EXCLUSIVE: A Star Trek employee explains his special connection with Nichelle Nichols

EXCLUSIVE: A Star Trek employee explains his special connection with Nichelle Nichols ...

Origins of Star Trek's progressive beliefs on race started at the top, although both had racist fathers, and they both believed that our differences should be celebrated, as well as Mission: Impossible, Mannix, and other well-known television series of the 1960s.

Andreea Ande Kindryd was one of the first two black people to be hired at a major television studio, and that studio was Desilu. They had to hire two, she says. Its like hiring a zoo. They can be company for each other!

In her new book, From Slavery to Star Trek, I had the opportunity to interview her and discuss her ancestors, how the infamous Watts Riots aided her employment, and her relationships with Gene Coon and Nichelle Nichols.

A Heck Of A Way To Land A Job

Ande credits the Watts upheavals with landing her a job with Desilu. In August of 1965, a young black man was arrested for drunken driving in Watts, a suburb of Los Angeles, leading to a violent outburst. The incident may have been the catalyst, but the situation had been ongoing for some time.

Ande explains that it was a working-class community. Nobody was wealthy, everyone did the best they could. But it was segregated, in terms of, we couldnt move next door to the next suburb. That had covenants on them that only white people could buy them. Proposition 14 had just passed, giving property owners the ability to discriminate against potential buyers based on ethnicity.

We were all enraged. It was mainly because of the police chief, who had his officers behave like occupying troops in our community. So Watts was hot.

Ande was in Watts when a powder keg exploded. When she heard about it, she fell on Owsley acid in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. Malcolm X had been assassinated six months earlier, and she was ready for a revolution, so she high-tailed it to Ground Zero, where she participated in the chaos. Cooperation, that's what it's all about.

The National Guard came out of the woods and fired shots started fleeing. Property was destroyed and looted. It took 6 days for the violence to be brought under control. Once the shooting and looting had ended, the police entered Watts with the garbage collectors.

The police went inside every time they stopped with an old refrigerator out to be removed or an old sofa or whatever, looking for what had been replaced and asking for a sales invoice. Anything new or undocumented was confiscated.

Ande walked away with a few items off the shelves during the looting, but she hadn't taken anything substantial, and she'd been registered with the National Urban League, a black organization that helped people find employment in an effort to enact workplace integration. They'd received a hint that Desilu needed a clerical employee, and, armed with the knowledge that Ande had worked in radio in the past and figuring that was close enough to television, sent her to the interview.

A Slaves Descendant & a Klansmans Son

Ande found her roles to be varied once she got the job as a floater secretary. She found the days she was assigned to payroll to be tedious, but she enjoyed the opportunities she had to speak up in the casting process. And then a new Producer, Gene L. Coon, was hired on board and she found she was assigned to his secretary more and more often.

Gene said, Ande, I love your legs, I love your short skirts. Come and work for me.

Ande replies, "I was a young, hip, super-cool black chick with miniskirts." Did I want to be a middle-aged white guy named Coon? "I wanted to be a young, hip, super-cool black chick with miniskirts."

The answer, it turns out, was yes. And Ande realizes that his decision was not without irony.

Winny Brush, Andes' great-grandmother, was a slave. Jim Shankle, a slave from a different plantation, fell in love with her and so fled to search for her. The story follows Jim as he swims the Mississippi and avoids slave catchers in search of his one true love.

Ande was now working for a guy named Coon, a term that had become a shambolic, dehumanizing term for black people. Not only that, Gene Coon's father had been a member of the Ku Klux Klan! One would understand if Ande needed some time to think about whether or not she wanted to work for the man. But she also knew that Gene's beliefs were incompatible with his father's.

She tells me that we had the same kind of ethics. He was my people. She believes both Gene Coon and Gene Roddenberry had learned from the negative example their racist fathers had set. These were men who were always willing to follow their hearts despite what happened before.

Ande wistfully responds, referring to Coon. That's what she knew from the start, and she intended to keep herself out of it. However, as she wrote, she found that she kept creeping into it until she finally gave in and made it a memoir.

More Than An Aunt

Lieutenant Uhura of Star Trek, Nichelle Nichols, died last month. She says they had a special connection, too. She and her mother were never close, and Nichols provided the comfort of an aunt without even knowing them.

Ande admits that she was able to stop by her house to chat with her husband. She worked with Duke Ellington and so she knew his son, Mercer. [WLIB in Harlem, New York.] We had people in common. But then Nichelle said we were ex-wives-in-law.

Nichelle Nichols needed to live in Nichols Canyon, not because Ofe wanted to know Duke, the guy she married after Trek; they stayed in touch. When I moved out of the house I was living in in Nichols Canyon, I encouraged her to come up and take a look at it, and she did, Ande says, with gleefully adding, "I think Nichelle Nichols needed to live in Nichols Canyon!"

Andreea Kindryd will be speaking at The 56-Year Mission in Las Vegas, where she will sell a limited quantity of her book, From Slavery to Star Trek, along with a video of her talking more about Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Bill Shatner's hair, visit the Daily Star Trek News.