Tuesday, December 08, 2015

The Twilight Zone is in Roanoke.

This post on my blog is about a person I never met. Ever. Not once. I don't even recall seeing this person in the flesh. Just a disclaimer I want to post at the outset. No judgments, nothing of that sort. It is merely something that happened to me when I was a very young man.

Many years ago I attended a comic book/media convention in the Roanoke VA area. We’re talking decades past. This was back in the times when I was in good shape and sometimes people would tell me that I was physically attractive. To tell you the truth, I have no idea what makes a male physically attractive, but I looked like this when the convention took place:

Photo by my older brother, Mark.

I’m not saying I was good looking. Just posting this for the story.

Normally I would attend a convention with at least one other person to help with set-up and retail. But this time I had to go alone. I don’t recall why, but no one was available to travel with me. So I set up the tables and did all of the selling by myself. I don’t recall speaking to many people other than customers that day except for a convention organizer who I asked to watch my tables while I had a bathroom break that first day (of a two-day show).

Attending this show as guests were several comic book artists and their media guest was Grace Lee Whitney of Star Trek semi-fame.

After the dealer’s room was closed I went back to my room, watched some TV, and then went to sleep. I had to get up early to get ready for the next day’s sales.

I got up about 5:30 am and had already taken my shower and was dressing when the phone rang. The front desk had connected someone to the phone in my room.

“James Smith?” I immediately recognized the voice as the convention chairman.

“Yes. What’s goin’ on?” I hoped that there had not been a problem with the dealers room during the night.

“Well…I don’t know how to ask this other than just to ask it,” he said. Seriously. This is what he said.

“Go ahead.”

“Is Grace Lee Whitney with you?”

All kinds of What the Fuck went off in my mind.

“What?” I asked

“Is Grace Lee Whitney with you?”

“Are you serious?”

“We can’t find her. She wandered off last night after the panel and no one can find her. She’s not in her room and no one has seen her since about nine last night.”

“Okay,” says I. “But why in Hell would you think she would be here in my room?”

“Well…she mentioned to a couple of the team yesterday that she thought you were good looking.”

I was quiet after that for a few seconds. Had to let it sink in.

“Well, she is not here. In fact, not only is she not here, I have never met her. I never even saw her yesterday. I was stuck in the dealers room all day. ”

“Okay. We’re desperate.”

Tell me about it.

And, before I could end the conversation: “She’s really not with you?”

“No, she is not with me. I swear it. Well, I have to get ready to get some breakfast and check out and make the dealers room before it opens.”

“All right. Thanks.” He hung up.

I assume they found her. I don’t know. As with most conventions I attended back in those days I was stuck behind a dealers table for the duration of the show and could never attend panels or special events. So I just figured she showed up at some point. It was only much later that I heard of Whitney’s problems with alcohol. I don’t know if this was a contributing factor. Maybe she just wanted some alone time. If so, she certainly found it. Just not with me.

Or the convention organizer may have been bored at six in the morning and decided to screw with my head. I rather doubt it, but...well...it's a possibility.

"Captain. This does not compute."


Lawrence Roy Aiken said...

As Hollywood substance-abuse casualties go, Whitney turned out better than most, having died only within the last couple of years, and among family, as opposed to some hotel room somewhere. That said, her entire claim to fame is she was Yeoman Rand for half a season on _Star Trek_ before getting fired for being a drunk slut. She did meet her luck halfway, bless her heart, taking the roles she was offered for the first _Trek_ movie and that _Voyager_ episode that was a pilot for _Star Trek: Excelsior_ (a.k.a. _Capt. Sulu's Adventures_ -- that almost happened). When you consider what happened to Jennifer Lien (Kes of _Voyager_, now a gross old crazy lady in Kentucky) and the woman who played Eric Foreman's sister on _That 70s Show_ (the one meth-head in any given trailer park who can say she made she made out with Ashton Kutcher; she died in that trailer), yeah, she did all right.

Given what I've read about Grace-Lee Whitney, your story isn't as much of a stretch as you think. She was a known sex-addict on top of a lush ("drunk slut" was not a gratuitous insult, but a descriptor), so if someone overheard her admiring your buffed-out looks, it only stands to reason she would have disappeared with you. Of course, as you say, we have no way of knowing what really happened. I'd like to think, like you, that she took off just to get away from the fanboys for a while. She supposedly got her shit more or less together over over 1970s, so it's very likely that's all it was. For my part, I'm happy she ended well, dying of a ripe old age on a big property where her children and grandchildren lived, and not simply another semi-famous corpse in a trailer or hotel room.

James Robert Smith said...

I'm glad she ended up okay. This was one of my weirder convention experiences.

From what I've now read, this would have been after she was clean and sober. So, yes, she was probably just trying to get away from the fanboys for one evening.