The Unfettered Critic – September 2015

If you’ve encountered us on the streets of Jacksonville within the past twelve months, you may have overheard us in heavy discussion about the meanings of words like “trapunto” and “boucle.” Or you may have heard us contemplating the virtues of double-sided tape in the dressing room. Or the reason a peek at a woman’s navel was verboten on American television during the 1960s.

No, these odd mumblings weren’t indicative of us slipping into our dotage. We were working on a huge coffee-table book titled Star Trek Costumes: Five Decades of Fashion from the Final Frontier. We’ve spent the last year researching film and television productions, gathering photographs, hunting for closeted treasures, visiting museums, locking ourselves in archives, interviewing designers, actors, filmmakers, collectors—and writing, writing, writing.

And just about the time we thought we were finished with the work, the phone rang. “Would you,” the caller asked, “be interested in attending a Star Trek convention in Las Vegas to talk about your book?”

Need he have even asked?

You’ve heard of Star Trek conventions, of course. They’re infamous, reputed to be infested with disheveled nerds and grown-up geeks who sleep in their parents’ basements. Well, almost everything you’ve heard is wrong. The convention hall in Las Vegas was filled with people who love Star Trek for its characters, its stories, and its philosophy. Scientists. Schoolteachers. NASA technicians. They came to see the actors and the craftsmen behind the Star Trek franchise, of course. But they also came to hear speakers like Margaret Weitekamp, curator in the Space History department at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum. At the moment, Margaret is overseeing the restoration of the original 11-foot studio model of the Starship Enterprise. When that restoration is completed in 2016, the Enterprise will take its rightful position in the Museum’s new Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall, near Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis and the Apollo 11 command module.

You’ve also heard that some convention attendees dress up in funny-looking costumes and glue rubber points to their ears. That’s partially true. The majority of the costumes worn in Las Vegas were professional quality, costing hundreds of dollars to create. The convention schedule included a “costume contest” that was judged by Bobak Ferdowsi; you know him as “Mohawk Guy,” the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s system’s engineer who played a key role in landing the Mars Rover Curiosity on the red planet in 2012.

Those kinds of geeks and nerds. And those kinds of costumes.

Which is where we came in. During our scheduled stage presentation, in a ballroom filled with fans, we discussed our upcoming book and its costuming contents. Once our responsibilities were over, we relaxed into people watching, observing convention attendees reunite with friends—people who share the same passions. People who don’t give a damn how their friends look, how overweight they may be, or what type of disfigurement they may endure. Love of Star Trek is the great equalizer. It’s a universe devoid of bullying, or teasing, or ridicule.

Which means that the two of us fit in just fine! We ran into old friends, and made some new ones. We signed autographs. Lots and lots of autographs. We shared meals at really good restaurants and some not so good ones. We mourned the fact that the sinful city seems to be the last refuge of cigarette smokers. (Cough, cough!)

It’s possible that we even sold a few advance copies of our book! (The full-color tome lands in stores in October.)

And we think that we heard ourselves promise to go back next year.

Paula and Terry each have long impressive-sounding resumes implying that they are battle-scarred veterans of life within the Hollywood studios. They’re now happily relaxed into Jacksonville.