Bjo and John Trimble, the super-fans who helped save Star Trek: The Original Series from cancellation, share memories and anecdotes about their friend, Trek legend Nichelle Nichols.
Nichelle Nichols is a genuine lady. She is gracious, caring, and sympathetic. She is also intelligent, not always a key factor in many actors. We first met her on the early Star Trek set, where she was relaxing backstage reading Jack Smith’s column in the L.A. Times. We talked about current politics and she flirted outrageously with John. Someone once described us as “embarrassingly monogamous,” so John wasn’t quite sure what to do about this gorgeous woman batting her big brown eyes at him.
After the successful Save Star Trek campaign, we Trimbles suddenly found ourselves without a job. We both got a job typing scripts at Ed Levitt’s Script Service. Today, all scripts are typed and multi-copied at the studios, but back then scripts were sent out to services that would type them up, mimeograph copies, and send them over to each studio. It was during this time that we typed up a script titled “The Trouble With Tribbles” for Star Trek.
At the New York World SF Convention in 1967, we‘d run a charity auction of ST items Gene Roddenberry had donated, which was phenomenally successful. With that experience in our minds, we presented our idea to Gene Roddenberry of selling Star Trek souvenirs to a growing fan community. He liked it and also decided to remove Star Trek fan mail from an outside professional mail-answering service. We were hired to handle Gene’s new mail order business, Lincoln Enterprises, and to also answer Star Trek’s fan mail.
The actors reacted to this new fan mail situation in various ways. Some of them wanted to see all their fan mail, some wanted only to see the ones that contained gifts, and others had no interest whatsoever in their fan mail. And no, we won’t name who was whom.
In those days, the studios provided 5 x 7” black and white photos to send out to fans. We not only had all the main actors, but a few of the interesting character actors as well, plus some good photos of the USS Enterprise.
Nichelle, however, had her own ideas of how to answer her fan mail. She left it to us to answer the standard “please send me a phaser” requests with photos of her in Starfleet uniform. But she wanted all her mail with a military return address. She had photos of her in her sexy, skimpy singer’s costumes, which she sent to “her boys overseas.” From the military fan reaction, those photos were very much appreciated!
One time, Nichelle was caught by a time change when she left El Paso in one time zone for Houston, in another time zone. Unaware of the change, Nichelle overslept. The convention committee was frantic because it was only minutes until Nichelle was to appear onstage. Bjo was asked to go to Nichelle’s room and see what had happened. Nichelle appeared at the hotel door, wondering why Bjo was standing there. When the situation was explained, she began quickly putting on her makeup and exclaiming that her gown was not ironed. Bjo set up the ironing board and pressed out a beautiful white gown for Nichelle, but then Bjo warned Nichelle that she didn’t do windows.
Nichelle appeared onstage only a few minutes late, and laughingly explained the reason for it. The audience was delighted to find that actors are as human as the rest of us.
Being very human was an integral part of Nichelle’s makeup. At another Houston convention, all the guests were abandoned immediately after the day’s show ended. With time on their hands, many of the guests repaired to the hotel bar. But we Trimbles had earlier suggested to some Houston fans that Nichelle loved seafood and would like to be invited out.
The excited fans arranged for a limo, driven by a Trek fan, and reservations for all of us at a rather nice seafood restaurant out on a pier. We filled a long table in one of the small rooms, and began getting acquainted. One of the fans was of Hispanic background, and she said something with a Rita Moreno accent. Nichelle immediately replied with a ‘hood’ accent and the game was on! Their impromptu routine left the rest of us breathless with laughter.
We made so much noise that the other table requested a change of venue, and departed with glares at the noisy Trek table. By that time, most of the wait-staff had caught on to Nichelle, and thought the annoyed people were missing a great deal. Nichelle made a surprised face with big round eyes, and opined that some people in the world had no sense of humor. That set us off again. The dinner was superb and the company was the best anyone could ever hope for.
Whenever we’d see Nichelle at event or conventions, she would make some remark about sexy men and hug or kiss John. After being flummoxed the first few times, he got into the spirit of it and would kid her about doing this sort of thing will all men. She’d laugh and assure John that it was just him.
Needless to say, she is one of his favorite female actors.
A NOTE TO FANS FROM BJO and JOHN TRIMBLE:
The Trimbles are active in the Society for Creative Anachronism, a medieval re-enactment organization. Last year, SCA folk joined the Orange County AIDS Walk in Disneyland. This year, Team CAID was once again Walking for a Cure that goes from the Middle Ages to The Next Generation and Beyond. Most of us wore the name and often a photo of a friend who died from AIDS. I chose William Ware Theiss, TOS costume designer, and John chose Mike Minor, TNG artist.
The surprise was how many SCA folk supported this walk and how many Trek fans... did not. We know that many people are short of jobs and funds, but hopefully there are some Trekkers out there who can spare a dollar or two. Undaunted, the entire family walked again on May 4, and it's not too late for everyone to support this worthy cause and join Team CAID, as the books don't close on AIDS Walk until the end of June!
Team CAID's Page:
Team CAID’s Facebook:
OC AIDS Walk information:
Bjo and John
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