Grace Lee Whitney

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Grace Lee Whitney
Grace lee whitney 1980.jpg
Grace Lee Whitney at a Star Trek convention (circa 1980)
Born Mary Ann Chase
(1930-04-01) April 1, 1930 (age 84)
Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S.
Occupation Actress
Years active 1947–2007
Spouse(s) Jack Dale (1965–1991)

Grace Lee Whitney (born Mary Ann Chase; April 1, 1930) is an American actress and entertainer. She is best known as Janice Rand on the Star Trek television series and subsequent films and as the original mermaid for Chicken of the Sea tuna ad campaign.[1]

Early life[edit]

Whitney was born as Mary Ann Chase in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She was adopted by the Whitney family who changed her name to Grace Elaine. After she moved out, she began to call herself Lee Whitney, and eventually, she became known as Grace Lee Whitney. Whitney started her entertainment career as a "girl singer" on Detroit's WJR radio at the age of fourteen. In her late teens, she moved to Chicago and started to open in nightclubs for such luminaries as Billie Holiday and Buddy Rich, and toured with the Spike Jones and Fred Waring Bands.

Star Trek[edit]

Star Trek television show[edit]

Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry cast Whitney in the role of Yeoman Janice Rand, the personal assistant to Captain James T. Kirk, in 1966. Whitney said: "I was on diet pills trying to stay thin – and I was very thin. They wanted you to fit into the uniforms and I couldn't quite so I went on amphetamines."[2] Whitney appeared in eight of the first thirteen episodes; then was released from contract. She had reported that, while still under contract, she was sexually assaulted by an executive associated with the series, and, later, in a public interview, she stated that Leonard Nimoy had been her main source of support during that time. She went into more detail of the assault in her book The Longest Trek but refused to name the executive, saying in the book, "This is my story, not his." In a later interview, she said of her termination from the series:

They wanted William Shatner to have romances in each episode with a different person, because for him to be stuck with one woman was not good for him and it wasn't good for the audience. That's what they told me, so I was written out. There were two blonde girls and one black girl. Nichelle was a more important character and couldn't be written out. Everything's political in America. One of the blondes had to go. The other one was engaged to the boss, so guess who went? I just about killed myself. I drank, that's what we do, we drink to get rid of pain. I was really mad. My God, was I bitter.[2]

Star Trek films[edit]

Whitney posing with a Star Trek prop at a science fiction convention, 1975

Whitney returned to the Star Trek franchise in the 1970s after DeForest Kelley saw Whitney on the unemployment line and told her that Trekkies had been asking for her at fan conventions.[3] Whitney reprised her role as Janice Rand, who had received a promotion to Chief Petty Officer (CPO), in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979). She appeared again in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), with another promotion, as Lieutenant (JG) Janice Rand. Five years later, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the franchise, she returned to Star Trek in 1996 in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Flashback" along with George Takei. She has filmed roles in two Internet Star Trek episodes: "Star Trek: New Voyages" and "Star Trek: Of Gods and Men" (reprising her role as Janice Rand in both). "New Voyages" premiered on August 24, 2007. "Of Gods and Men" made its debut in late 2007.

Career[edit]

Theater[edit]

Whitney debuted on Broadway in Top Banana with Phil Silvers and Kaye Ballard where she played Miss Holland. Following the successful run of the show, she joined the cast in Hollywood where she recreated the role in the 1954 movie of the same name. While in Los Angeles, Whitney auditioned and was cast in the starring role of Lucy Brown in the national tour of The Threepenny Opera, taking over the role from Bea Arthur who played the part in New York off-Broadway.

Film highlights[edit]

Whitney was cast as a member of the all-female band in Billy Wilder's classic comedy Some Like It Hot, released in 1959. She shared several scenes with Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, and Marilyn Monroe, including the famed "upper berth" sequence. In her memoir, The Longest Trek: My Tour of the Galaxy, she maintains that as one of the few girls in the band with a speaking role, Billy Wilder hired her specifically for the role of Rosella. Various credit sources have listed another actress in the role, even though she is directly addressed by the name Rosella in two different scenes in the film; the first by band leader Sweet Sue (Joan Shawlee), and the second by a fellow band member.

