Star Trek has been going
where no television show has gone before for half a century.
original series lasted only three seasons, from 1966 to 1969, but the program
gained new life in syndication during the 1970s. Instead of withering away, the
sci-fi phenomenon grew in popularity after its cancellation, spawning fan
clubs, fan fiction, conventions, a cartoon, merchandise (make that tons of merchandise), parodies, TV and
movie sequels and prequels, and much more, including the highly anticipated Star Trek Beyond, debuting in theaters
in an optimistic future where humans have largely outgrown hunger, racism, and war
with one another, Star
created by humanist Eugene “Gene” Wesley Roddenberry, a.k.a. “The Great Bird of
the Galaxy.” He developed the show as “Wagon Train to the stars,” drawing
inspiration from the Western TV series Wagon
(1957-1965), the space opera TV series Rocky
Jones, Space Ranger (1954), and the cinema classic Forbidden Planet (1956), along with such serials as Flash Gordon (1936) and Buck Rogers (1939).
works influenced Roddenberry as well, including the writings of A.E. van Vogt (The Voyage of the Space Beagle), Eric Frank
Russell (the epic voyage of the Marathon),
and C.S. Forester (the Horatio Hornblower novels).
who died Oct. 24, 1991, at the age of 70, began his career in Hollywood during
the 1950s. While holding down a “real job” as an LAPD officer, he wrote scripts
under the name of “Robert Wesley” for such shows as Highway Patrol and Have
Gun Will Travel.
ambitions went beyond freelancing, so he developed a World War II adventure
series called APO 293, but couldn’t
get the networks interested. He had better luck with his next series, a Marine Corps
drama called The Lieutenant, which
NBC picked up in 1963. Unfortunately, The
Lieutenant, which featured Nichelle “Uhura” Nichols in its first episode,
only ran one season.
1964, Roddenberry filmed the pilot for Star
with Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Christopher Pike and Leonard Nimoy as Science
Officer Spock. It was called “The Cage.” NBC executives deemed the program “too
cerebral” for mainstream audiences, but in a rare move, the network, seeing
potential in the concept, let Roddenberry film a second pilot (which they
approved, of course), this time with William Shatner in the lead role of Captain
James T. Kirk.
episode, which also introduced chief engineer Lt. Commander Scott (James
Doohan) and Lt. Sulu (George Takei), was called “Where No Man Has Gone Before.”
The title refers to Shatner’s famous voiceover introducing it and subsequent
episodes: “Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship
Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out
new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”
first season of Star Trek, which
debuted Sept. 8, 1966, also saw the addition of: Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy
(DeForest Kelley), who was third-billed behind Shatner and Nimoy; Yeoman Janice
Rand (Grace Lee Whitney), who left midway through the first season; Christine
Chapel (Majel Barrett, Roddenberry’s wife), head nurse and assistant to McCoy;
and Lt. Nyota Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), the first African-American female to
hold a prominent, non-stereotypical role in an American television series.
Walter Koenig joined the cast as Ensign Pavel Chekov in the second season.
its original run, Star
nominated for Emmy Awards (13 nominations, 0 wins), and it had a fiercely loyal
cult following, but it was a relatively expensive show to produce, and its
ratings were only mediocre. Late in 1967, NBC was rumored to be cancelling the
show after just two seasons. However, in March of 1968, after receiving more
than 100,000 letters supporting the show (a campaign promoted by super fan Bjo
Trimble), NBC announced that they were renewing it for a third season.
Trek expert Paul Cortez, an IT
service manager at a Department of Energy research facility, understands the
passion that would prompt tens of thousands of fans to save what is “just” a TV
“Star Trek examined certain progressive
and cultural issues,” he said. “The symbolism was not lost on the
counter-cultural mindset of many young people at the time who probably saw the
show as speaking in support of many of the same ideals they espoused. For that
reason, these first Baby Boomer fans were the ones who set out to make sure
that Star Trek should never be
forgotten, and they passed that enthusiasm on to younger fans of my generation
addition to its social relevance, Cortez appreciates the exploratory nature of Star Trek.
think the show never lost sight of showing people the wondrous possibilities of
exploration,” he said. “That exploring means you will possibly find things that
are dangerous but also things that are wonderful as well, and that the bad must
be accepted along with the good to give the act of exploration any kind of
began watching the show in 1976 when he was in first grade.
