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.]