Keep on Trekkin'!
INSIDE TREK BOOK - PROLOG
Corridor outside our offices, fourth floor, Building C, circa 1980.
PROLOG : November 1, 1991. I recall only a series of moments from that day. When I look back, I realize how much of it my mind has blanked out -- a survival tactic, most likely. Still, some memories cannot be erased, no matter how I might long for this.
As my friend Mark Hahn and I entered the grounds of Forest Lawn, with its sprawling, green hillside overlooking the 134 Freeway, I had a sense of the surreal -- like a dream of being in a movie or play, where everyone knew her part but me. "Go here." Okay. "Stand there." Okay. "Sit there." Okay. Mechanically, I did as I was told.
We entered a large theatre-sized auditorium. Mounted on an easel dominating the stage was a gigantic portrait of Gene Roddenberry. It was a blowup of a familiar photo, one I had mailed out to fans hundreds of times -- the sapphire V-neck sweater, the paler blue background, the mischievous, bemused expression. When I saw it, my knees buckled.
Mark and I were led to a section on the left. Seated behind me was Gene's son-in-law, Richard Compton, and alongside him was a pretty, older woman I'd never seen before. She introduced herself as Eileen Roddenberry, Gene's first wife. She was smartly dressed in her tailored knit suit and seemed very refined. All these years I had been hearing about the monster who had been wife number one, but here was a woman who had been divorced from Gene for twenty-two years, yet still cared enough to attend his memorial service.
As people arrived, slides synchronized to an audio track were projected onto a giant overhead screen. Scenes from Gene's life played across the screen -- Gene as a child; in his youth; as a young Army Air Corps officer; at work on the Los Angeles Police Force, and then, to the accompaniment of dramatic music welling up in the background, scenes from his marriage to Majel, his second wife, to whom he was wed those final twenty-two years. “Unchained Melody” crescendoed to a photo of Gene and Majel embracing.
The rest of the memorial service was a tear-streaked blur. I remember Nichelle Nichols singing something. Ray Bradbury eulogized Gene, as did Whoopi Goldberg. Patrick Stewart read something. I looked around the audience and spotted Mayor Tom Bradley and Police Chief Daryl Gates and the casts of both Star Treks. The family was clustered front row center. Majel sat with their son Rod (his nickname from babyhood -- he's really Gene Roddenberry, Jr.). The teenaged boy looked grim. Gene's two daughters, Darleen, the oldest, and Dawn, to whom I had always been closest, were seated side by side, tearfully clutching each other's hands.
The service -- I have no idea how long it lasted -- ended, and we filed outside into the warmth of the California afternoon, where a squadron of private airplanes buzzed the courtyard in the "missing man" formation. I wondered what Gene would have made of it all.
I spotted a wheelchair with Gene's eighty-seven-year-old mother, Caroline "Glen" Roddenberry. She was only seventeen years old when she gave birth to Gene, and I knew she must be feeling terrible pain at losing her firstborn child.
"Glen, I'm so sorry," was all I could say. I bent over and hugged her.
I wanted to add, How could I ever forget the mother of the man I'd been in love with for seventeen years?
I longed to tell her, to tell the world. But I knew it had been Gene's wish to keep silent. We had sworn our love for each other, and I had always held fast to his desire of maintaining silence about our relationship. I had planned to do this for the rest of my life.
But the time seems right now. I've kept the genie imprisoned too long. At last I'm ready to uncork this bottle and let my story spill out. I’m sure Gene would understand. Just as he had understood everything from the start...