Terry Lee Rioux, author of From Sawdust to Stardust: The Biography of DeForest Kelley took time to speak with Trekdom. As we prepare to see a new McCoy on the big screen in 2008, let us spend a few moments remembering and celebrating the life and work of DeForest Kelley.
Trekdom: Your biography of DeForest Kelley, From Sawdust to Stardust, is a wonderful and charming book. Can you tell us what motivated you to write it? Why did you choose DeForest Kelley?
Terry Lee Rioux: Thank you for the kind words about the book. I think I was as stunned as anyone to learn of his death back in 1999 - I don't think we as fans could know what that would mean to us. I was in touch with a friend of his (who has since written her account of her experiences with Kelley - see - Kris Smith's works as listed on Amazon.com -) and within 90 days I was talking with Mrs. Kelley - and the rest is - biography. I don't know how to explain my connection with him - but I do know that his friends became my friends and their stories became the biography. It will always be a cosmic mystery how everything worked out.
TD: Was it difficult to research Kelley’s life, considering he was such a private man?
Rioux: It was emotionally difficult, since I began the research only 90 days after his death - everyone was in mourning and there I was asking people to tell me about him. Hard times. Yes he was a very private man - but one who had so much to say! When he knew his time was short he put his papers, scrapbooks, photos and item into suitcases, and those suitcases went into a cabinet in the garage. He meant to be remembered, he meant to be understood.
TD: Based on your extensive research with friends and family, would you say that Kelley viewed Star Trek as a privilege, a mixed blessing, or a curse? Did he struggle, as Nimoy and Shatner did, to escape the Trek typecast? Would he have ever written I Am Not McCoy or told fans to Get a Life?
Rioux: Kelley loved Star Trek, he loved Gene Roddenberry. He loved what it meant. The best times of his life were Trek, the worst was living without it. He hated the cancellation, the wheeling and dealing, the in-fighting and the typecasting. When he learned that Nimoy had written 'I am not Spock' he said that he had better write 'I am McCoy'. He knew his fans had lives, great ones, challenging ones, ones full of kindness and healing - that is what he loved the most about the whole thing - the good people he knew that deep in his heart that he had inspired.
TD: You mention that, at one time, Kelley lived across the street from Rick Berman, yet they were not close friends. It seems bizarre that a legendary Trek actor wouldn’t have a closer relationship with his neighbor, a man essentially in charge of the Star Trek franchise. Any thoughts here?
Rioux: Yes Kelley lived across the street from where the Bermans lived for a few years. Even then Kelley had a well established 'wall of privacy' that few people were allowed to climb over. Kelley would put out Berman's trash cans when the family was gone and he was a good neighbor all the way around. I suppose on a professional level Berman and Kelley were in very different places in their lives.
TD: Lastly, a fun question. Any thoughts about the next Star Trek film, which will be a “re-imagining” of the original Enterprise crew? How can the writers give us a new McCoy that pays homage to the real McCoy?
Rioux: I think Kelley would caution anyone trying to create a vision of Trek without those who know it inside and out. Without Roddenberry - Without Nimoy, Shatner, Bennett, Meyer, he would strongly doubt it could be done at all. I know that because he has said as much - he would also ask 'Why?'
If McCoy was to be reincarnated in some way - the key that so many miss (the fans don't) is transcending Kindness. Kelley/McCoy were all about kindness, in danger, in adversity, in everyday life, Kindness was his power and it was the only thing he really had that put him in the 'superhero' role. It is why we remember - - and why we still miss him.
*To purchase a copy of From Sawdust to Stardust, click here. Trekdom highly recommends this book to our readers.
*Read TrekNation's review and StarTrek.com's review.