Monday, May 04, 2015

We're thankful for the message of sweet Grace Lee Whitney

She was one of the first celebs this author met and interviewed, more than 15 years ago, while I was working for The Detroit News. She was kind, smart, effervescent, happy to be alive, having survived much. And really, her claim to fame all these years since "Star Trek" originally aired has been as the the turned-out "Trek" cast member, the one who was fired in a bit of disgrace for something she didn't do, the victim of a sexual assault. I've always had my own theory about who that high-ranking unnamed production exec was, but the more important thing is the message Grace Lee Whitney carried later in life, not in her earlier "Trek" days. Her most important message was as a recovering addict, which she wrote about in her autobiography, "The Longest Trek: My Tour of the Galaxy." I reviewed that book for "The Detroit News," then for the Amazon listing, as I was greatly affected by it. I loved what she wrote about her time in Detroit. So direct and unafraid, she even detailed a hit-and-run accident she was involved in on Grand River Avenue. To put it all out there, not fearing what people will think of you, because you think it's important and it will help someone, was a trait in Grace Lee Whitney that I greatly admired.

Whitney has died at age 85. ABC News and Chicago Tribune have more.

Whitney's book is smashing for its message of healing and recovery (it takes years to "cook" an alcoholic, she wrote -- I'll never forget that concept, as it has proved true in a lot of the people I've met), and the writing truly reflects the actress as I saw her, strong, capable, forgiving, resilient. When I first met her in person, having spoken to her on the phone a time or two, she greeted me with a warm hug and spoke with a low, almost-hoarse voice, the latter an irony that seemed to want to belie her sweet demeanor. (She told me the red-dress-clad "Star Trek" Barbie doll released at about that same time -- late 1990s -- was styled after her Janice Rand character -- loved that boldness.) But what she was most concerned about, at that point, more than any trip around the galaxy, was helping others with addiction. She was 17 years sober at the time, quite a feat.

She was kind enough to mail me the above signed picture, after I interviewed her, and it hangs on the wall of my Batcave downstairs. Thanks, Ms. Whitney, for doing more than embracing stardom -- for seeing it as a means to help others.

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