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A few weeks after that memorable event, we received a letter that was first sent to our Hollywood address and then forwarded to our State Line, Nevada P.O. Box. It had the same blue Starship as the business card, and had GENE RODDENBERRY, LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA written in the corner. Enclosed was a blue-boarded, folded, hand-written card with his initials G R embossed on the front and was dated 8-4-82. It read:
Hello! My 8-year-old son is fascinated by you two since meeting you in Reno. He refers to you most fondly as “The Nuts”. He is in camp now and for the next month and this letter to you was put in one of the envelopes we left him. (He doesn’t yet understand about post offices, addresses, etc.)
To my nutty friends,
Back in Reno, we had told him about our private fun house known as “The Magic Room” at the “Grandfather’s Land” in Fort Lee, NJ, with ghosts, robots, huge rubber spiders, talking movable mannequins, and jumping monkeys controlled by hidden fishing lines. In the jungle-like, booby-trapped back yard there were “friendly” apes, giant raccoons, wild cats, and other furry creatures that popped out from the bushes. There were also dummies hanging on ropes at the Frankenstein Factory and a 7 foot tall bird-man in a camouflaged outfit with a yellow-eyed live owl perched on his arm. Like his dear ol’e dad, Rod’s imagination was immense, and his eyes lit up like June bugs while listening to our stories!
So by request of his esteemed father, we sent the mini “crazy guys” enthusiast an 8×10 color copy photo of us with our “Magic Memorabilia Mobile” in front of the gates of Paramount Pictures Studios in Hollywood where Star Trek was filmed. It was signed: “To Our Pal Rod, the Third Man of Our Trio.” He probably showed it around camp till it was worn out to prove his super-story which may have grown in dimensions with each telling! Soon after that, we were called back to our home state to entertain at The Showboat and Caesar’s Hotel Casinos in Atlantic City, NJ, and we never saw the frisky little fellow or his loving parents again.
That was 33 years ago. Since then, both his parents have passed away, and Eugene “Rod” Wesley Roddenberry Jr. has assumed the responsibilities as Chief Executive Officer and guardian of his father’s legacy, manning the helm of The Roddenberry Foundation and Star Trek Enterprise. He is perpetuating his dad’s dreams of introducing timeless and universal ideas and ideals to a new generation through creative and inspiring science fiction media productions, merchandise, and philanthropy, striving to be a catalyst in the creation of a world where humanity works together for the greater good.
Rod hadn’t aspired to take on the daunting task of following in his father’s footsteps and trying to fill his large, indelible footprint. He initially had a very limited interest in their “future” business. But when he was 17, he attended the 25th-anniversary celebration of the Original Star Trek Series in September of 1991, a month prior to Gene’s death. During the event, he had a life-changing epiphany as the entire auditorium gave his father a thunderous applause and standing ovation out of sincere admiration for his many pioneering achievements and humanitarian endeavors. The elder Roddenberry, although in a wheel-chair, insisted upon standing to reciprocate the gesture, and his wife and son helped him to his feet. At that moment, Rod recalled, “Chills ran up and down my spine”.
Through “The Trek Nation”, his latest documentary about his father’s legacy, there has been a resurgence of Star Trek mania among collectors, hoarders, and trivial buffs that attend conventions all over the planet and are scouring the World Wide Web for memorabilia pertaining to the phenomena. If God gave Gene but one more phrase to reverberate throughout the universe, I think it would be “That’s-a-my-boy!”
As the Pages Turn to the Last Chapter of Gene’s Book of Life…
Gene Roddenberry did not considered himself to be part of any organized religion, and his philosophy of life was a bit complex, as were the messages in his productions. He was credited for lacing “Christian” themes and overtones into many of his scripts in the beginning of his career, and the comradeship, compatibility, and mutual concern shown among the members of the Enterprise crew also emanated from traditional moral roots. However, as he climbed high in the sky of the world of sci-fi, he soared out of range of his basic belief systems from his days as a Baptist choir boy.
While his mother had raised him as a church-goer, his father’s anti-religious attitude may have encouraged him to take on the facade of a twilight child, going through life in the cloud of a foggy and distorted spiritual view that often questioned the existence of a loving, personal God. He may have taken issue (as many of us do!) with the holier-than-thou, fire-and-brimstone types who could have triggered his opposition to their strident forms of proselytizing and ultimately steered him on his own alternate course.
But contrary to common misconceptions and rumors that he was an atheist, he once stated: “It’s not true that I don’t believe in God. I reject religion; I accept the notion of God.” In the final chapter of Roddenberry’s life, a philosopher friend spent considerable time with “The Great Grounded Eagle”, who was by then blind in one eye, partially paralyzed, and wheel-chair bound. After his death, his friend reasserted that Gene Roddenberry continued to be “a far cry from atheism” in his last days.
Gene Roddenberry’s memorial funeral was on held on All Saints Day, November 1 (which is also the vigil of All Souls Day on Nov. 2), at the Forest Lawn Mortuary in Hollywood Hills, CA, just outside the City of the Angels where he gained his fame. On that site, the “Birth of Liberty” mosaic wall reads: “God gave us liberty. Those who forsake God lose their liberty.” Those in attendance looked heavenward as four modern aircrafts passed overhead in a classic aviation tribute to a fellow pilot, and at the close of the ceremony, two kilted bagpipers played a timeless hymn which resounded in the mourners’ heavy hearts and echoed through the marble Halls of Liberty:
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound…’Twas blind but now I see…
(Gene: Aug. 19, 1921-Oct 24, 1991) and (Majel: Feb. 23, 1932-Dec. 18, 2008)