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The Elvis / Star Trek Connection (Parts 1 & 2)
Like most folks, I suppose, I keep up with several blogs regularly. A bonus for me is that I am friends with three other serious bloggers. Alan Hanson is a fellow Elvis blogger at http://www.elvis-history-blog.com/. He takes his Elvis writing a lot more seriously than I do, but I love reading his articles. Dave Newell is the brain behind http://www.thehistorybluff.com/, and he and I have been buddies for years. He messes with history, and comes up with some hilarious posts. And, finally, Troy, the chief blogger honcho at The Film Frontier. I enjoy his writing about his various sci-fi passions, but he does just as well when he veers off and writes something about Elvis.
During the 28 days my wife was in the hospital after open-heart surgery, Ty posted two guest articles on ElvisBlog. For a while, I just couldn’t get in the frame of mind to write anything, so I really appreciate Ty filling in. Now, I have come up with something to write that would work on The Film Frontier. Call it a little pay back, although Ty insists he needs none.
My idea was to come up with a connection between Elvis and Star Trek. Believe it or not, there actually is one. Several actresses have appeared in both Elvis productions and Star Trek TV episodes.
Some of you may have met Celeste Yarnall at an Elvis Week, because she has become something of a regular guest there these past few years. She appeared briefly in Live A Little, Love a Little, from 1968, just four films from the end of the Elvis movie string. His movies were starting to get bad, but this one was so stupid it was funny.
Yarnall played Ellen, a model he met at a party. One of the ways Elvis (Gary Nolan) convinced her to come back to his apartment with him was by singing, “A Little Less Conversation.”
When Elvis gets her home, Bernice, another woman with an eye on Elvis, creates a ruckus while vacuuming, totally breaking the mood. Ellen gets mad and insists Elvis take her home.
One year earlier, Celeste Yarnall appeared in a Star Trek episode titled, “The Apple.” Instead of being hit on by Elvis, this time it was Ensign Pavel Chekov.
Teri Garr appeared in six Elvis movies:
Kissin’ Cousins (1963)
Fun in Acapulco (1963)
Viva Las Vegas (1964)
Girl Happy (1965)
However, her screen time was not as an actress. At this early point in her career, she was a dancer trying to break into acting.
Teri Garr got one of her first acting jobs in Star Trek episode #55, titled “Assignment: Earth.” Back in time on 1968 Earth, Captain Kirk and Spock attempt to stop Gary Seven, who was trying to explode an orbital bomb over Asia. Teri Garr played Roberta Lincoln, a ditzy blond in a very short mini-skirt. She was hired as a secretary by acquaintances of Gary Seven, who were supposedly developing a new encyclopedia.
Most Elvis fans know she was one of the Tatum sisters in Kissin’ Cousins, but she also appeared in an earlier Elvis movie in a small part. Yvonne Craig had a small role in It Happened at the World’s Fair, released in 1963. She played Dorothy Johnson, a love interest of Elvis’ character, Mike Edwards. While her scene with Elvis was short, it could be called pretty hot.
Two movies later, Yvonne Craig showed up in a much larger role in Kissin’ Cousins. Do you think Elvis might have really liked her first performance and put in a good word for her? Anyway, she played Azalea Tatum, who had to fight with her sister Selena for Elvis’ attention (Air Force Captain Josh Morgan). Azalea finally ends up the winner in the Elvis sweepstakes.
These roles were tame compared to her character in a Star Trek episode in 1967: “Whom Gods Destroy.” Yvonne Craig played Marta, a green-skinned inmate at the Federation asylum on Elba II. She was delusional, seductive and skilled in exotic dance. The evil Garth of Izar coerced her to attempt to assassinate Captain Kirk.
She got alone with Kirk, started to seduce him, and then pulled a knife and tried to stab him. I love this line from Spock after the assassination attempt: “She seems to have worked out an infallible method for ensuring permanent male fidelity. Interesting.”
