Sunday, July 31, 2022

HOTCHKA Daily News Special - July 31, 2022


★Actress, advocate, icon Nichelle Nichols has died at the age of 89. What can be said about this woman that hasn't already been said? It doesn't matter what she did before or after her debut as Lt. Uhura on the classic Star Trek TV series because that is the role that defined her, but unlike actors who are often pigeonholed into a certain role, or can't find work because of that close association with a role, Nichols embraced Uhura because she was a fictional character who made a difference in the real world. It didn't matter that she wasn't the star of Star Trek, it just mattered that she was there on the bridge of the USS Enterprise. Her visibility at a time in this country when Black people were fighting for their civil rights mattered. Nichols famously thought about quitting the series after the first season to make her mark on Broadway and it was the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. who urged her to remain with the series because he understood how the character would open doors for other African-Americans on television, telling her that she doesn't have a Black role, she has an equal role. Little did she know that she would make an even bigger mark in the show's third season when she and William Shatner's Capt. Kirk would have the first interracial lip-lock on a network television series, an event so 'shocking' at the time that NBC feared affiliates in the South would refuse to air the episode, so they ordered alternate takes be filmed which did not include the kiss. Nichols stated that she and Shatner purposely messed up all of the subsequent takes so NBC just threw in the towel and went with it (probably knowing the show was about to be cancelled). Nichols was a role model for all those who came after her in the Trek universe, from Whoopi Goldberg's Guinan on Star Trek: The Next Generation to Celia R. Gooding, who plays a younger version of Uhura on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. But the impact of Nichols and Uhura were felt outside of the fictional world of space exploration when, in the mid-1970s, she took NASA to task for not reaching out to women and minorities for its astronaut program. The space agency took heed and asked Nichols to serve as a recruiter, a position that took her to universities with strong science and engineering programs. She was even a guest at NORAD, where no civilian had gone before. Thanks to Nichols' efforts, NASA was inundated with many qualified candidates, and at the end of her recruitment efforts they had accepted six women and three African-American men into the program. Among those who applied to NASA and were inspired by Nichols were Sally Ride, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair and Ellison Onizuka. A documentary about her efforts, Woman in Motion, premiered in 2018 and is streaming on Paramount+. Nichols reprised the role of Uhura in all six Star Trek movies with the original TV cast, as well as in the animated series and several other Trek-related projects. In 1991, Nichols became the first Black woman to have her handprints immortalized at Grauman's Chinese Theater with other Star Trek cast members.

Of course Nichols was not just Uhura. She began her career singing with Duke Elington at the age of 16. She made her stage debut in 1961's Kicks and Co., which had a short tryout in Chicago, but her appearance led to Hugh Hefner booking her at the Chicago Playboy Club. She also appeared as Carmen in a Chicago production of Carmen Jones, and appeared in a New York production of Porgy and Bess, which led to her uncredited film debut in the 1959 film version as a dancer with Sammy Davis Jr. Her TV debut came in the 1964 TV movie Great Gettin' Up Mornin'. Her other film credits include Mister Buddwing, Doctor, You'e Got to Be Kidding!, Truck Turner, The Supernaturals, Snow Dogs, Are We There Yet?, Lady Magdalene's, Tru Loved, The Torturer, This Bitter Earth, White Orchid, and American Nightmares. She had completed a role in Renegades: Ominara, and was in pre-production on two other projects. TV credits include The Lieutenant, Peyton Place, Tarzan, The D.A., Antony and Cleopatra, Head of the Class, The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space, Good vs Evil, Heroes, The Young and the Restless, Downward Dog, Sharknado 5: Global Swarming, Space Command and 12 to Midnight. Nichols also provided voice work for Batman: The Animated Series, Gargoyles, Spider-Man: The Animated Series, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, Futurama, The Simpsons, and Scooby-Doo! Curse of the Lake Monster. She also recorded an album in 1968 titled Down to Earth. Nichelle Nichols may now be gone, another bright, shining star in the heavens, but she will always remain an icon who helped change the world.

★Comedienne and actress Pat Carroll died at her home July 30 at the age of 95 while recovering from pneumonia. Carroll was a fixture on television from the 1950s to the 1980s, and won an Emmy Award in 1956 for her work on Sid Caesar's Hour. She made her film debut in 1948's Hometown Girl. Carroll was a regular on Make Room for Daddy from 1961 to 1964, and she appeared as Prunella, one of the wicked stepsisters in the 1965 musical production of Cinderella with Lesley Ann Warren and Stuart Damon. She portrayed the mother of Shirley Feeney on Laverne & Shirley in the 1976 episode 'Mother Knows Worst'. She won several theatre awards for her one-woman show on Gertrude Stein, and the recorded version of the show won the 1980 Grammy for Best Spoken Word, Documentary or Drama. Carroll's TV credits include The Dennis Day Show, Studio 57, The Mickey Rooney Show, The Ann Sothern Show, Please Don't Eat the Daisies, The Red Skelton Hour, Arnie, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Interns, My Three Sons, Love, American Style, Getting Together, Honeymoon Suite, Police Story, Good Heavens, Police Woman, Busting Loose, CPO Sharkey, The Love Boat, Flying High, Legends of the Superheroes, Trapper John, M.D., Crazy Like a Fox, Too Close for Comfort, She's the Sheriff, The New WKRP in Cincinnati, Evening Shade, Designing Women, and ER. She guested as herself on many variety series and game shows including Who Said That?, The Jimmy Durante Show, Masquerade Party, The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, Keep Talking, You're in the Picture, To Tell the Truth, The Ed Sullivan Show, Missing Links, The Match Game, The Object Is, Stump the Stars, Password, Chain Letter, The Danny Kaye Show, Everybody's Talking, Liar's Club, It Takes Two, You Don't Say, The Carol Burnett Show, The Pet Set, I've Got a Secret, Match Game, Celebrity Sweepstakes, Break the Bank, Shoot for the Stars, The $10,000 Pyramid, Win, Lose or Draw, Super Password, Family Feud and Pioneers of Television.

Film credits include With Six You Get Eggroll, The Brothers O'Toole, Butterflies in Heat, Songcatcher, Outside Sales, Nancy Drew, Bridesmaids, and BFFs. Carroll did voice work for Galaxy High School, Yogi's Treasure Hunt, Foofur, Pound Puppies, A Garfield Christmas Special, My Neighbor Totoro, A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, Garfield's Holiday Dinner, Chip 'n' Dale Rescue Rangers, A Goofy Movie, A Turtle's Tale: Sammy's Adventures, Tangled: Short Cuts and Rapunzel's Tangled Adventure. In 1989 Disney cast Carroll in what would become her signature role - the voice of Ursula the Sea Witch in The Little Mermaid. The role became one of her career favorites and she reprised the character in several projects including Disney's Ariel and the Mysterious World Above, Ariel: The Little Mermaid video game, The Little Mermaid TV series, Ariel's Story Studio video game, The Little Mermaid II video game, Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse, Mickey's House of Villains, the Kingdom Hearts video games, The Little Mermaid DVD Read-Along, House of Mouse, Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, Disney Princess: My Fairytale Adventure video game, and The Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse.

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