Trekkies Aren't Only Fans Going Overboard

ByABC News

Dec. 10, 2002 -- -- There's a very good reason why the Bible and Shakespeare's great works have been translated into Klingon — humans are illogical.

When it comes to becoming ridiculously over-involved in a TV show, Star Trek fans are intergalactic whipping boys. Even in a world where Star Wars fans wait on line for six weeks for a premiere, Trekkies — with their Vulcan ears and toy phaser guns — get unfairly singled out for abuse.

On a Saturday Night Live skit several years ago, William Shatner jokingly mocked Trekkie conventioneers as the ultimate geeks.

"Get a life," Shatner told them. "What have you done with yourselves?"

Looking over at SNL's Jon Lovitz, Shatner demanded, "You, have you ever been on a date?"

Lovitz just looked down at his shoes in shame. "Grow the hell up!" Shatner said. "It's just a TV show, dammit!"

But now, as a new Star Trek movie opens, its stars are defending Trekkies.

"You go to any football game, any sporting event, and you'll see people who paint their faces, dress up, and do all sorts of wild things," says Brent Spiner, who plays Lt. Cmdr. Data in Star Trek: Nemesis, opening Friday.

"When you go to a Trek convention, only a small amount of the people are dressing up and going to such extremes. But they are always the ones interviewed on TV. They make a striking visual image, but they don't really represent the group."

‘May I Sample Your Blood?’

Certainly, any convention has its oddballs. Democrats and Republicans gather to nominate presidential candidates every four years, and this very serious task is undertaken, in part, by conventioneers wearing donkey masks and gag elephant trunks, while dozens of others don novelty straw hats.

At least science fiction fans aren't trying to run the government. At least, not yet.

The 1999 documentary Trekkies exposed the outer limits of fanaticism. One Trekkie changed his name to James T. Kirk. Another contemplated having plastic surgery on his ears to look more like Mr. Spock. And a third carried a hypodermic needle to conventions, hoping to get blood samples from his favorite stars.

Another fan, Dr. Denis Bourguignon, practices dentistry in a Starfleet uniform. An enthusiast from Boston dresses his cat like Dr. McCoy and calls the poor puss "Bones."

A flock of women devoted to Spiner's android character, Data, call themselves "Spiner Femmes." One member who's lucky enough to live near Spiner's Los Angeles home gazes upon the estate with binoculars several times a day in what she calls "Brent breaks."

In 1996, science fiction entered a federal courthouse. Barbara Adams, a 31-year-old print shop supervisor in Arkansas, was picked to serve as an alternate juror in the trial of the Clintons' Whitewater partners. Every day, she arrived at the Little Rock courthouse in a Starfleet uniform.

During jury selection, Adams told the court that she always dressed in her spacy garb, and that she admired the Enterprise crew because they stood for justice and public service

"Once I told them," Adams told reporters, "they were quite satisfied."

She was eventually beamed off the case for talking to the media.

The Wolf Files won't defend every Trekkie, but there's a fan club for nearly every TV show that lasted more than a nanosecond. The National Association for the Advancement of Perry Mason, The Lost in Space Fannish Alliance and The Royal Association for the Longevity and Preservation of the Honeymooners (RALPH, for short), are just a few.

Two of my favorites: Vandelay Industries (for Seinfeld fans) and Friends of Betty White, known as "Bet's Pets."

Humans are indeed illogical, just as Mr. Spock always said. Not just Trek fans. All fans. Take a look at these strange new life forms:

Three Stooges — Are there pilgrimages to the Hollywood homes of Larry, Moe and Curly? Soitainly!

Slaphappy knuckleheads line up in Burbank, Calif., to pay tribute to the comic trio through special bus tours. With great reverence, they leave flowers at their graves. You can even see where Curly bought his poodle treats.

And then — Nyuck-Nyuck-Nyuck, Woo-Woo — you visit the apartment where the Stooges used to rehearse their eye-poking gags and tryst with their girlfriends. Mmmm … Wise guys, eh?

