I said my name is Carolyn, he smiled and said, ‘That’s my wife’s name!’” and he signed her program “Love Carolyn!” 

A page from the Toronto Star Trek '76 program owned by Carolyn Clink, signed in marker by James Doohan, Grace Lee Whitney and a third person I cannot make out.
Image supplied by Carolyn Clink

Nichelle Nichols

Raymond Alexander, striking a pose in an off-white jumpsuit
Raymond Alexander at Alpha Draconis, 1976. Photo from Charlie McKee.

Hartery remembers Nichols being “a little bossy” and a little demanding about snacks, expecting a cheese plate “with grapes and melons and all that, and with a very specific cheese.” But she was also friendly and popular with the fans, according to Michael Wallis. “One night around 2:00 in the morning people were having a filk sing and Nichelle came by and listened for a while and said, ‘You people are fabulous, you should be performers and do this for money.’ She was enraptured and she really enjoyed just hanging out with everyone.” (What is filk singing?)

And then there was the jumpsuit story. The three co-owners of Bakka, Charlie McKee, Tommy Robe and Raymond Alexander, had acquired and customized these jumpsuits that somehow made sense in the ’70s. I spent some time researching this fashion trend and the outfits were either McCall’s 4830s or something very similar.

A page from an old catalog, advertising a McCalls' 4830 pattern for a jumpsuit that looks very much like the ones worn by the Bakka crew.

Ballantine Books was hosting a party on the tenth floor of the Royal York on the Friday night of Toronto Star Trek. The guys were wearing their special outfits and Nichols decided she really liked this fashion statement, said Amy Mark. “There was something sexy about the jumpsuits. She wanted to try one on and Tommy’s was the closest to fitting her. It was like ‘Get in the closet and take off your jumpsuit.’”

Watching that scene from across the room, McKee tells the same story. “At the party, plowed out of my mind on Harvey Wallbangers (because the Royal York made really good Harvey Wallbangers), my biggest memory is Nichelle Nichols badgering Tommy with ‘I want your suit’ and then dragging him off to a bedroom or a closet and then they came back in and Tommy was wearing I don’t know what and Nichelle was wearing his jumpsuit.” 

Walter Koenig

Wallis had to rescue Koenig from a group of fans.

I saw a big crowd of people along a wall and I thought to myself ‘Something is going on.’ It was Walter Koenig with a whole bunch of fans. He was signing as fast as he could but the people were crowding in around him so I tapped him on the shoulder and said ‘Mr. Koenig, would you like me to get these people into a more organized line?’ and he looked up at me with sort of terror in his eyes and said ‘No, get me out of here.’ So I told everyone he had to leave, and I reached behind me and grabbed his belt buckle and we walked sideways about 25-feet towards the elevator. When we got to the elevator a door opened and I stepped back with Walter into it, and we went up to the green room and he told me ‘Thank you, I hate crowds. There were so many people.’

But he did enjoy being popular with women. “The flattery for him was that every woman who met him had to have him,” Hartery told me. “He took his shirt off and said to me ‘You know, I am very popular.’ And I thought ‘Yah’ and I introduced my husband Dave to him.”

Star Trek actor Walter Koenig, in a medium black-and-white shot, on stage.
Photo by Frank Goodman

George Hollo ended up calling Walter out on this.

One evening, I was out walking downtown and Walter Koenig was a few hundred yards in front of me, and he had a gaggle of girls and he was basically holding court as he was walking along the street. I asked him about it in the Q&A the next day and I was just a dumb little kid, so I think I phrased the question around ‘Hey, who were all those girls I saw you hanging out with last night?’ The audience burst out into laughter and they thought I was absolutely hilarious. So, he told the story that they were all just going out to eat or something, it was no big deal. But he was very much like a rock star back then.

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