I have the sad news to report that another great Star Trek alum from the original series has passed away. Grace Lee Whitney, who starred as Yeoman Janice Rand on the 1960's television series and in several of the original films, as well as guest appearances on "Star Trek: Voyager."
What many may not know is Whitney started her show business career in the same way as another of her Trek co-stars Nichelle Nichols. They both began as nightclub singers. Grace was the opening act for some of the greats back in the late 1950's, entertainers like the phenomenal Billie Holiday and drummer Buddy Rich. She toured with several big bands in her early career before landing the role that would forever make her a part of that wonder called Star Trek.
Whitney revealed that she always battled her weight, even as a young lass and in order to fit snuggly in those Starfleet mini skirts she started taking diet pills on a regular basis. Back in the 1960's diet pills contained large doses of amphetamines (speed) which over a short amount of time led her into abuse and addiction. She was sexually assaulted by one of the behind-camera-bigwigs and after reporting it her TV contract was ended after eight appearances on the show. Those were different days. Leonard Nimoy (Spock) was a constant source of help and strength for Grace as she battled her way through her addition. Nimoy himself had battled with alcohol addiction so was a perfect sponsor.
One day in the 1970's actor DeForest Kelley (Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy) spotted Grace in an unemployment line and would have none of that and insisted she appear in "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" as Chief Petty Officer Janice Rand. She was given a centerpiece scene with Admiral Kirk after a few minutes in the opening of the film, and the rest is history. She went on to star in three more original Trek films, the aforementioned special Voyager episode and in two indie Trek films Star Trek: Phase Two and "Star Trek: Of Gods and Men," directed by Tim Russ.
Star Trek wasn't her only exposure to television action. She went on to appear in episodes of "The Untouchables," Hawaiian Eye," "Bat Masterson," "The Rifleman," "Batman" and many others.
Grace also appeared on Broadway in "Top Banana" and "The Threepenny Opera."
Her biggest film claim to fame besides Star Trek movies was her scene stealing role with A-Listers Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe in "Some Like It Hot," and opposite Shirley MacLaine in "Irma La Douce." Famed director Billy Wilder created the role of Kiki the Cossack specifically for Whitney.
Grace Lee Whitney died of natural causes at the age of 85. R.I.P. Yeoman.