was on in late-afternoon syndication on a local station, but of course I had no
idea what syndication or reruns were at the time,” he said. “It was all brand
new to me. I watched it pretty much every day after school. I was mesmerized by
the bright colors of the characters' uniforms. The fact that the show was about
people who explored outer space was the most amazing thing ever, yet it seemed
to me to be the most natural thing that people would want to explore space.”
his favorite episode, Cortez bypassed such oft-cited classics as “The City on
the Edge of Forever,” “The Trouble With Tribbles,” and “Mirror, Mirror” in
favor of “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield,” a heavy-handed but sincere
allegory for racial discrimination. In that third-season episode, which starred
Frank Gorshin, a humanoid alien whose face is black on the left side and white
on the right hates the guy whose face coloring is the opposite.
That Be Your Last Battlefield’ makes an open-and-shut case for the
pointlessness and potential risks of sustaining racial prejudice as part of a
society,” he said. “As an adult fan I've always felt that Star Trek was at its best when it had a strong, positive social
message, and this message was one of the show’s best.” Cortez’s
favorite character, Spock, is a more obvious, more mainstream choice than his
favorite episode, but his reason for liking the green-blooded Vulcan is highly
personal in nature.
the age of 8 my parents had divorced, and I had relocated to another city, so I
was going through a lot of emotional turmoil,” he said. “I would watch Star
see Mr. Spock as an example of how I didn't have to let sadness and grief dominate
my mind if I chose not to. I also had a lot of emotionally volatile people on
both sides of my extended family, but Mr. Spock showed me that it was possible
and worthwhile to live a life with emotional restraint, as well as in pursuit
of knowledge as an end in itself. It's no exaggeration to say that Mr. Spock
was highly instrumental in putting my life on a better course than it would
have gone on had I not had his example to follow.”
a lighter note, Cortez shared a story about his father and Dr. McCoy. When he
was 7 years old, Cortez got a piece of glass stuck in his foot while swimming
at the lake, prompting him to exit the water “screaming and hysterically
dad tried to hold me still so he could remove the glass, but I kept nervously
pulling my foot away from him,” he said. “Finally he looked at me and said,
‘Calm down, didn’t you know I used to be Dr. McCoy on Star Trek?’ As I was inclined to believe anything my dad told me at
this age, I immediately relaxed and let him pull the glass out of my foot and
get a bandage on it. That’s how much Star
Trek meant to me—I trusted Dr. McCoy more than my own father!”
a collecting standpoint, Cortez has “always been enamored with the different
types of spaceships, both those belonging to Starfleet and the different alien
races,” so a lot of his memorabilia is “centered around representations of
these ships ranging in scale from small vinyl-molded figures up through
full-sized model kits.”
also has “quite a few” of the various Star
Trek-themed tactical and role-playing games published in the 1980s, but his
favorite item is an original Star Trek
bridge playset, which Mego released in 1974.
bridge playset is basically a ‘Barbie Malibu Dream House’ for Trekkies,’ and I
say that unashamedly,” he said, laughing. “I enjoy it because it directly
connects me to that period of my childhood when I first discovered Star Trek.”
Star Trek fan Mike Mahnich, owner of
Versus Gameplay Arcade in Plano, Texas, was born during the late 1960s, but he
didn’t discover the show until the 1979 premiere of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. His first memory of watching the TV
series was in 1982 during summer break.
the best of my recollection, Star
didn’t run in syndication in the Dallas/Fort Worth area at that time,” he said.
“However, my brother and I would stay with my grandparents in Illinois for a
few weeks each summer, and a local station was showing reruns in syndication.
One of the episodes included ‘Space Seed’ as a tie-in with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. I had no idea that the movie had a
‘prequel’ episode on the original series, so I started watching other episodes
to see what else I had missed.”
favorite character is Captain Kirk because of Shatner’s delivery and the
captain’s strength of character. His favorite episode at the moment is “Who
Mourns for Adonais?” in which the crew of the Enterprise encounters the Greek
sun god Apollo.
