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Happy Memories At Doohan's Farewell

By Dave Mason
Posted at September 7, 2004 - 8:30 PM GMT

HOLLYWOOD -- James "Jimmy" Doohan kept smiling on a weekend that brought him tributes from fans, Star Trek actors and the first man on the moon.

At a banquet Aug. 28 to raise funds for the Fisher's Center for Alzheimer's Research, Neal Armstrong said he wanted his next command to be a starship.

"I commanded three different types of spacecraft flying as fast as 25,000 miles an hour. None of them had warp drive," said Armstrong, who, like Scotty, is an engineer. "The Enterprise was 100,000 times faster than anything I ever flew. Our craft did not have the ability to leave the solar system. It did not have a transporter to descend onto a planet. It would have been far more effective and less traumatic if we could have beamed down (to the moon, rather than use the Lunar Excursion Module).

"When I get that command (of a starship), I want a chief engineering officer like Montgomery Scott," Armstrong said in his brief remarks.

At a press conference Aug. 29 during the "Beam Me Up Scotty ... One Last Time" convention, Doohan said he wants fans to keep up their enthusiasm.

"It's nice to look out over 15,000 and 20,000 people in the audience," Doohan said as his wife, Wende and children, Larkin Pritchard of Tacoma, Wash.; Dierdre Cruz of the San Francisco area and Chris Doohan of Thousand Oaks, Calif. sat next to him. A small group of photographers and reporters briefly surrounded James Doohan, forever known as Scotty, in a small room at the Renaissance Hotel. Outside, long lines of fans were getting autographs from William Shatner, who was among the stars who came to salute Doohan.

Doohan, 84, has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, and he's confined to a wheelchair. As the flashes of the photographers' cameras continued, his right hand shook, and Wende repeated questions to him because of his hearing. When he spoke, he said just a few words and spoke a little softer than the James Doohan of previous conventions, but his voice remained steady and enthusiastic. He still sounded like the "Trek" star fans have come to love.

The gleam never left his eyes. He obviously was enjoying the attention of the fans and the media.

Two months ago, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, but in an earlier interview, his son Chris said the disease, which is in its early stages, has so far only affected his short-term memory.

At the convention, Doohan appeared briefly on stage with "Star Trek" actors Nichelle Nichols (Uhura), Walter Koenig (Chekov) and Grace Lee Whitney (Yeoman Janice Rand) before nearly a thousand fans. He didn't speak at that time, but heard praise from Nichols and others. Wende told the audience how much their love meant to him.

"I love Jimmy Doohan," Koenig said earlier in the weekend. He praised Doohan for his integrity and loyalty and noted Doohan insisted on not having a bigger share than the other Star Trek actors for any royalties related to the show.

Although Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, forever known as Capt. Kirk and Spock, didn't appear on stage with him, they talked about Doohan earlier on Sunday. Appearing on stage with Shatner, Nimoy said he would never forget seeing Scotty standing in the turbolift on Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, holding his nephew's bloodied body after an attack on the Enterprise. Other memories throught the weekend played out on giant video screens, as clips were shown of Scotty from the original series and the movies. Fans in the audience knew the lines well enough to say them loudly and in perfect unison with the clips, such as "Captain, there be whales here!" from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

Nimoy emphasized the convention's point was to celebrate Doohan's life, and Shatner said he likes the fact that Doohan, a Canadian, had created a character so loved by Americans. Shatner also is a Canadian.

On Saturday, Doohan shook the hands of every fan he saw in a hall as a convention volunteer pushed him in his wheelchair. As he sat at a table, a small group of fans came up, not expecting an autograph or to get a picture taken with him. They simply shook his hands and briefly praised him for playing Scotty on Star Trek.

While bittersweet as the last planned convention for Doohan, the event had its moments of good humor. At the banquet that night, Wende kidded her husband about being unable through the years to correct picture problems on the family's TV set. "Scotty can't fix anything!" she said.

At the news conference Sunday, Wende shared another memory. She recently played Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, one of her favorite "Star Trek" movies, on their home VCR, and she and Doohan's 4-year-old daughter, Sarah, became excited at seeing her famous father on TV.

"She hadn't seen much of him on TV. She said, 'That's Daddy,' and grabbed Jimmy," Wende said.

Cruz, one of Doohan's daughters from his first marriage, said he likes to watch movies such as The Pirates of Carribean. Wende said they go to matinees during the week. James and Wende Doohan live in Redmond, Wash., just outside Seattle, on property surrounded by trees and a pond. Recently a goose has adopted them, regularly following them into the house despite Wende's efforts to keep it out.

Doohan remained in Hollywood Monday to greet fans seeing the bridge set from Star Trek: The Next Generation at the Hollywood Entertainment Museum. At 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Doohan will receive his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, just outside the museum, 7021 Hollywood Boulevard. Already, efforts have begun to get a star for the last original "Star Trek" actor who doesn't have one -- Koenig.

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Dave Mason writes for the Scripps Howard news service.

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