Whitney had uncredited roles in House of Wax (1953) with Vincent Price, Top Banana (1954) starring Phil Silvers, The Naked and the Dead (1958) with Cliff Robertson, and Pocketful of Miracles (1961) with Bette Davis and Glenn Ford. Whitney was credited as Tracey Phillips in the 1962 drama A Public Affair, and as Texas Rose in the western The Man from Galveston (1963) with Jeffrey Hunter. Billy Wilder then gave her the featured role of "Kiki the Cossack" in the 1963 film Irma la Douce with Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon.

Television[edit]

Whitney has made more than a hundred television appearances since her television debut in Cowboy G-Men in 1953. She appeared on episodes of The Real McCoys, Wagon Train, The Islanders, Hennesey, The Roaring 20s, Gunsmoke, Bat Masterson, The Rifleman, 77 Sunset Strip, Bewitched, Mike Hammer, Batman, The Untouchables, and Hawaiian Eye.

She appeared in an episode of The Outer Limits, "Controlled Experiment", co-starring Barry Morse and Carroll O'Connor. In the late 1960s, Whitney appeared as guest star on Mannix, Death Valley Days, The Big Valley, and The Virginian. In 1962 she appeared in "The Rifleman" in the episode "The Tin Horn" as Rose Keeler. Also in 1964 she played the Marilyn Monroe lookalike character Babs Livingston on Bewitched in the episode "It Shouldn't Happen to a Dog". 1970s roles included The Bold Ones, Cannon, and Hart to Hart. In 1983, she had a small part in the television film, The Kid with the 200 IQ with Gary Coleman. In 1998, she appeared on an episode of Diagnosis: Murder, which reunited her with her old Star Trek cast-mates George Takei, Walter Koenig and Majel Barrett Roddenberry.

Music[edit]

Grace Lee Whitney on December 5, 1976.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Whitney sang with a number of orchestras and bands, including the Keith Williams Orchestra. Later, she concentrated on jazz/pop vocalizing while fronting for the band "Star". In the 1970s, with her then-husband, Jack Dale, she wrote a number of Star Trek-related songs. A 45 rpm record was released in 1976 with the songs Disco Trekkin’ (A side) and Star Child (B side). She recorded such tunes as Charlie X, Miri, Enemy Within, and USS Enterprise. Many of these songs were released in the 1990s in cassette tape format: Light at the End of the Tunnel in 1996 and Yeoman Rand Sings! in 1999.

Writing[edit]

Whitney's autobiography, The Longest Trek: My Tour of the Galaxy, was released in 1998 (ISBN 1-884956-05-X). The book delves into her hiring and firing from Star Trek, her fight and eventual victory over alcohol and substance dependence, particularly marijuana. The book also recounts Whitney's hiring as the first Chicken of the Sea Mermaid.[4]

Filmography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Whitney, Grace Lee and Denney, Jim (July 1, 1998). The Longest Trek: My Tour of the Galaxy (1 ed.). Linden Publishing. pp. 35–36. ISBN 1884956033. 
  2. ^ a b Emma Cox, Star Trek, Jim, but not as we know it. Yeoman Janice Rand. Grace Lee Whitney, The Sun (2 May 2009).
  3. ^ Rioux, Terry Lee (2005). From sawdust to stardust: the biography of DeForest Kelley, Star trek's Dr. McCoy. Simon and Schuster. p. 218. ISBN 0-7434-5762-5. 
  4. ^ Whitney, Grace Lee; Jim Denney; Foreword by Leonard Nimoy (1998). The Longest Trek: My Tour of the Galaxy. Clovis, CA: Quill Driver Books. p. 36. ISBN 978-1884956034. 

External links[edit]