seven of the main cast are featured in this episode,” Mahnich said. “Also, I
always thought the idea of a giant hand in space holding the Enterprise was
collects Star Trek books, toys,
“unusual licensed items” (he seems especially proud of his Enterprise pizza
cutter), and Christmas ornaments, but one ornament in particular has remained
have a boxed collection of every Star Trek ornament put out by Hallmark, except
one,” he said. “In 2009, Hallmark had a booth at Comic-Con in San Diego
featuring an exclusive run of Lt. Uhura ornaments. It was a variation of a 2007
release featuring Uhura in her common red uniform, but the Comic-Con edition
has her dressed in yellow. Because she only wore yellow in one episode, ‘The
Corbomite Maneuver,’ and the run was limited to 450 ornaments, it is now hard
to find at a reasonable price. I have yet to see one in person.”
favorite Star Trek item is an early
U.S.S. Enterprise technical manual, though it has “plummeted in value” since he
got it years ago.
then there was no Internet, and fans would publish their own material,” he
said. “The tech manual I have, which was given to me by a great friend and
fellow fan, is obviously printed on a dot-matrix printer, which only makes it
cooler to me. It was probably sold at an early Star Trek convention.”
enjoys all of the various “Star Trek” series, including The Next Generation, which he watched with his parents while he was
in high school, and Voyager, which
he’s watching now on Netflix with his wife and kids.
self-described Trekkie/Trekker (“doesn’t matter which,” he says), Mahnich
believes The Original Series lives on
50 years later because of its “bold stories and well-defined characters,” along
with its positive outlook on the future.
“Star Trek really was ahead of its time
regarding diversity and dealing with social issues on TV,” Mahnich added. “So
much of what it has to say is still relevant, and since it teaches using the
metaphor of space adventures, it continues to gently influence its viewers,
even if they are not aware of it.”
The legendary rock
band KISS, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014, has been in
the news a lot lately. Founding members and Paul Stanley, still
wearing kabuki makeup and crazy costumes, keep the brand alive by continuing to
tour (with drummer Eric Singer and guitarist Tommy Thayer) and involve
themselves in such enterprises as the Rock & Brews restaurant chain and the
LA KISS Indoor League Football team.
Original KISS guitarist has a new solo album filled with cover tunes, Origins Vol. 1. The band’s first drummer, , has pretty
much retired from pounding the skins professionally, but he’s still in the
public eye, as evidenced by his recent appearance at Texas Frightmare Weekend,
where he signed autographs and posed for pictures with a large crowd of happy
Lydia, who was married to the Catman from 1970 to 1979, has been visible as
well, promoting her spectacular book, . The autobiographical tome is filled with candid stories of
Lydia’s exciting, if sometimes tumultuous life with Peter and is loaded with
rare photos, including early pics of the band sans makeup.
I recently caught up
with Lydia , who discussed her book and her years with and KISS.
BRETT WEISS: Growing
up, what kind of music and what bands did you like?
LYDIA CRISS: Initially
I liked Motown. Then when arrived I changed to the British bands,
like the Beatles, the Stones, the Who, and .
WEISS: If someone had
told your teenage self that one day you would be married to a famous rock star,
what would you have said?
CRISS: No Way!!
describe the first time you met , and your first date. What
attracted you to him initially?
CRISS: I met Peter at
a club in Brooklyn when he was playing with the Barracudas. My friend was dating the bass player, and she
thought I would like Peter, the drummer. Our first date was the following day. We
went to the beach with a bunch of his friends. What attracted me to Peter was
WEISS: When and how
did Peter propose?
CRISS: Peter never
proposed. We went out to dinner and then went to see Romeo and Juliet, and he then said he wanted to get married. It was
just understood that after three-and-half years of dating that we would get
married. I never did receive an engagement ring.
WEISS: Did you help Peter come up with his Catman
character and look? Did you ever offer Peter any advice about his music or
CRISS: No, Peter came
up with the Catman character and look by himself. There was always discussion
about his music, but me not being a musician, I didn’t give him any advice.
Regarding his costumes, I did help make some of them in the early days, but after
they signed with Casablanca, there were professional people working with them
on their costumes. Peter would come home with sketches, and we would discuss
WEISS: You were there
at the Coventry on January 30, 1973, when KISS played their first show. Please
describe that experience.
CRISS: It was
exciting that they were finally getting out of the rehearsal loft and playing
to the public. It was also scary. The first night, there were only three people
in the audience. It was Jan Walsh (Gene’s girlfriend), Jan’s friend, and me.
