"Excuse me... but what's a nice (apparently sane) girl like you doing down on your hands and knees on the Hollywood Walk of Fame?" you may ask.
Go ahead. Ask.
If you really MUST know, I'm polishing the star of actor DeForest Kelley, keeping it in tiptop shape... the way it was on the day it was presented to him in 1991.
"Does he pay you to do this?"
Heavens, no! Are you kidding? Absolutely not! I volunteered for this!
"What does HE think about it?"
You are VERY nosey. But okay. Here goes. One time he cautioned me, "Just don't get arrested." What does THAT tell you? It probably embarrasses him. Too bad, so sad. He's stuck with me.
"Then you ARE crazy."
DE-mented. There's a fine line, here! I'm DE-mented: crazy about De.
It's a LONG story. Nearly 30 years long.
"We have the time."
Well! I'm a fan! For starters.
"He has millions of fans. Not too many of them are down on their hands and knees every Sunday polishing his star."
Okay. I'm a fan. That's how it started. I wasn't a fanatic fan at first, you know. Just a fan fan. Thought he was cute, and had always enjoyed his portrayals in westerns, and I LOVED the way he handled Spock and Kirk. He was the ONLY one on that starship who could straighten those two out and get away with it. I LOVED that.
Well, then I had the chance to MEET him. In person. Me. A timid, shy, scared 17 year old. And he was so gracious, so appreciative, so benevolent, so UN-self-important, that I --- I just fell totally in love with him. (With HIM AND HIS WIFE, CAROLYN! Let me clarify this right now, in case The National Enquirer or The Globe is lurking nearby in the bushes!) I was so taken with him that I wrote an essay for creative writing class all about meeting him, telling how wonderful he was. The essay impressed the teacher and he suggested that I send a copy of it to Mr. Kelley. Well, I freaked! I did not -- categorically DID NOT -- write to TV stars! I told him that flatly. He suggested, "Look, if YOU impressed somebody as much as he obviously impressed YOU, wouldn't YOU want to know?" "Well, sure!" I countered, "but he's an ACTOR! He gets that ten times an hour!" "SEND THE ESSAY!" the teacher ordered. I complied. (He was, after all, the guy who decided my grades, and evaluated my character and such as that. He had me at a distinct disadvantage!)
Besides, I figured, DeForest's SECRETARY would get the essay -- and she'd toss it LONG before HE ever laid eyes on it, wouldn't she? Of course! So, what was I worried about?
Only -- guess what? DeForest's secretary is HIS WIFE! She didn't throw the essay away. She handed it to him and together they decided to send it to an entertainment magazine for consideration as a published article! And the magazine ACCEPTED it! And DeForest wrote to tell me this!
I tell ya, my parents had to peel me off the ceiling -- for WEEKS -- several times a day!
"So... Your favorite actor launched your freelance writing career?"
YES! And that's just the beginning! How much time do we have left?
"Not a lot. Can you capsulize the rest?"
Well, THEN --- 18 years later (how's that for capsulizing? We've gone from 1968 to 1986 at warp speed!) -- the 20th anniversary of STAR TREK came along! I had successfully been published in DOZENS of magazines and newspapers by then but hadn't stayed in touch with the Kelleys to let them know, so I figured I'd attend a TREK convention that had DeForest as a guest (my first TREK con ever!) and try to get a chance to thank him privately for being the one to prove to me I really WAS ready to write successfully! I dropped a brief note to him (via Paramount), jocularly warning him to PREPARE FOR A LONG-OVERDUE HUG!!! Well, of course as soon as I did that, I realized the presumption inherent in the ridiculous idea, and nearly scared myself out of attending! The 17 year old shyness and timidity reasserted itself and I felt like a bimbo for even having IMAGINED writing him a note like that! Of all the nerve! He was an ICON at this stage! He was my childhood HERO! What was I DOING, sending him something as INANE and UNDIGNIFIED as a HUG ALERT!!!
"So, THAT'S the first time you noticed you were slipping the surly bonds of sanity?"
No, no, no! That's not it at all! I'm PERFECTLY SANE! WAIT! I just polish his star! You have no PROOF yet!
O.K. So I went to the con, feeling darned sheepish. Even took my ten year old nephew along as my "cover", my reason for being there. ("He loves McCoy... Don't you, Philip?") Because I was pretty broke at the time, I stayed in a tent at a campground at night and drove to the convention hotel each of the three mornings. Because I was pretty sure that the hug and a brief meeting was a fond fantasy of MINE, and mine ALONE, it never occurred to me that DeForest and Carolyn Kelley were searching for me by phone in the con hotel and in surrounding hotels! But they were!!! When nothing came of their efforts, they concluded I had been unable to make the trip as originally indicated, and gave up.
