Dude, in 1984, Big Brother was on us all and there was no joy, let alone STAR TREK. It was a bleak existence, filled with Double speak and paranoia about who to trust.
Wait, that was a book.
The real 1984 was filled with the 49’s winning the Super Bowl, Summer Olympics, “Karma Chameleon” on the radio, Bill Cosby was my hero, Reagan was President, and we all eagerly awaited to see if the search for Spock would yield results (SPOILERS: They found him).
For me, 1984 was the year of the VCR. I was seven years old, transitioning from the second to the third grade. The Summer of 1984 was a welcome change from school. At Grandview Elementary that year, I had the first of three Ms. Johnson’s at that school. She was a mean old snake of a lady. If you said you didn’t know something, she’d place a hand on you shoulder and squeeze. See, she had these long, sharp nails. When she was frustrated, she’d gouge us. My Mom saw the marks this left and asked about it. I might have lied, I don’t remember. But Ms. Johnson was never let go, so I don’t think this behavior was reported to Principal Kennedy.
As I said, this was the first Ms. Johnson. You’ll get to read about one more. Black Ms. Johnson was my Fourth Grade teacher during TREK IV. It was in here class that I met Bianca, my first crush (sigh).
Back to 1984.
I saw STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK at the Fox theatre in Westwood. You might know the place, it’s been used in movies and for World Premieres. Before I ever went there, I remember seeing this place at three in the morning.
Let me explain that. I wasn’t a junior male gigolo. I mean, why else would I be out at 3 AM? No, I had to go to work with my Dad and Mom. My Dad worked for USA Today, picking up newspapers and filling the racks across Westwood with the daily paper. I had to go because my Mom went and I couldn’t be home alone (slap cheeks with both hands and repeat after me: Aaaahhhhhhh!!!).
So, very often, I went with them on the USA Today run and I got to be out before most people. Being in Westwood at three in the morning, when the streets are wet and no people are around is a little eerie. Until that time, I never knew that the stop lights still worked when there were no cars. I liked being out then, it felt strange.
Seeing Westwood during the day was strange, too. I was with my Mom when I saw TREK III and it took me a minute to realize I had been in this section of town.
When we saw TREK III at the Fox, I was with my Mom… the first time. I don’t remember much about that experience. I recall seeing the poster with the glass-like Spock face and wanting it. My Mom said, “Not today. I’ll owe you.” That was almost thirty-five years ago and I still do not own that Spock poster. I can’t even find it on Amazon, so it might not be a thing anymore. I know that the poster cost $5 at the time, so who knows what it would go for today.
Then again, I don’t know what I would have done with that poster. I had posters of Michael Jackson and The Jacksons from the Victory Tour in my room. I suppose it was because I was a fan of MJ and the J’s in general. Or maybe it was because my Mom was a huge fan and I was following her lead.
I recently became aware that I only saw the TREK movies because my Aunt Nancy was a fan. My Mom and I went to TREK II in 1982 because of her. But then I got into it and my Mom became a fan in return. So, my Mom was a fan of Michael’s and that bled into my life just as my love of TREK bled into hers. That is a lot of bleeding.
Back to 1984. Again.
The most vivid scene I can recall from TSFS is the self-destruction of the Enterprise. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. That dying hulk streaking across the Genesis Planet’s skies was impressive and disturbing. The Enterprise was gone. This wasn’t just a ship, this was a member of the family. This was like the fifth Beatle. This was unbelievable.
From seeing this movie with my Mom, until I saw it again, I don’t know how much time passed.
I was once again in Westwood, going to see the same movie at the same place, the Bruin. This time, I was with my Aunt Nancy, my cousin Robb and my Grandma, Lavina. Now, as far as I know, my Grandmother was not a TREK fan. She was… a grandma.
My Aunt Nancy was a teenager when the original TREK hit the air in 1966 and she grew up with it. Ditto with my Dad, who is two years younger than his sister, my Aunt Nancy. My cousin was dragged in to TREK like I was to the Jacksons, through our Moms.
My most vivid memories of the second showing of TSFS was that we went to Taco Bell. I don’t care much for Mexican and I have rarely ever eaten at Taco Bell. What I might have gotten that was is lost to memory at this point. But, I came away with one of the promotional TREK III glasses. I loved that thing. It had Kirk and Kruge fighting it out on Genesis. In the years that followed, my parents had to move and we put stuff in storage for two years. I remember seeing that glass come out of storage and being very excited. And then one Saturday morning, I took it out of the cabinet and placed it on the counter to pour some milk. The glass shattered in two places and was no more. I was stunned. It had lasted ten years, and forever in my memory.
On the day I saw the movie, I remember seeing a character t-shirt and not knowing what it was. A Black man sporting strange hair, giving the OK sign and the caption “Otay.” It was my introduction to Eddie Murphy’s Buckwheat. My cousin knew what it was, but I did not. Not until that Saturday, that is.
Because of my adventures in TREK, I discovered Saturday Night Live. I tuned in on the night that the fake new broke into the real comedy and announced, “Just moments ago, Buckwheat was shot.”
WHAT? I tune in to see that character worthy of his own shirt and he’s shot! Maybe he’ll recover, I thought.
“This just in, Buckwheat is dead.”
My love affair would run for the next fifteen years straight and then intermittently after that. I’m still a huge fan of the show, but I never got to stay up that late to watch.
So what did TREK III do for me personally?
Well, I loved the movie. It was a good time with my Mom, as well as my aunt, cousin and grandmother. It made me sad that the Enterprise was no more. It got me into SNL and I haven’t stopped laughing in all these years. A few years after seeing the movie, I ran across my Aunt Nancy’s copy of the Vonda N. McIntyre novelization of the script.
I sat down to read it and a new world opened up. The world of TREK fiction. While I had seen the movie, there was apparently a lot of story I had missed. McIntyre had created characters for her novelization of ST II: TWOK and carried those over, as well as Carol Marcus, into their own stories in TREK III.
I admit it, I was lost. So I had to get TREK II to understand it.
To this day, I am an avid reader of the TREK books. I’ve read many, loved a bunch, forgotten a lot of the forgettable ones. Through high school, I was a stack of books and a pair of legs (get the reference?). I totally nerded-out in high school to the song of TREK. And then, in 1992, I started writing and I wrote a STAR TREK book. And then another and another. In the course of just over a year, I wrote five and knew what I had to do with my life – STAR TREK Author for Pocket Books.
When Isaac Asimov died, he had written 600 books. I was going to top that. And all of them would be TREK.
To date, I’ve had zero TREK books published through Pocket Books. Or anyone else.
At 40 years old, I don’t think I can top or equal the Good Doctor. I can accept this.
When I think back to all the time I spent writing and collaborating with friends, I can look back on that time fondly. I’d tell you more about it, but that’s what the rest of this blog is for. I’ll cover it all, I can promise you that.
There’s a lot to the writing story.
There’s a lot to the reading story.
But for now, we’re talking about the movies.
And how they affected me.
TREK III, in its own way, got me into reading avidly and wanting to be part of it. It is responsibility for my love of writing. In case no one noticed, I am still writing about STAR TREK. It’s been a live-long passion and I can’t imagine that it won’t ever be that.
NEXT TIME: There be whales here!