"It's hard to prepare," says Roger Neal of Inside Hollywood Tours. Stoogologists, he says, demand deeply detailed accounts of their heroes. Experts include Robert Kurson, author of The Official Three Stooges Encyclopedia and The Official Three Stooges Cookbook.

"Incidentally," Neal adds, "there are female Stooge fans, contrary to popular belief."

The Stooge legacy was locked in legal limbo until the mid-1990s, and the tour developed in 1998 to celebrate the first convention in Hollywood. Predictably, a custard pie fight broke out amid rumors that a veiled Michael Jackson sneaked in a side entrance with a phalanx of security men to purchase T-shirts and other goodies.

Batman — A 73-year-old Adam West is unwilling to squeeze into his Caped Crusader outfit, but he still answers the Bat Phone when fans call. The demand never ends. He does several conventions every year.

Yvonne Craig, who played Batgirl on the mid-1960s TV show, says middle-aged men still tell her, "You were my first love."

"I was bouncing around in a spray-on costume, and these guys must have been 12-year-old boys with the early stirrings of puberty," she says. "It can be strange thinking about it all these years later."

Controversy in Batdom broke out in 1995, when Burt Ward, who played Robin, blew the lid off the Bat Cave in his tell-all memoir, Boy Wonder: My Life In Tights, describing how "thousands" of women lined up outside the superheroes' trailer, hoping to get into their Bat skivvies.

One chapter is headed "On your knees, girls, and stay in line!" — a quote attributed to Adam West.

At the time, West had had been married about 20 years. He denied the salacious details and had to assure fans he was no Bat Pervert. His relationship with Ward became strained, but that didn't affect the show's hard-core fan base.

The Poseidon Adventure — Do you remember the 1972 disaster film about a cruise ship that flips over after it's hit by a tidal wave?

The Poseidon Adventure featured Gene Hackman, Shelley Winters and other stars as trapped passengers trying to escape from the upside-down vessel.

Now, 30 years later, 150 card-carrying members of the Poseidon Adventure Fan Club celebrate the film over and over again, as if they were teenagers watching Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic. The club gathered on June 1 for a gala event aboard the Queen Mary, where several scenes for the film were shot.

Club President Jack Castro says some Poseidon fans insist on watching the movie in a tuxedo or evening gown — just like the film's victims.

Friends of Hopalong Cassidy — Old TV cowboys don't die. They live forever in syndication.

William Boyd — the actor who played Hopalong Cassidy — was a marketing maverick who bought up his old films and made a fortune selling toys, souvenirs and Western clothing.

Mosey on down to Hoppy's Cambridge, Ohio, hometown May 2 for the annual convention. More than 1,200 fans show up in black Stetson hats, red scarves and bolo ties. In Cambridge, there's a statue, a brick-lined sidewalk, and a scholarship in Boyd's honor.

"If you've got a Hopalong toy gun, it could be worth $1,800 to a collector," says Laura Bates, editor of the Hoppy Talk newsletter. "He did a lot of charitable work and made a lot of people happy. That's why people show up."

The Wizard of Oz — Like any job, life as a Munchkin had its ups and downs. Jerry Maren, now 83, says he only made $50 a week back in 1938 when the film was shot. But he's spent many years attending festivals and conventions that have taken him over the country, and on nostalgia cruises.

"The Oz phenomena has definitely been a good thing, so I don't knock the fans," says the 4-foot-3-inch actor, recalling that some fans will dress up as Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and even the Wicked Witch.

In the most celebrated moment in Maren's life, he welcomed Judy Garland to Oz, singing, "We represent the Lollipop Guild, the Lollipop Guild, the Lollipop Guild, and in the name of the Lollipop Guild, we welcome you to Munchkin Land."

Maren, a one-time child stand-in for Jerry Mathers on Leave It to Beaver's, later landed a gig as Mayor McCheese in McDonald's commercials. As for his ongoing membership in the Lollipop Guild, he says, "I never thought I'd still be doing this."

Buck Wolf is entertainment producerat The Wolf Files ispublished Tuesdays. If you want to receive weekly notice whena new column is published, join the e-maillist.

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