Today the world is mourning the loss of the absolutely legendary Sir Christopher Lee.
It seems it is not an uncommon date of the month to mourn legendary people. John Wayne died June 11, 1979.
And everyone’s favorite Interstellar Doctor, DeForest Kelley, died June 11, 1999.
I grew up watching both the Westerns of John Wayne and Star Trek re-runs in the 80s on TV. My father was a huge fan of both and it didn’t take long for my sisters and I to become fans as well. Christopher Lee was a surprisingly later addition to my fandom, horror has never been my favorite genre, and while I was aware of his presence, it wasn’t truly until “The Fellowship of the Rings” that I came to know more about this great man.
While I never met John Wayne (although my grandfather and Uncle both did while serving in the Army and Navy), Sir Christopher Lee, or DeForest Kelley, I was lucky enough to see Kelley at a Creation Con in Phoenix, AZ circa 1994. I do believe it was one of the last conventions he ever attended.
Two things that I remember most, besides that he was a quiet spoken man with a ready smile for the crowd, were that, although he had a fairly strict no autograph policy at the time, he did sign someone’s Star Trek toy at the panel when he recognized the person coming up to ask the question and they told him they had attended most of the conventions he had appeared at nationally.
The other thing I remember is a story he told from his days of filming Westerns. I don’t remember which film it was but he said that the scene was that there were a set of cowboys trying to outrun Native Americans. The director had brought in real Native American runners and told the actors to run as fast as they could because they couldn’t outrun these men and he was just going to film it.
To everyone’s surprise though, when DeForest Kelley took off running…no-one could catch him. And the next day the actor who was chasing him brought him a silver pin of a roadrunner and told him it was for “The man who runs like a roadrunner.”
It may have had nothing to do with Star Trek, but it’s one of my absolute favorite stories I’ve ever heard.