A while before I started writing this blog, I read several biographical books on many of the actors from Star Trek. Some of those included books about George Takei, Walter Koenig, William Shatner, James Doohan, Grace Lee Whitney, and DeForest Kelley. It is unfortunate that I wasn’t writing my blog at the time I read those because there are no posts about them to direct you to.
More recently, I learned about a new podcast from The Cosmic Potato Network called The Prime Direction. On that show, the host, Shawn Wray, interviews Star Trek fans about their experiences as fans of the franchise and how their lives have been affected by it. One of the people interviewed was the author of the object of this review, Kristine Smith. This is a great interview and well worth the time to listen. There are several other interviews to be found at The Prime Direction, including mine, if I may be allowed to toot my own horn a little.
First of all, what DeForest Kelley: Up Close and Personal is not; it isn’t an expose with stories about off stage fights or bits of dirty laundry involving the cast and crew of the Star Trek television series or feature films. If that is what you are looking for, it’s probably best if you just skip the rest of this blogpost and move along.
What this book is about is how a young woman met her idol and, without pushing the issue, became friends with Mr. Kelley and his wife, Carolyn; a friendship that lasted for over 30 years.
When Kristine was fifteen years old, she was introduced to Star Trek by her dad, who insisted on absolute silence in the house when the show was on. Here is where she first discovered and was most drawn to Dr. McCoy and the man that portrayed him, DeForest Kelley. Not long after, she learned that Mr. Kelley would be appearing at the Wenatchee (state of Washington) Apple Blossom Festival and made plans to go and meet the man that was rapidly becoming her idol. Upon arriving in Wenatchee, Kris and her friend who was along for moral support, shamelessly waited near the limousine that would carry Mr. Kelley and Carolyn through the parade for the festival. When the honored couple appeared and mounted the car, and after some screwing up of her courage and some encouragement from her friend, Kris finally approached and asked for an autograph. From that beginning, what follows is an amazing account, strictly from the author’s point of view, of what it was to be friends with Deforest and Carolyn Kelley.
There are numerous stories of encounters at conventions with some hilarious antics perpetrated against numerous people, including Mr. Kelley. There are accounts of meetings and even phone calls that happened over the years. While many celebrities seem to be up so high that they are unreachable, Kristine’s account of their friendship brings the star that is DeForest Kelley down to Earth in such a way that as I read on, I felt as though I also was getting to know him as well. And what a treasure the man was.
What I learned about Mr. Kelley and Carolyn is that while he was a huge star and a fine actor, he was also a wonderful human being that cared about people and that he appreciated all of the love and admiration he received from fans. He reciprocated the feelings for him in the warmest possible ways as the masses of his admirers descended upon him at numerous opportunities. All the while, as far as he was concerned, acting was how he made his living, and to the people he touched, he remained just a regular guy.
While there is really no downside to what is in the pages of Close Up and Personal, there are some difficult times that are chronicled. About the last 25% of the book is a chronicle of loss. While tastefully written so as not to be overly graphic, the time of Mr. Kelley’s death is brought to us in some detail complete with ups and downs as he battled cancer that was slowly taking his life. During this time, Kristine had been doing two jobs but seemed to be able to do them with vigor and energy. It gives me some comfort that she was there in the last weeks to make his passing as comfortable as possible, with as little pain as possible. Mr. Kelley deserved that after all he had given us, his fans. To Kristine, he was a mentor who encouraged her to achieve beyond herself. He was there to help when she needed it, and he was her guardian angel. But, she was also all of that to him, and more.
I give my highest recommendations for reading DeForest Kelley: Up Close and Personal no matter what the reason; whether you are a Trekkie looking to learn more about a key cast member, or just someone looking to read a good book. Mostly what you will learn is about what true friendship means.
Well, there it is…
Edited By Benjamin Arrowood