[AUTHOR’S NOTE: Other reports have described the crowd as being “less than 10
WEISS: You supported
Peter financially before KISS became successful. Did either of you resent this?
Was he truly appreciative?
CRISS: Yes, I
supported Peter for the first six years of our marriage, and the three-and-a-half
before we got married. I didn’t resent it. I think it paid off. As far as Peter
being truly appreciative, you will have to ask Peter that question. I really
don’t know the answer.
WEISS: What was it
like watching the band morph from guys in T-shirts and jeans, playing in a loft
and in bars, to famous rock stars adored by millions?
CRISS: It was great
seeing this happen, but it was a slow process. First they got the show and
costumes together, thanks to Sean Delaney. Then they had to get the public to
love them. That’s what took a while. They were playing small venues for the
first two years, and then in the third year it all started to explode.
WEISS: What was the
best thing about being married to Peter?
CRISS: He was very
funny, and I like guys that make me laugh.
WEISS: What was the
CRISS: His dependency
WEISS: In your mind,
what caused the divorce? Who instigated the divorce, you or Peter?
CRISS: Infidelity on
his part. Peter wanted the divorce.
WEISS: What is your
opinion of ?
CRISS: I liked all of
the guys. It was always fun being around
them. Lots of laughs. As far as Gene, he
was a very understanding and pleasant.
He was the person to talk finances with.
WEISS: What about
CRISS: I thought Paul
and Peter were the closest back then. They roomed together in the beginning,
and we went on vacations with Paul. He was good to talk to about clothes and
CRISS: Ace was just a
happy-go-lucky guy, always telling jokes.
WEISS: What is your
favorite KISS song and why?
CRISS: My favorite KISS
song is, of course, “Beth.” I do have
other favorites, but that is number one. I also like “Hard Luck Woman,” “Strutter,”
“Do You Love Me?”, and “I Was Made for Lovin’ You.” My favorite albums are Destroyer and Love
describe your life as ex-wife of . Do you still talk to Peter or any
of the other band members?
CRISS: I only talk to
Peter if we happen to be at the same place together. I do talk to Ace, but now
that he moved to the West Coast, I only see him when he plays on the East
WEISS: Your book, Sealed
With A KISS, is truly amazing—lots of great stories and information, and
the photos are incredible. How long did the book take you to write? Please
describe the writing and publishing process.
CRISS: Writing was a long process. I
was approached by a publisher who was a KISS fan. He had published a couple of
books before I met him. I started writing the book in December of 1997. I was working a fulltime job at the time and
was also going back and forth to Brooklyn to take care of my father, who was
sick. I finished the text around May, 1999.
In the meantime, the publisher had Dave Snowden scanning all the photos.
By March of 2002, the book was still in progress when the publisher went
bankrupt. I got all my stuff returned and then started to figure out how I
could publish it myself. In 2004, I started finding people who could work with
me. I finally decided to started the book in 2005 and finished it in 2006.
WEISS: Did , who
is fiercely protective of the KISS brand, have a problem with you publishing
the book? Did you get any feedback from KISS members about the book?
CRISS: As far as I
know, KISS did not have a problem with the book. I did check with three lawyers
before I printed it. I believe I was protected by our First Amendment right. The
only feedback I got from KISS is that Tommy Thayer bought the book and told me
that I did a really good job. Tommy was one of the major writers for KISStory, so I felt that was a great
WEISS: Anything else
you care to share about your book or about your life in general?
CRISS: Well, if you
don’t have my book, you have to get it. It is one of the best KISS books. It is
the most accurate and the most honest. It’s a hardcover coffee table book, 12”
x 10” glossy, full color, 384 pages. It has over 1,500 photos and approximately
120,000 words. It weighs almost five pounds. If you purchase an autographed
copy from www.lydiacriss.com, you will get a free CD by my boyfriend,
Richie Fontana, who played drums on Paul Stanley’s 1978 solo album. The CD is
called Steady On the Steel.
Review Fix: What was the inspiration for this book?
Brett Weiss: Three years or so ago, I went through a phase where I was
reading every KISS book I could get my hands on. It occurred to me that no one
had over done an encyclopedia on the band, even though such musical acts as , the Stones, the Beatles, and Elvis had encyclopedias.
