The James Doohan Farewell
Shatner and Doohan
Doohan with Master of Ceremonies: Marc B. Lee
Doohan with Planet Xpo Producer, Sky Conway
At the Renaissance Hotel in the Hollywood & Highland complex, home of the Kodak Theater where the Oscars are now held every year, convention organizer Planet Xpo staged an event called "Beam Me Up Scotty ... One Last Time," the James Doohan Farewell Star Trek Convention & Tribute. The con was postponed from earlier in the year in order to coincide with the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce presentation of Doohan's star on Hollywood Blvd. on August 31. The 84-year-old Doohan has been in such fragile health lately that every fan making plans to attend could not help but wonder, "Will he make it?" Well, just try to keep him away.
Jimmy (we think it's okay to call him Jimmy) was there at the convention's kickoff party Friday night, where he visited with family, friends, colleagues and fans while his son Chris Doohan performed with his rock band The Muddflapps. Chris — the youngest of four from Doohan's first marriage (his twin brother Monty is eight minutes older) — led the fundraising effort for Jimmy's Hollywood star. Other musical performers that night included Tim Russ and Chase Masterson. Danny Bonaduce — whose wife Gretchen sings in Chris' band — was in the house, and he stepped up to introduce another performer, one whose presence throughout the weekend gave the affair a unique Scottish flavor. "Johnny Bagpipes," as he calls himself, doubles as both a bagpipe player and a stand-up comic, and he was quite a hit with the crowd. (It's hard not to be funny when you wear a kilt in public.) Mr. Bagpipes is from British Columbia, the Canadian province where Jimmy was born.
Saturday morning, the opening session of the convention was a tribute to the profession Jimmy's character "Scotty" epitomized — engineering. The topic was the privatization of spaceflight, conducted by officers from the X Prize Foundation, the organization using a $10 million prize to promote innovation in that field. Leading the panel was X Prize founder Dr. Peter Diamandis and supporter Dr. Harry Kloor. Kloor is a scientist and also a writer who contributed to several episodes of Star Trek: Voyager. Speaking of Voyager, another speaker on that panel was Dick Rutan, pilot of the experimental plane of that name that circled the globe in 1986 non-stop without refueling. Rutan received a hero's welcome from the audience. Following that panel, the design of fictional spacecraft was the topic of a session with former Star Trek senior designer Rick Sternbach.
Much of the weekend was conducted like a regular Trek convention, but with an emphasis on Original Series cast members and their individual tributes to Jimmy. Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Grace Lee Whitney and Barbara Luna all appeared on stage on Saturday.
"It's an honor to be here, and it's extremely touching," Koenig started. "Touching because of the love that has come to embrace the occasion by all the fans, the great affection you've given him. And once again proving that Star Trek fans are quite unique. They are the diagram that Gene [Roddenberry] had in mind when he was conceiving a one-world kind of community, people of all ethnicities and races and religions working together. We have folks here from all over the world, and they come with one thing in mind: to honor an actor who was part of that representation of community and fellowship and goodwill. So it ennobles Jimmy and it ennobles you, because you all have such great heart, and I am very touched."
"I have said many, many times over the last [mumble] years," Nichols began to the audience's laughter, "what a pleasure it is to be before the fandom of Star Trek, the best people in the world. But this occasion — whew! — is such an auspicious and wonderful and heartening moment in my life, because this is a man I love so very, very much." She went on to say that while her relationship with Jimmy has always been loving, it has not always been smooth. "Because, he has little patience with whatever he doesn't feel like being patient with. 'Uh, Nichelle! You're late!'" she recounted with a gruff voice. "He is the most wonderfully irascible man I've ever met."
Astronaut & Star Trek Fan
with Nichelle Nichols and James Doohan
with Master of Ceremonies: Marc B. Lee
The formal banquet Saturday night was a benefit for the Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation. Emceed by Koenig, speakers included Nichols, Wil Wheaton, Eugene W. Roddenberry Jr., Jimmy's wife Wende, plus a special presentation by Cowboys for Kids, Jimmy's favorite charity. Chase Masterson returned from a convention in Sacramento to sing another song for Jimmy, and Robert O'Reilly and J.G. Hertzler presented Jimmy with various Klingon artifacts to honor him for inventing the Klingon language for "Star Trek: The Motion Picture." Garrett Wang was also among the 600 dinner guests.
