Paramount threatened Hartery with jail time

“What are you going to do — come in here in your little skirt and wiggle your ass and make everything okay?” — Attributed to a Paramount lawyer

Fans in the 1970s watched Star Trek on small TVs and often in black-and-white. 

Linda MacDonald, for example, only had monochrome Trek at home, but at the convention “the episodes were giant, they were in colour, and there were all kinds of people loving it, instead of criticizing me for watching it and trying to get me to come to dinner.”

A screencap from the Star Trek episode The Devil in the Dark, with half in colour and half in black and white, to illustrate the contrast between monochrome and colour episodes.

Acquiring those episodes, however, was a dodgy process. The convention organizers had to rent them from a collector who was not authorized to even possess them.

“Back in those days, we couldn’t officially get Star Trek episodes from Paramount,” said Peter McGarvey, who helped organize all the screened content. “They would not provide them unless you bought the entire syndication [package] and that was prohibitively expensive. So, conventions depended on collectors who happened to have episodes. There were a lot of 16mm prints floating around, because TV stations had held on to them. We got a bunch of episodes from a collector.”

And the collector who supplied both the episodes and the infamous Star Trek blooper reel demanded that only one title at a time could be on the convention floor; the rest had to be secured in a room upstairs. 

“The episodes were locked up in the room I shared with Peter McGarvey,” said projectionist Keith Williams. “I was either playing the episodes or putting on the blooper reel and then racing back to the room to change the episode for a new one. I showed one at a time. The person who supplied them set those rules.”

A screencap from the Star Trek bloopers featuring actor Madlyn Rhue sticking out her tongue while filming Space Seed.

The convention program listed the films but did not include the names of any episodes and made no mention at all of the blooper reel. This was, McGarvey told me, an attempt to avoid hassles with Paramount. It did not work. The studio sent its lawyers to threaten Debra Pearse Hartery, the daughter of convention organizer Elizabeth Pearse, with actual jail time. 

I went down to the airport to pick up the blooper reels. They were sent from Los Angeles and when they needed someone to pick them up, I was the idiot who signed for them at Customs. 

Then I got a phone call on the Monday (after the convention) from Paramount Pictures, to tell me I was in deep trouble because I had pirated films. They had proof that I had picked them up at Customs. 

Man, did I get in trouble! The lawyer was yelling at me and then he said, ‘What are you going to do — come in here in your little skirt and wiggle your ass and make everything okay?’ Paramount was pissed and they were quite rude to me, because I refused to tell them who had shipped them to me. They kept calling and they wanted me to come in and talk to a lawyer. I was terrified for a few days. I really was. Paramount was going to jump all over me, to make a point. They actually used the words ‘jail time.’ 

I had to get my mother to fix that, with all the people she knew. She called (author) Lester del Rey, because he was friends with Gene Roddenberry. Later, I got a call saying I was fine. I had never been so relieved in my life. I was really scared.

The bloopers are easy to watch today, although the copies are a little rough after years of screenings.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s