Incidentally, I tried the first day of the convention to locate them, "just in case". I asked the front desk at the convention hotel if they could get a note to the Kelleys for me. Absolutely not, they assured me. The Kelleys were not staying at this hotel, and they had no idea where they WERE staying, and it was just impossible. So I figured that was that. (No convention hotel in its right mind is going to agree to contact a celebrity for fans, or they'd never have time to do anything ELSE! I understood.)
Sunday finally rolled around. This was DE-Day... the day that DeForest Kelley would address the "congregation". I sat on the floor in the aisle toward the front of the auditorium, audiotaping every word. Toward the end of his presentation, with only minutes to go, I was wound up like a top, knowing that if I didn't raise my hand and thank him now, the opportunity would slip away and I never WOULD get to say what I had gone there to tell him. I raised my hand into the sea of upraised hands, and -- call it a miracle -- he picked it!
I said, "I just wanted to thank you for launching my writing career."
De looked at me and inquired, "Are YOU Kris?!"
"Yes," I said, feeling totally flabbergasted.
"I've been looking all over for you!" he exclaimed -- before the entire audience! He proceeded to tell them that I was a writer he had discovered and whose career he had proudly launched! A Phil Donohue type ran down the aisle to me and thrust a microphone in my face, expecting me to react. React?! I was SPEECHLESS! Finally, I uttered quietly (into the mike, so "only" De could hear it? HAH!) "May I give you a hug?" "YOU CERTAINLY MAY!" he smiled, and I was up there at warp seven (while every female Trekkie in the audience audibly sighed and as flashbulbs exploded relentlessly) hugging him and patting him on the back and thanking him and trying not to take up too much of his remaining time with his audience! He told me, "We're proud of you. Keep up the good work." I dived back to my spot on the floor and my nephew inquired, "Did you cry?" "No," I said. "But almost." Then I asked little Phil, "Were you embarrassed when I asked him for a hug?" "No!" he asserted. "I WAS PROUD!"
The next morning -- again planned by Fate, I no longer have ANY doubt -- I was in the lobby talking to a computer specialist when the Kelleys came through on their way to the car which would carry them to the airport for their flight home. The crowd gasped when they saw him and pushed forward in his direction. Instantly timid again, I hung back, figuring I had had my moments with him, and that now it was someone else's turn. De spotted me and grinned, "Kris! Good morning!" and took Carolyn's arm to guide her through the throng in my direction. Totally flabbergasted yet again, I headed in their direction to make the trek less arduous at their end. De introduced me to Carolyn and she grinned and took my hands in hers, telling me they had often wondered what happened to the little girl who had written so well. I told them quickly of successes as a writer and Carolyn said, "Stay in touch! Don't disappear again! Send us your articles!" I said I would and again they headed for their ride to the airport.
This gets even better. Because I'm good at following directions, I did begin to write to them in earnest, to the point where De began to joke at conventions about receiving his "daily letter" from me! In 1989 I moved to southern California to try and land a job in the entertainment industry and once again, the inconceivable happened. The man who had launched my writing career now dedicated himself to helping me get my foot in the door in Hollywood! And he and Carolyn helped me with an even TOUGHER chore: searching for a home to rent with a landlord who would accept a knee-high serval (a wildcat native to Africa) which I had rescued as a kitten!!
I now work at WARNER BROS. If anyone were to ask me whether the person I have become would have been possible without the encouragement, faith and devotion of the Kelleys, I would say, "No." The teenager they took under their wing (FAR earlier and more snugly than she ever even KNEW) has learned to fly, but nowhere in my book do I feel I've ever flown "alone".
The stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame should ALL be polished by one fan or another, in my opinion. Few are, because not that many fans want to be considered eccentric! But I'll take that chance. De's star shines brightest in Hollywood because his kindness has shined so brilliantly into THIS fan's life, and into the lives so many others I'd love to name.
If you, too, are a DeForest Kelley fan, you've identified one of the best souls ever to walk the planet -- ANY planet!
If other fans/clubs want to use it they must make a $10(or greater) contribution to
of one of the three "DeForest Kelley" charities.
DeForest Kelley Memorial Fund
North Shore Animal League
16 South Street
Port Washington, New York, 11050
c/o Timothy Welch
Harvard Medical School
25 Shattuck Street, Room 306 A
Boston MA 02115
Motion Picture and Television Fund Hospital
DeForest Kelley Fund
23388 Molholland Drive
Woodland Hills, Ca 91364