Grace Lee Whitney (1930-2015)

Grace Lee Whitney at a Star Trek convention in 1980.

Grace Lee Whitney at a Star Trek convention in 1980.

Grace Lee Whitney, the actress who played Yeoman Janice Rand on the original Star Trek series, died this weekend reports NBC News. She was 85.

She was a recovering alcoholic who spent the last 35 years of her life helping others complete 12-step programs, often at women’s correctional facilities or the Salvation Army.

During her acting career Whitney made more than a hundred television appearances, beginning with her 1953 debut in Cowboy G-Men.

Grace Lee Whitney in Some Like It Hot.

Grace Lee Whitney in Some Like It Hot.

She also made a number of movie appearances, including an uncredited role as a member of the all-female band in Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot (1959). She shared several scenes with Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, and Marilyn Monroe, and was one of the partiers in the famed “upper berth” sequence. (She’s on the left at the 4:21 mark in this YouTube excerpt.)

Released from Star Trek six months into the first season, she later reprised her role in the successful Star Trek movies: Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991). She also worked in an episode of Star Trek: Voyager (1996) and some peripheral Trek productions like Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II (2007), and Star Trek: Of Gods and Men (2007).

Apart from Star Trek, her genre work included an episode of Outer Limits (1964) and the two “King Tut” episodes of Batman (1967).

Whitney’s 1998 autobiography, The Longest Trek: My Tour of the Galaxy, covered her hiring and firing from Star Trek, her battle with addiction, and sidelights such as her being hired as the first Chicken of the Sea Mermaid.

Commenting on the tall, basketweave hairdo she wore as Yeoman Rand, she said: “It was so heavy it kept listing to the left, I swear they had to nail that thing to my head! It was gorgeous Max Factor hair. It cost a lot of money and somebody stole it. I still have visions of that damn wig turning up. I go down to Skid Row for my recovery program – I’m clean and sober now – and I keep expecting to find some bag lady or drag queen wearing it!”

[Thanks to David Klaus for the story.]

4 thoughts on “Grace Lee Whitney (1930-2015)

  1. I remember being uite unhappy when the number of recurring female characters on ST:TOS dropped from three to two–not that I thought that the position of female Yeoman personal assistant to -male- captain was so wonderful, but at least, there were -three- women in an action-adventure space series… The original Star Trek series that first year, had -three- women in recurring roles, aboard Starship Enterprise, when the US Navy banned women except nurses on hospital ships from ship duty, when Caltech, Notre Dame, Princeton, etc. banned women from being students, when there were no women on the Supreme Court, and most SF/F at the time had token wife and/or male scientists’ beautiful daughters to be trophy wives, also wQueen Bee Evil Bitch Queen Villains, as the ONLY female characters.. oops, left out scut labor clerical staff spear holders… the gender ratio was less unequal on ST:TOS than on Enterprise, or The Avengers movies, or especially, the merchandising of Avengers movies or other Disney properties which are no putresence pink princess franchises (see e.g. . Or go to a supermarket and note how almost all the characters on Kellog’s Cornflakes and other merchandise showing the Avengers are male-only..

  2. Two quick notes:

    It!s fun to realize that as terrific as Phyllis Douglas is as Yeoman Mears, the brunette Star Fleet officer in “The Galileo 7” original series episode–

    That part was originally intented as another outing for Grace’s Janice Rand. (And Yeoman Rand featured in many of the early drafts of “City on the Edge of Forever.”

    More importantly:

    My girlfriend at the time and I had a dealers table or two at a STAR TREK convention in Scranton, Pennsylvania, around Halloween, 1986–

    And we were right near Grace Lee’s table, where she was signing autographs.

    The convention was actually a pretty big too doo, drawing on the vast STAR TREK audience from Scranton’s PBS station (once, a cable “super station,” renowned for being one of the first public broadcasting outlets to show mainstream movies and television, in addition to their network’s fare.)

    Whitney had a remarkably long line for autographs–HOURS worth…

    We were astonished to see Whitney insist on waiting until every last perspn who wanted her signature, got it.

    This was still in the days of FREE autographs, and we were touched to watch Grace Leemake sure to take the time to have a PERSONAL encounter, or moment, with everyone who wanted to meet her.

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