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Star struck (1986)

1986-10-20 Cincinnati Enquirer.jpg


Beam 'em up, Scotty: Ohio's space cadets out of this world

Earthlings underestimate Pat Grant.

By day, she's a K-Mart worker, toiling in the infants-hosiery department of the Forest Park discount store.

But after hours, she becomes Supreme Commander of the Imperial Forces.

Grant's tiny bedroom in her Mount Healthy town house looks like an intergalactic gift shop, crammed with sci-fi posters, buttons, models, mugs, games and photos. (The 32-year-old has had her picture taken with such stars as Walter Koenig — Star Trek's Chekov — and David Prowse, Darth Vader from Star Wars).

A decoupage plaque above Grant's twin bed quotes the dying words of an android from a futuristic film.

I have seen things you would not believe

Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion

I've watched C-beams glitter in the dark

Near the Tannhauser Gate

All those moments will be lost in time Like tears in rain ... Time to die.

— Roy Beatty, Blade Runner

"There's really no words to describe what he says there," Grant says. "It's a feeling, a poetry that only science fiction has to offer."

It's a fervor that only sci-fi fans can appreciate.

Greater Cincinnati's has its share of space cadets — dedicated science fiction fans who exist in parallel dimensions.

They spend part of their lives in the workaday world. They spend the other part in an adventure as unbounded as their imaginations.

They join exotic fan clubs devoted to films and TV shows — Star Trek, Star Wars, Dr. Who and Buckeroo Banzai. They turn out endless newsletters expounding the latest Whovian developments, spreading juicy Star Wars gossip or forwarding urgent communiques from Star Fleet Command.

They invest small fortunes in sci-fi paraphernalia. (Mercy Hospital nurse Ann Book has put thousands of dollars into her Star Trek collection, which includes everything from breakfast bowls to belt buckles. The cosmic piece de resistance: a full-sized Star Trek pinball machine.)

For parties and conventions, fans dress in costumes that would embarrass the more earth-bound among us, transforming themselves into the characters of their fantasies.

Pink-skinned Zeltrons. Pointy-eared Vulcans. Fascist-looking Imperial soldiers.

Pat Grant travels to at least three science fiction conventions a year, where she has a same-time-next-year friendship with space cadets from all over the country.

Six years ago, Grant started the Supreme Order of the Imperial Forces (a Star Wars fan club named for an army in the movie) to tease a Florida friend —another Star Wars fan — who belonged to the opposing Royal Order of the Rebel Forces.

Rebel and Imperial warriors now battle at the Media West Convention in Lansing, Mich., during a yearly tug-of-war contest.

At the World Confederation meeting in August, Grain and a friend painted themselves hot pink from head to toe, donned bright green Zeltron gear and ran through the streets of Atlanta.

Sonic might think it weird. Grant says it was her finest hour.

Hamilton pharmacist Ron Fisher will challenge that stunt. When Star Trek IV — The Voyage Home opens in theaters Thanksgiving weekend, Fisher will arrive at the local premiere in a rented limo. He'll be wearing Spockian ears and a flowing white Vulcan robe.

Fisher, 36, is commander of the U.S.S. Polaris, the Tristate's only official Star Trek fan club.

"Yeah, I like to live in a different world at times," he says. "But that's no more strange than my wife's love for Elvis Presley."

Five years ago, Fisher and three other hard-core Trekkies wrote to Star Fleet Command, the national fan club headquarters in California. The command assigned them to the U.S.S. Le Grange in Akron. When the Hamilton group reached 10 members and began holding regular meetings, they graduated to shuttle status.

Members given starship

Last year, the 25 members were given their own starship. Now they send out a newsletter, hold their own social events and correspond with the regional command center in Pennsylvania.

"We're hoping next year to make 'Starship of the Year'," Fisher says. "We have a very enthusiastic captain. I think we have a good shot at it."

Star Trek and Star Wars fans deal in very different fantasies. But sci-fi enthusiasts often share a mutual appreciation for each other's shows.

Star Wars commander Pat Grant also is a member of the Dr. Who National Fan Club and the Blue Blazer Regulars (The Buckeroo Banzai national fan club). And, like many space cadets, it was Star Trek that first drew her to science fiction.

Grant discovered Star Trek in the late 1960s, a time of racial strife and Vietnam War protests. She was a Mount Healthy high school student on the threshold of entering a very troubled world.

"Then Star Trek came out and said, 'Hey, there's no need for things to be like this. We can live together. We can get over our prejudices.' I liked the message of peace and harmony. It was just a very hopeful show."

But for fans of the BBC television series Dr. Who (the story of an intergalactic time traveler looking for excitement and adventure), the world according to Star Trek seems too moralistic, too clear-cut and just plain dull.

"Captain Kirk always has that stupid non-interference directive" which prevents him from meddling in the affairs of other planets, says Chris Cook of Clifton.

Cook, 23, is a member of The Friends of the Timelord, the local Dr. Who fan club. "The Doctor knows no such thing. So he meddles and gets in trouble and spends the rest of the episode getting out of it."

Cook says she was introduced to science fiction in grade school, when she started reading Star Trek novels. "But after that I was ready for more morally ambiguous things. You always knew that Captain Kirk was going to be the good guy, that he would get the girl."

In the Whovian universe, on the other hand, "no one gets the girl," Cook says. "In fact, she's usually killed. And The Doctor can be very amoral. If he gets in a tough scrape, he'll come right out and say, 'We can't save this person and ourselves as well.' "

Jeff Wills, assistant manager at a Clifton comic books store and founder of The Friends of the Timelords, says he prefers Dr. Who "because it's something you don't really need to think about. It's just fun adventure — you put your mind on cruise control and enjoy 90 minutes of entertainment.

'Who' vs. 'Star Trek'

"There's a lot of people who really like Who and despise Star Trek, and vice versa," says Wills, 31. "A lot of Whovians are burned out on Star Trek."

Still, Fisher says there probably are more similarities than differences among Trekkies, Whovians, Star Wars Rebels and Soldiers and the Blue Blazer Regulars.

"The underlying thing is that we all love science fiction. We all want to live for a while in some other world."

Here's where you can reach area fan clubs:

■ U.S.S. Polaris, NCC 1839, 3875 Pleasant Ave, Apt. 3, Hamilton, Ohio 45105.

■ Pat Grant, Supreme Commander of the Imperial Forces, 10804 Spruce Hill Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45240.

■ Friends of the Timelord, 2634 St. Albans Ave., Cincinnati, Ohio 45237.

Caption: Area Star Trek enthusiasts include pharmacist Ron Fisher and nurse Ann Book.

Caption: Jeff Wills is assistant manager at a Clifton comic books store and founder of The Friends of the Timelords.

Spelling correction: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

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  • APA 6th ed.: Debrosse, Jim (1986-10-20). Star struck. The Cincinnati Enquirer p. D-1.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Debrosse, Jim. "Star struck." The Cincinnati Enquirer [add city] 1986-10-20, D-1. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Debrosse, Jim. "Star struck." The Cincinnati Enquirer, edition, sec., 1986-10-20
  • Turabian: Debrosse, Jim. "Star struck." The Cincinnati Enquirer, 1986-10-20, section, D-1 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Star struck | url= | work=The Cincinnati Enquirer | pages=D-1 | date=1986-10-20 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=23 March 2019 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Star struck | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=23 March 2019}}</ref>