Grace Lee Whitney, Yeoman Janice Rand on 'Star Trek,' Dies at 85
The actress was kicked off the series early in its run but returned for four 'Trek' films. Earlier, she inspired the mermaid in "Chicken of the Sea" ads.
Grace Lee Whitney, who played the loyal Janice Rand, the personal assistant who served Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) aboard the USS Enterprise during the first season of Star Trek, has died. She was 85.
Whitney, who reprised her role as Rand in four Star Trek films and in a 1996 episode of Star Trek: Voyager, died Friday at her home in Coarsegold, Calif., her son told The Fresno Bee.
The attractive blond also appeared in two Billy Wilder films that starred Jack Lemmon: 1959’s Some Like It Hot (as one of the members of the all-girl band) and as Kiki the Cossack in 1963’s Irma la Douce.
There was much sexual tension between Whitney’s Yeoman Rand and Shatner’s Kirk as the actress appeared in eight of the first 13 episodes of the 1966-69 NBC space drama. But then she suddenly was released from her contract.
“There was a scene that Shatner and I did — and I remember when it happened — that scared the producers, because they said, ‘Uh-oh, they’re getting too close. This is getting too hot,’” she recalled in a 2011 interview. “We have to remove her because he’s going to look like he’s cheating when he falls in love with other women on other planets.”
Whitney wrote in her 1998 book, The Longest Trek: My Tour of the Galaxy, that she was sexually assaulted by an executive at Desilu, the production company behind Star Trek, and suffered from drug and alcohol abuse for years before turning her life around.
She was welcomed back as Chief Petty Officer Rand in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), followed by appearances in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) and, as a lieutenant, in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991).
A native of Ann Arbor, Mich., Whitney landed a job as a teenage singer on a radio station in Detroit and later played Chicago nightclubs with the likes of Buddy Rich and Billie Holliday. In 1951, she appeared on Broadway in the musical comedy Top Banana, starring Phil Silvers, and appeared in the 1954 movie version as well.
Also in the early 1950s, she served as the inspiration for the Chicken of the Sea mermaid in ads for the canned tuna.
Whitney had roles on such TV shows as The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, The Real McCoys, The Outer Limits, The Rifleman, Batman (as King Tut’s pretty accomplice) and Bewitched. She also did a pilot episode for Police Story, a drama that never made it to series; it was written by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, and that led her to being cast as Rand.