By Cory Sklar
By Alee Karim
By Christina Li
By Dave Pehling
By Ian S. Port
By SF Weekly
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
I am the proud owner of a Nichelle Nichols CD (Lt. Uhura from Star Trek). Nichols putting out a record is not that big of a stretch, because before she joined the cast of the '60s TV show she had been a singer with the likes of Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton. But I didn't score this jewel from the Amoeba clearance bin to hear her scat. Nope, this CD is chock-full of Star Trek-themed, semidisco numbers, including a trippy ode to her supposed former lover, Star Trekcreator Gene Roddenberry. It's "scat" all right, as in, scatological. My, but it's a bad record.
Here's something else about Uhura. Her brother, Thomas Nichols, was one of the members of the Heaven's Gate cult in San Diego. He left his flesh-vessel in '97 and is now chillin' in a spaceship behind the comet Hale-Bopp.
There are stories about the siblings of famous people, how they try in vain to capture the same glories as their brothers or sisters: Billy Carter, Frank Stallone, Jim Belushi. But Thomas put his money where his mouth was. Actually, he put drug-laced applesauce and vodka where his mouth was, and one-upped his sis by actually leaving this mortal coil and going into space. Take that, beeyattch.
On July 20th of this year, another space explorer entered the great beyond, James Montgomery Doohan, aka "Scotty," who succumbed to Alzheimer's. A tribute to his life and work took place last Thursday at the Edinburgh Castle on Geary. It was a chance for people to honor the memory of the Canadian actor who made Scotland great; the man who held the Enterprise together with only his wits and some rolled R's. It was a chance to raise a glass, shed a tear, and sit smugly in the corner and make fun of all the geeks.
The Edinburgh is quite possibly the best bar in the city. It looks like ye olde Scottish public house, with dark lighting and simple woodwork. The staff is down-to-earth and happy to be there, and, for the most part, so are the guests. It's all about pretension-free fun, as in the bar's weekly trivia series and its playing host to the occasional play.
This night was honoring Scotland's most famous face after Sean Connery and the redhead from the Bay City Rollers. Costumes were encouraged. I had some great ideas. First, I would wrap my albino guinea pig Petunia in fake fur and call her a Tribble. Then I'd take half an egg carton and fashion it into a Klingon forehead for my dog. At the last minute I thought I should call ahead and see if pets were allowed. No, no they weren't. Shizznit. I grabbed the egg carton anyway, thinking that if I could find a rubber band big enough, I could somehow attach it to my own forehead and perhaps capture the grand prize, a bust of Scotty.
"The last thing you need's another bust," quipped my smartass friend Michelle. I had just dropped a fried oyster onto my ample boob-shelf. A guy sporting a gray Star Trek shirt, hiked-up black pants, a paunch, and one hell of a monobrow shuffled by and gave us a long, lingering look that said, "Oh yes, I will take you as far as the Barlak Sector and back again with my superior lovemaking skills."
It was then that we realized we would have to find a pair of geeks to sit with us. This task proved harder than it seemed, even though we both concluded that we looked like two comic-book-store geeks ourselves. We got up and wandered the room looking for some suitable human or alien companions. The monobrow dork was already ensconced at a table full of she-geeks, so he was out. Eventually we returned to our beers, a bit dejected.
Then he came in. He was of East Indian descent, wearing a girl's jean jacket, a T-shirt with the frantic scribbling of a Swedish black metal band's logo, acid-washed jeans, and Coke-bottle glasses that made his eyes as big as a Keane painting. He made quite an entrance, haphazardly gesticulating like a kung fu Jedi, pausing, taking in the room, and then returning to his martial arts.
Michelle and I took one look at each other and I intuitively got up and followed him to the bar without a word.
"Can my friend and I buy you a drink?" I asked, to which he replied "Sure!" He came over and sat with us. I inquired about his karate moves.
"Oh!" he laughed, "No, that was air drumming. I like the music here."
Michelle and I looked at each other again. Air drumming? Even better. We bought him a whiskey and asked for his story. It seems he came for the tribute not because he loves Star Trek, but because he is half-Indian, half-Scottish. My mind boggled at the possibilities. Could he be named Jugdish McGregor? Ravi McHattie? The truth was less exotic and, in the interests of his anonymity, shall remain my secret. Suffice to say, it was something like Mike Smith.
It was time for the Scotty sound-alike competition, where members of the crowd would get up and deliver their best Scottish brogue. Most of the quotes were about the ship "breakin' up" or "losing fast." Then a rather swarthy geek dressed in Trek gear got up and recited a free-verse poem that he had written for the occasion, accompanied by, of course, bagpipes.
The Punjabi Scotsman eventually joined his friends at another table. I guess the novelty had worn off for all of us. Or maybe he was tired of being called Jugdish. The band for the evening, the Savage Curtain, took the stage and reeled off a set of surf-guitar-inspired songs from the series. The bassist looked familiar, and, yep, it was local musician Count Dante. He sheepishly admitted that he was a Trekkie. I went to say goodbye to him because Michelle and I were ready to set our flesh-vessels on sleep command.
"We've been working these songs out over a few weeks," he said, possibly referring to the fact that the crowd seemed to disperse as soon as his band hit the stage. "We still have some kinks to work out. By the time Uhura dies, we will probably have some great material."
Michelle and I walked out into the starry night and the Tenderloin. For a brief moment we thought we saw a twinkling star brighten and then wane just beyond Hale-Bopp's constellation; a fiery semaphore that said, "Let there be peace among the planets, let all carbon-based life-forms join as one and prosper."
Wait, no. It was just some crackhead's Bic lighter.