Friday, December 19, 2008

RIP First Lady of Star Trek

majel barrett roddenberryMajel Leigh Hudec was born in Cleveland, Ohio, where she grew up. When she was ten, she enrolled in an acting workshop. She continued her interest in acting at Shaker Heights High School but went to college with the intent of becoming a legal clerk. Majel attended law school for a year, but after receiving an 'F' in contract law, she moved to New York and landed parts in, "Models By Season," which was staged in Boston. Then she did a nine-month run in "The Solid Gold Cadillac," which toured New Orleans, Texas, Oklahoma and San Francisco, California.

Deciding the competition was too stiff in New York, Majel moved to California and the Pasadena Playhouse. There she got a role in, "All for Mary." In the late fifties, she worked in various Paramount films, including, "Black Orchid," "As Young as We Are," and "The Buccaneer." Then she decided that the real progress was happening in television and that's where she wanted to be.

After appearing in several series, like, Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, Window on Main Street, Bonanza, and Pete and Gladys, she met Lucille Ball at an acting class and was signed to a contract with Desilu. Soon after she appeared in an episode of the Lucy Show, called "Lucy is a Kangaroo for a Day."

In 1964, when she was no longer under exclusive contract, Majel accepted a guest role on the new MGM series, The Lieutenant, produced by Gene Roddenberry. Majel became good friends with Gene and ultimately, years later, became his wife.

Later in 1964, Roddenberry cast her in a co-starring role in "The Cage," the pilot for his science fiction series, Star Trek. She played 'Number One,' second in command on a fictitious starship. However, the character's strength and authority in the Star Trek universe was unsettling to NBC and they ordered a second pilot made, without the woman, Number One.

When Roddenberry sold his second Star Trek pilot to the network, he remembered Majel's work in "The Cage" and hired her as Nurse Christine Chapel. Instead of the dark-haired M. Leigh Hudec that they had disliked in the other pilot, she now used the name Majel Barrett and wore a blond wig as Chapel. Majel remains the only actor to have contributed to every facet of the Star Trek phenomenon.

On August 6, 1969, Majel married Gene Roddenberry in Japan, in a traditional Buddhist-Shinto ceremony. They regarded this as their real wedding, but his divorce was not yet final and they made it legal with a civil ceremony on December 29, 1969. On February 5th, 1974, they welcomed the arrival of their newborn son, Eugene Wesley Roddenberry, Jr., known affectionately as "Rod."

Since Roddenberry's death, Barrett produced the sci-fi series Andromeda with Kevin Sorbo and Earth: Final Conflict. In 1996, Barrett, often called "The First Lady of Star Trek," guest starred on Babylon 5, the science fiction series that was widely considered to be Star Trek's challenger and competitor. Farther outside the Star Trek universe, Barrett appeared in A Guide to the Married Man with Walter Matthau, Westworld with Yul Brynner, and The Domino Principle with Gene Hackman, but her roles in such films were always small. She also voiced the computer in an episode of Family Guy

Most recently, she reprised her role as the voice of the USS Enterprise for the new movie, Star Trek XI.

Majel owned and operated Lincoln Enterprises, a mail order business that she and Gene started to deal with the mountain of requests for Star Trek-related materials. Some of her hobbies include golf, gold working, gourmet cooking and gem cutting.

Majel Barrett Roddenberry passed away December 18, 2008, at 12:27 AM in her Bel Air home. She died peacefully, in her sleep, and was surrounded by family and loved ones.


Zuda Gay Pease said...

Very interesting!! May her family find comfort in her well lived life.

On a Whimsey said...

Quite a lady! Thanks for sharing.

Chauncey said...

wow, what a life!

Judy Nolan said...

Wonderful post, Rose! I really enjoyed reading it.

The Filigree Garden said...

Thanks for posting this. She had a very full and interesting life. I never knew anything about her until now.

AltheaP said...

Rose, I'm so sorry I missed this when you posted it.