Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols, who turns 86 years young today, 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 Star Trek: The Original Series 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.
Following the successful Save Star Trek campaign, we Trimbles suddenly found ourselves without a job. We both landed work typing scripts at Ed Levitt’s Script Service. Today, all scripts are input 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 TOS script titled “The Trouble With Tribbles.”
Back in 1967, at the New York World SF Convention, we ran a charity auction of Trek items Gene Roddenberry had donated, which was phenomenally successful. With that experience in our minds, we presented our idea to 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 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 U.S.S. 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 to see 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!
Here’s another Nichelle anecdote: She was caught by a time change when she left El Paso in one time zone for Houston, in another time zone, for a convention appearance. 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 has always been 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.
A group of excited fans arranged for a limo, driven by a Trek fan, and made 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. We made so much noise that the other table requested a change of venue, and later departed… glaring at the noisy Trek table. By that time, most of the waitstaff 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.
Happy birthday, Nichelle!
Bjo & John Trimble