Grace Lee Whitney: Actress and singer best known for her role as Janice Rand, glamorous personal assistant to Kirk in 'Star Trek'

When Whitney was axed from Star Trek she turned to drugs and alcohol

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The Independent Online

As Janice Rand, Captain Kirk's personal assistant in eight episodes of Star Trek, Grace Lee Whitney cemented a place for herself in the history of one of television's most famous cult sci-fi programmes.

Yeoman Rand, complete with clipboard, blonde beehive wig and red mini-dress, was a Starfleet officer who was drawn to Kirk – but he refused to succumb to his feelings for her in order to retain his authority. This only changed when, in one memorable episode, a transporter malfunction split him into Jekyll and Hyde characters, with the evil side of him attempting to rape Rand, who successfully fought him off.

Whitney claimed that producers decided to write her character out of Star Trek during its first series (1966) because they felt that the sexual chemistry between Rand and Kirk (William Shatner) made it difficult to allow the USS Enterprise captain to have other romances. However, the programme's creator, Gene Roddenberry, insisted that the axing of Rand was simply a result of cutbacks.

Nevertheless, it had a dramatic effect on Whitney, who turned to drugs and alcohol. "I just about killed myself," she wrote in her 1998 autobiography, The Longest Trek: My Tour of the Galaxy. "I drank, that's what we do, we drink to get rid of pain." In the book, Whitney also claimed to have been sexually assaulted by a television executive while making Star Trek, but she never named him.

Despite her short run, Whitney was popular with fans and in demand for appearances at Star Trek conventions. As a result, she was cast in four of the film spin-offs. The first, Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), saw Rand as a transporter chief – but Whitney was simply cast as "Woman in Cafeteria" for a cameo role in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984). She returned as Commander Rand of Starfleet Command in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) and as the USS Excelsior communications officer, a lieutenant, in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991).

She was born Mary Ann Chase, illegitimately, in Michigan, and was adopted by Gordon and Givah Whitney, who named her Grace Elaine Whitney. On leaving home, she sang with bands in Michigan and Chicago, adopting the professional name Lee Whitney and later adding her first forename. She was the opening act for stars such as Billie Holliday and Buddy Rich.

The transition to acting began when she sang and danced as Miss Holland, alongside Phil Silvers, in the Broadway musical Top Banana (Winter Garden Theatre, 1951-52) and in the 1954 film version. More cinema roles followed, including as a member of the all-female band in Some Like It Hot (1959).

A recovering alcoholic, Whitney helped others to tackle their addictions in women's prisons and through the Salvation Army during the final decades of her life.

ANTHONY HAYWARD

Mary Ann Chase (Grace Lee Whitney), actress and singer: born Ann Arbor, Michigan 1 April 1930; married first 1954 Sydney Dweck (divorced 1966; two sons), second 1970 Jack Dale (divorced 1991); died Coarsegold, California 1 May 2015.

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