KISS is in the same conversation with those guys regarding their iconic nature,
so I figured it was long overdue that someone write such a book. Since I’m a
freelance writer and have been a huge KISS fan since the mid-1970s, it seemed
like something I should do—fill a gaping hole in the music and reference book
publishing industry. Fortunately, the editors at McFarland Publishers agreed
with me, and the rest is KISStory.
Review Fix: Why does KISS still matter?
Weiss: Like the Beatles, KISS influenced countless singers and
musicians to grab a microphone and/or a musical instrument, including such
popular acts as Garth Brooks, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lenny Kravitz, Motley
Crue, Pearl Jam, Poison, Bon Jovi, Twisted Sister and Marilyn Manson. Further,
their music is timeless, especially their first six studio albums, their first
two live albums (Alive and Alive II), and Creatures of the Night—those records
rock! Most of their other music is awesome as well. And the band is still
recording, performing, and making public appearances today (such as their Rock
& Brews and LA KISS events), and you can hear “Rock and Roll All Nite”
during various games in sports arenas all around the country.
Review Fix: How has KISS played a role in your life?
Weiss: Sometime around 1975 or so, I discovered the band through my
older brother and some of his friends. I was eight- or nine-years-old and
completely blown away by Alive!, one of the three or four greatest live albums
of all time. I was mesmerized by the subsequent records—what I call the second
Holy Trinity of KISS albums—Destroyer, Rock and Roll Over, and Love Gun. I
would play those records over and over again on our hold furniture-style stereo
while starring at the covers, especially Destroyer and Love Gun. The fantasy,
larger-than-life depictions of KISS by Ken Kelly are phenomenal, and I love
every song on those albums. The makeup, blood, bombs, and all of that is cool,
but it is the music that has kept me a KISS fan for 40 years.
KISS has affected me from a more personal standpoint as well. When I
was a kid, before I know about any of the problems in the band—the in-fighting,
Paul’s insecurities, Ace and Peter’s alcohol and drug abuse, etc.—they were my
larger than life heroes, a colorful, cool, and exciting contrast from such
hassles and mundanities as school, chores, and getting sick all the time (I had
bad bronchitis, allergies, etc., which I’ve outgrown, thankfully). Some of the
most exciting times in my young life were KISS moments: the first Marvel comic
book, watching KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park on TV when it originally
aired (I loved every second of it, even though it is cheesy seen through adult
eyes), pouring over the various magazines and making my own scrapbook, and
finally getting to see them in concert for the first time in 1983. Sadly, I
didn’t get to see them in makeup until the 1996 Reunion Tour, but that was
awesome as well. KISS is an amalgamation of sorts of many of the things I loved
as a kid and still enjoy: rock music, monsters, mystery (who were these guys
behind the makeup?), comic books, spectacle, and science fiction.
Review Fix: What did you learn about the band through this book?
Weiss: I learned crazy things about and his ex-wives. I
learned that Tom Arnold and Dallas Taylor rushed to the aid of a homeless
person who they thought was Peter Criss (check out the “Peter Criss Imposter”
entry in the book). I learned that Gene’s son Nick was accused of plagiarism. I
learned that Tony Powers, who wrote “Odyssey” from Music from “The Elder” also
wrote “We’re the Banana Splits” from the old Saturday morning kids’ show. I
learned about obscure movie and TV appearances by the band members, more than I
ever wanted to know about KISS condoms, and much more. I learned KISS was
featured in an Animaniacs comic book. Encyclopedia of KISS is filled with this
kind of stuff–I learned a TON.
Review Fix: Any obstacles?
Weiss: The publisher insisted on a generic cover because they wanted to
avoid copyright violation and any negative attention from the band. The inside
of the book, however, is all KISS all the time, including photos.
Review Fix: Why should a KISS fan own this book?
Weiss: Virtually everything important to know about KISS is conveniently
laid out in alphabetical order in this one volume, plus there’s an insane
amount of minutia and obscure trivial tidbits—the kind of stuff dedicated KISS
fans will enjoy. The book provides detailed information on songs, albums,
tours, special events, girlfriends, family members, solo projects, current and
former members, movie and TV appearances, comic book appearances, and much,
much more. Plus, I quote experts, band members, family members, critics, etc.
Researchers, historians, music journalists, and casual and hardcore KISS fans should enjoy the book.