HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME (True Story written up as a stand-up comedy routine and later published in Deforest Kelley: A Harvest Of Memories)
Three weeks after my birthday, I wound up in Denver — and was invited (via Sue) to dinner with the Kelleys! This was my first actual, sit-down-and chat meeting with them, and I was so nervous that before we headed into their suite I pleaded, “Sit right next to me all night long, and if they ask me a question, YOU answer it!”
When you find yourself in an overwhelming situation like this one, you want to be at your best. You want to make a good impression; above all, you do NOT want to come across looking like Garfield’s little buddy Odie! On the other hand, you don’t want to look as if you’re having an audience with the Pope. Something right smack in the middle seems about right… but I was nowhere near certain I could handle a middle-of-the-road approach. So I was nervous.
No. I was petrified.
I followed Sue and a couple other DKFC members – all of whom were cool, calm and collected by all appearances – into the Kelleys hotel suite, where we were to meet, and I managed, for a moment, to present myself as normal. I hugged Mrs. Kelley and said, “Hello.” Then I went over and shook hands with De. So far, sooooo good. But…witness how quickly I went downhill from there, inside my nerve-wracked body.
We stepped over to the couches and prepared to sit down. De asked us if he could take our coats. Now, if anyone else on the planet had asked me that question, an easy answer would have been yes or no, right? I mean, he wasn’t asking my opinion on whether the U.S. should get out of the United Nations; he was just asking if I cared to give up my coat for a while. I gave it serious thought. I thought, “What does HE want me to say? Should I say yes? Will he be upset if I say no?” Finally it occurred to me that he didn’t give a fig whether I said yes or no, just so long as I said something, so he could sit down! So, I said no. That seemed to satisfy him – but not for long. Next he wanted to know if we would like drinks. I don’t drink, so naturally I said YES. (Well, I had just told him no on something else. I didn’t want him to think I was a bitch.) So, I said yes. Then he wanted to know what I would have! Oh, boy… He had me there! He was pitching these incredibly difficult questions at me and I was unable to field them! “Oh…whatever!” I finally “decided,” hoping that would end the interrogation.
Mrs. Kelley probably recognized the fact that I had slipped into the much-dreaded Idiocy Mode (a common affliction of fans) and tried to help me out. She suggested that I try a “DeForest Kelley.” I looked at her, and I thought, “Gee, that is a very generous offer!” But I realized I wasn’t getting the proper picture. She explained to me that a DeForest Kelley was a drink known to all of fandom except me, obviously. “Oh, fine… I’ll have one of those…”
Well, after a couple of DeForest Kelleys (vodka and water with a twist of lemon), I felt calmer. No one had raised any other controversial questions similar to “Can I take your coat?” in quite a while, so I was just sitting back and listening and watching everybody talk and laugh and have a good time….
Not much later, we went downstairs for dinner. De sat at the head of the table. To his right sat Sue Keenan, and to her right sat Jackie Edwards. To De’s left Carolyn (Mrs. Kelley), then me. There was NOBODY on my left – for a hundred miles. Remember this.
I quickly lost my nervousness sitting next to Carolyn, because she is a doll – so nice, and so much fun. She could calm a jackhammer. I know, because she calmed me, and I’m the greater challenge! We lost ourselves in some conversation about having both been raised in the State of Washington. At one point I was explaining something to her in great detail, and a fold or a crease on my left sleeve popped me with a great deal of force and I stopped in mid-sentence and turned around to my left, fully expecting to find a waiter or someone who had come along to ask me a question. THERE WAS NOBODY THERE!
I panicked. I thought, “OK, Kris… How are you going to handle THIS dilemma?” Well, I had two choices. I could turn back to Carolyn and just continue the conversation as if nothing at all had happened – or I could explain what happened. Well, naturally, I opted for the truth – but I forgot to provide a complete explanation. Instead of what I just told you, I turned back to Mrs. Kelley and said, “Strange! I could have sworn somebody just tapped me on the shoulder!”
Carolyn accepted this bizarre information calmly. She looked at Jackie. Jackie looked at her. They both studied their salads for a while and said nothing.
I’m amazed the Kelleys didn’t signal someone to bring a butterfly net!
It took me over a month to remember all the stupid things I said and did at dinner that evening. I found it comforting, at a later date, to learn that other fans admitted experiencing similar difficulties the first few times they were faced with actually trying to communicate with the objects of their affection.
Note: When I was interviewed by DeForest Kelley’s biographer, Terry Lee Rioux for her book FROM SAWDUST TO STARDUST, The Biography of DeForest Kelley, Star Trek’s Dr. MCCoy, she asked me how I went from being a star-struck fan, on the outermost reaches of fandom, to becoming his personal assistant and caregiver and being at his bedside when he died. I told her, “I have no idea. That’s something you would have had to ask De.” She said to me, “You know the answer. Just connect the dots.” Thankfully, I’ve been journaling for 45 years, so that’d what I did… The result: This book! (De gave me permission to write a book about our association, but I probably never would have had Terry not asked me the one question about our association that I could not answer!
DeFOREST KELLEY: A HARVEST OF MEMORIES
©2001 BY Kristine M Smith
Available at Amazon (but you can save a bundle by ordering from the publisher at Authorhouse.com–you can get the e-book for $4.95 or the hardbound for what the softcover would cost you at Amazon.)