But aside from Jimmy himself, no one stirred up as much excitement that night as Neil Armstrong, the first human to step onto the Moon, who made a rare public appearance to serve as keynote speaker. "This evening is really an honor for me," Armstrong began. "It reminds me that I am indeed remarkably fortunate. I have ridden on 13 different rocket engines, and had the privilege of commanding three different types of spacecraft, traveling as fast as 25,000 miles an hour. Candidly, and unfortunately, all of those were primitive — none of them had warp drive. The Enterprise was about 100,000 times as fast as anything I ever flew. Our crafts did not even have the ability to leave our solar system. Lucky for those Klingons!
"Not having a transporter was a significant disadvantage. The method we used to descend from orbit to the surface of an alien world, uhh, worked," the astronaut continued to the crowd's laughter, "but it would've been far more efficient and far less traumatic if we could just be beamed down. I'm hoping for my next command, to be given a Federation starship. When I get that command, I would like to have a crew like Captain James T. Kirk had: Spock, Chekov and Uhura, Dr. McCoy, Sulu, and the others we all remember.
"Now, I have a confession to make. I am an engineer. And if I get that command, I want a Chief Engineering officer like—" he took on a Scottish lilt— "Montgomery Scott. Because I know Scotty will get the job done, and do it right. Even if I often hear him say, 'But Caeptain, I dunna have enough time!' So from one old engineer to another, thanks Scotty."
Sunday, the featured speakers again stuck with the classic cast. George Takei, who serves on the Alzheimer's Association Advisory Board, praised Jimmy's courage in his fight against the debilitating disease. He invited the fans to join the fight against the ailment, which afflicts over 4 million people, by walking in the Alzheimer's Association Memory Walk held annually across the United States. (For more information about the Memory Walk or Alzheimer's disease, contact the Alzheimer's Association at 800/272-3900, or visit www.alz.org.)
During the events in the main ballroom, there was also quite a bit of activity upstairs. There was a reunion among the entire living principal cast of Star Trek — William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Nichols, Takei, Koenig, and of course, Doohan — in the Photo Op room to give fans a final opportunity to have their picture taken with the entire group.
Shortly after that, Jimmy joined his family for a formal press conference with the national media. He was flanked by his wife Wende, his grown daughters Larkin and Deirdre, and son Chris. They did most of the talking, but Jimmy managed a few words for the press.
How is he feeling these days? "I feel great," Jimmy said. Is he enjoying all the attention? "Yes." Favorite memories from his Star Trek experience? "All I can tell you is, it's been marvelous, really marvelous."
Asked if the family ever sits down to watch old Star Trek episodes, Wende responded, "You know, we just put 'Star Trek IV' on because that's my personal favorite, and one of Jimmy's, and it was a lot of fun to see that. Sarah [Jimmy and Wende's four-year-old] was absolutely ecstatic, because she really hasn't seen of lot of Jimmy on TV, and she just walked into the room and she recognized him and said, 'Daddy! Daddy!' She kept running over and grabbing Jimmy and saying, 'That's you! That's you!' Just in case he didn't know."
Speaking about his convention-going experiences over the years, Jimmy said, "It's very nice to look out at over 15 to 20 thousand people. That's an audience." Asked if he had a lasting thought or wish to give to the fans, he replied, "Well, keep on doin' it."