Laurel Goodwin played Laurel Dodge, Elvis’ love interest in Girls! Girls! Girls! Actually, it was more like “the winning love interest,” because Stella Stevens was a former flame that still hoped for a future with Elvis’ character, Ross Carpenter, and she kept popping up throughout the movie. The dance that Elvis and Laurel did is one of my favorite scenes from his films. It must have been difficult to come up with a dance routine that was funny, but this one was.
On Star Trek, Laurel appeared as Yeoman Colt in an episode that contained Spock, but not Captain Kirk or any of the other familiar Enterprise crew members. That’s because she was in “The Cage,” a pilot that was produced to sell the series. Parts of it were used for flashback scenes in a later two-part episode, but “The Cage” was not broadcast intact until 1988, twenty years after the series ended.
I like Goodwin’s look in this better than in the Elvis movie. Jeffrey Hunter appeared as Captain Pike in the failed pilot. Don’t you bet he and Laurel Goodwin would have had significantly better careers if they had kept their roles when the series went into production?
Nancy Kovack also had a major role in an Elvis movie. She played Nellie Bly, the “losing Elvis love interest” in Frankie and Johnny. (Not to say Elvis’ movies were formulaic, but do you notice the pattern here?) Nellie Bly was immortalized in the song as the girl who caused Johnny (Elvis) to do Frankie wrong. Actually, Johnny just believed Nellie was a good-luck charm for his frequent gambling, but Frankie and the riverboat owner (Nellie’s former boyfriend) thought otherwise.
Skullduggery ensued, and Johnny discovered the real a good-luck charm was the one Frankie gave him. He carried it in his breast pocket, and it saved him from a bullet to the chest. Of course, Frankie and Johnny got together at the end of the movie, but Nellie did okay too, as she went back to the riverboat owner.
On Star Trek, Nancy Kovack played Nona in “A Private Little War,” and got to wear a nifty warrior witch outfit. Nona was the wife of Tyree, leader of the Hill People on an undeveloped planet. However, she wanted power and betrayed him. She stole Dr. McCoy’s phaser and sought out the leader of a rival faction, but ended up being stabbed to death.
Julie Parrish played Joanna, an employee of the Kahala Hilton hotel in Paradise, Hawaiian Style, but she did not play an Elvis love interest. However, she was part of a scene that requires much willing suspension of disbelief. She had Elvis’ character (a helicopter pilot named Rick) transport a consignment of pedigreed dogs to a dog show. The dogs freaked out and Elvis lost control of the helicopter. Before he could gain control, he ran a car off the road and into a ditch. Well, the driver of that car just happened to be a big shot in the Federal Aviation Administration (oops). Gee, what a coincidence.
Her Star Trek role was as Miss Piper, Starfleet Adjutant to Commodore Mendez on planet Talos IV in the two-part episode “The Menagerie.” This is the show where parts of “The Cage” were shown in flashback. Captain Pike was also in the newer plot, but he had been badly disfigured by delta rays. Fortunately, Julie Parrish’s figure was just fine, and it was well displayed throughout the story.
The credits for Live A Little, Love A Little list Emily Banks’ character as “Receptionist” and she had enough lines to be the fifth woman listed in the credits.
For her Star Trek appearance in “Shore Leave,” Emily Banks played Yeoman Tonia Barrows and got to do considerably more acting. When some of the Enterprise crew beamed down to Omicron Delta for badly needed shore leave, strange things began to happen to each crew member. For Yeoman Barrows, it was a visit from Don Juan.
Tanya Lemani did not appear in an Elvis movie, but she was featured in the ’68 Comeback Special. She had significant screen time as a belly dancer in the segment where Elvis sang “Little Egypt.”
She played Kara in the Star Trek episode “Wolf in the Fold.” Kirk, McCoy and Scotty beamed down to the hedonistic pleasure planet Argelius II, and went to a favorite café. Kara’s dancing infatuated them all, especially Scotty. When she came over to their table, Scotty put his best moves on her and she agreed to leave with him. Unfortunately, Kara was attacked out on the street and stabbed to death (awww, not that again).
/Phil Arnold, ElvisBlog
Copyright ©2009, Philip R Arnold. All rights reserved. Used with permission.