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She opened for jazz great Billie Holiday, shared the set with Marilyn Monroe, and flirted on-screen with Jack Lemmon. In her dream role, Gene Roddenberry beamed her aboard the Starship Enterprise as Yeoman Janice Rand in the original “Star Trek” series. But a terrifying sexual assault on the studio lot and her lifelong feelings of emptiness and isolation would soon combine to turn her starry dream into a nightmare.
Customer Reviews (17)
The Longest Trek: My Tour of the Galaxy
Grace Lee Whitney is a hero for those recovering or considering recovering from alcoholism and addiction. She brings both her sorrows and her joys to life in this revealing memoir, and is very brave about her honesty. At eighty, she is still walking the walk and talking the talk. Go, Grace Lee!!
In this bio the pictures strangely tell the life story almost the best--just a bit less than the main text!
There is, say, everything from a photo of attractive Whitney from the 60's when she was on guest starring Batman (playing opposite also-guest Victor Buono, a man she describes as one of the sweetest men she ever met) to her early 80's shot when she was imitating Bo Derek with a braided hair style. But the main text is fine too. This bio (with more depth) confirms facts we TOS Trekkies already knew about her, like how her life style just sank to the bottom and of the ocean and then much deeper when she was suddenly dropped from the original ST series. We learn that James Doohan (Scotty) was the man she was mutually closest to on ST:TOS and other new facts as well.
Yeoman Rand Gets Her Due
I remember when I first laid eyes on Grace Lee Whitney. It was an airing of the Star Trek episode "The Man Trap". At the time the only woman I know who's on the show was Uhura, so I thought she was one of those girls-of-the-week guest stars. I was pleasantly surprised to see that she was a recurring character in the show's early episodes..in fact, one of the main characters. I never understood why her character disappeared and it was a shame, as Yeoman Rand character certainly added a lot to the show, especially in episodes like Miri, Charlie X and The Enemy Within.
Grace Lee Whitney's autobiography is easily one of the more overlooked of the Trek bios as even though she was a major character in the show, and it is also one of the more disturbing and eye-opening.
Grace Lee Whitney was adopted by the Whitney family while still an infant. I have to said that her adoptive mother was a real "B", as she revealed to Grace while she was in her early teens that she was not her "real" mother. This seem to marked a turning point for Grace as she embarked what became a life-long quest to fill that sense of emptiness and belonging. Being born with an addictive personality, booze, drugs and sex naturally and coveniently filled that emptiness.
Grace had a career that any actor would kill for. While not famous, she was a prolific actress and worked constantly. When she was casted as Yeoman Rand in Star Trek, it seems she has finally find a surrogate home she can called her own. That came to a crashing end when Yeoman Rand was written out of the show. Sure, actors loses jobs and get written out of shows all the time, for the most part, they moved on. But not for Grace Lee Whitney. Star Trek became her lifeline and for years afterward, Whitney tried to numb her anger and sorrow with more booze, drugs and sex. The rest of the book chronicled her continual descent and eventual recovery and her road to sobriety.
After reading the bio, I have to say that Grace Lee Whitney doesn't give herself enough credit for her recovery. Her story could have easily been a "poor me a victim of 400 years of oppression" story, but instead, she blamed no one but herself for what she went through (yes, even when she was sexually assualted by an un-named TV exec, she realizes that she should have known better than to place herself in such a vulnerable situation). Her story could also easily have ended like that of Heath Ledger, River Phoenix, Judy Garland, James Dean and even Elvis Presley. We easily could have been reading her obituary, but instead luckily, we are reading that she is alive and well and probably more happy than she has ever been.
In any case, her bio reminds us that in the end, where we eventually ended up is the result of the choices we make. Life is not fair and some people are dealt with a better hand of cards than others..in the end, we still have the freedom to choose where we're going.
The Longest Recovery
It would be easy to ignore "The Longest Trek" as perhaps being the least significant of Trek biographies, but that would be a mistake. Yes, it's a biography of a minor original Trek actress who lasted only one season and in a rather "fifth wheel" role at that, but fortunately for readers the stories of Grace's pre-Trek Hollywood days are damningly interesting, while her post-Trek days are interestingly damning.
As has been noted elsewhere while the book is an autobiography, its main purpose is to serve as a mea culpa for all the disservices done to her friends, lovers, self and career due to alcoholism. But not just alcoholism - in a broader sense Grace suffers from an addictive personality, which when combined with a rather naïve outlook serves only to reinforce her problem. These issues alone could have resulted in an extremely ponderous book on recovery and religious conversion (is Grace simply trading one addiction for another?) but fortunately it's an interesting trip that probably would not have been written if not for the fact that Grace has little to lose by doing so.
Grace is not a deep thinker - she tends to stop analyzing things once she comes up with a rationale that fits the way she'd like them to be, and when it comes to her understanding of other people's motivations, of religion, of cause-and-effect... the simplest explanation is often the chosen one. One can only consider that "The Executive" was already aware that she was to be written out of the series before making his detestable (re-)casting couch pass, that the writers were never quite sure what to do with the character of Janice Rand, and that her lengthy grudge against Roddenberry for not sticking up for her is the main motivation for the rather hypocritical character-assassination chapter where Grace the Sexually Unfaithful Alcoholic Converted Jewish Atheist Turned Dry Born Again Christian lambastes Gene for being a secular humanist in an open marriage. Oh, the irony.
It's best to stop here - much more could be said, but my main thrust in writing all this is to hope that readers will not be scared off by the religious or recovery overtones and enjoy the book. I would have liked to have read more about working with the rest of the Trek cast (only Spock & Kirk receive much mention) but it's fascinating reading nonetheless.
A study in addiction
Grace Lee Whitney writes this book for "Star Trek" fans, certainly, but what she says to addicts -- and those whose lives are affected by them -- is far more powerful. I had the pleasure of interviewing Ms. Whitney and reviewing this autobiography for The Detroit News when the book was first released. I was struck by her graciousness and kindness, but I was also struck by the gritty strength she conveys in this book. Frankly describing incidents like her hit-and-run on Grand River Avenue in Detroit, and her guarding the bathroom door of a Chicago club while the heroin-addicted Billie Holiday was getting shot-up inside, she just puts it out there, none too concerned what her cult-TV fans will think of her. You've got to appreciate that. And it's pretty clear, throughout the book, that her motives are not to make herself look good, or bad, but to shine a light on the effects of a gruesome and very common illness.
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