Nimoy and Shatner
Takei, Nichols, & Koenig
Harry Kloor and Wil Wheaton
Garrett Wang and Michael David Ward
Pat Ward, Nichelle Nichols, Sky Conway, Neil Armstrong, and Tracy Lee Conway
Later that afternoon Shatner and Nimoy took the stage in the ballroom together, reminiscing about Doohan and engaging in their usual playful banter. Shatner recalled working with Doohan in Canada when they were both doing radio shows in Toronto. "Jimmy Doohan was a well-known radio personality. What he dealt with most of all was dialects and voices. He was famous for them. And when I came down here, and they were casting for Star Trek, if I remember correctly — which I'm not at all sure — I suggested Jimmy Doohan." Nimoy interjected, "Did you really? Good for you! You suggested him for the role of Scotty?" "That's my...recollection," Shatner said in a self-deprecating manner. "Does Jimmy know that?" Shatner replied, "I hadn't told him yet. I was waiting until now!"
It was impossible not to acknowledge the well-documented reports of animosity between Shatner and Doohan over the years, but the pair on stage did so with a great deal of humor. "There's always this legend that Jimmy didn't like you," Nimoy broached to a big "Whoa!" from the audience. "You know," Shatner conceded, "Jimmy went around and said nasty things about me, but I know he didn't mean it. I have no idea why he said those mean things. Do you?" "I don't know, you're a very nice guy. Never forget that," Nimoy replied with a little tongue in cheek. Reiterating some things he expressed in the pair's "Mind Meld" DVD, Shatner said, "I have no idea why those guys were angry." Nimoy added, "I don't think it's true. I think he loves you." "Yeah — now!" Shatner laughed.
Earlier in the day in the Photo Op room, in fact, Shatner and Doohan did have a cordial conversation. Nimoy visited with Doohan subsequently, and — as Nimoy recounted on stage — Jimmy said to him, "I'm doing all right. Bill is here, and he's behaving himself."
Taking a more serious tone, Shatner and Nimoy both had high praise for their colleague's work ethic. "He had enormous professionalism," Shatner said. "They trained us well in Canada — be there at 9:00, you're there at 9:00, and you know your lines. It's remarkable how few actors there are, even back then, that had Jimmy's professionalism." Nimoy added, "He always went right to the core of the scene, and delivered what was necessary from his character."
They each noted that the weekend was a "bittersweet" experience, especially after losing DeForest Kelley five years ago. "It's a goodbye but it's also a celebration of Jimmy and a very, very long and wonderful career," Nimoy said. Shatner remarked that Doohan has had a fabulous life — "Not that it's over." He can still see plenty of life in Jimmy, especially when he holds his little girl Sarah.
On other topics, Shatner talked a bit about Boston Legal, the new show he's starring in this fall. He revealed that Rene Auberjonois from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has been written into the show with a recurring role. Also, Shatner spoke about his discussions with Paramount regarding a possible appearance on Star Trek: Enterprise. "I came up with a story, and I met with everybody ... So I said, here's the story, and they said, 'Great story!' And I said, 'Here's how much money I want.' They said, 'Great story!' And that's where it's at now — I want too much money for it."
Nimoy closed the appearance by saying, "We truly have enjoyed being with you. And, we wish for Jimmy Doohan to live very long and be very prosperous. And the same to you."
The "Grand Finale" of the weekend was basically a chance for Jimmy to appear on stage one last time before the fans (but without speaking). With a ballroom packed beyond Fire Marshall standards (sadly, the room was locked down and many people had to be turned away), he was rolled in from backstage and helped to his feet by two of his sons, Montgomery and Thomas, and they helped him walk to the chair in center stage. Behind him, leading the applause were Majel Barrett Roddenberry, Grace Lee Whitney, Koenig, Takei and Nichols. Neil Armstrong also came on stage to honor the man of the hour. The ovation was thunderous, and Jimmy took it all in with a touching smile.
In conjunction with the author, Ruby Moon-Houldson, a special presentation was made to James Doohan of A Tribute to James Doohan: Scotty a reference. For more information about the book visit Ruby Moon-Houldson's web page
The book is available in electronic or printed format from Author house.
James Montgomery Doohan
Portrays Montgomery "Scotty" Scott
James Doohan is best known to Star Trek fans as Scotty ("Montgomery Scott"), the chief engineer aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise, in the original Star Trek series.
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